Just four months after his ALA graduation and alumnus Aniaba Moaye Jean-Baptiste N’guessan ‘18 is already making an impact in his community in the best way he knows how: using his creative prowess and the lessons he learnt at ALA.
Through his entrepreneurship agency, design studio, self-published autobiography and other colourful endeavours, Aniaba seeks to inspire a wave of artists, storytellers and entrepreneurs in order to make Africa the world’s leader in creative pursuit and innovation.
Aniaba, who was born and raised in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, can trace the foundation of his life’s mission to his boarding school upbringing, where he had to quickly learn how to be independent.
His go-getter attitude, coupled with a core principle taught by his mother – to always show gratitude when the occasion calls for it – ensured that his high school years in his home country, were led by service to those around him.
Then he arrived at African Leadership Academy in 2018, an environment he says served as a catalyst for many of his artistic and entrepreneurial expressions today. “ALA inspired me to do great things and to dream big,” he says. “When you live in an environment where people around you have a typical way of doing life, the environment doesn’t help you. So I was inspired by the things people were doing at ALA, which brought out the warrior in me.”
Many of his classes at ALA also played a role in bringing out the best in him. For one, he credits the Writing and Rhetoric class for encouraging him to lean into the discomfort of freehand writing – an exercise he has since applied to self-publishing an autobiography that is due to hit the Amazon soon. Moreover, concepts such as BUILD that were taught in his entrepreneurial leadership classes added even more fuel to his passion for entrepreneurship. “I love learning new things around me and to innovate. ALA played a huge role in giving me that platform to create and share my work,” he says.
Today, Aniaba is innovating and creating as the founder of C7dukay, an entrepreneurship agency that helps Ivorian entrepreneurs register their businesses and make them more sustainable. “Africa probably has the biggest numbers of entrepreneurs, it’s just that we are stuck in the informal sector,” he explains. He is also the co-founder of Dessart Studio, a design agency that designs with app prototyping, web development, and UX solutions amongst other services.
Under the same design studio, Aniaba is also working with a team of creatives to put together an African comic series aimed at challenging dominant African narratives, especially ones around the use and validity of indigenous knowledge systems. “I’m never comfortable in an environment that doesn’t push me to be better than I was yesterday,” says Aniaba, when reflecting on how this is merely the beginning for him.
What keeps him going as he works on a range of projects at any given time? “The fact that there’s so much to do for our continent,” he says. “I’m always inspired to play my part. The conversations I have with people around me, and how they’re all really just doing their best inspires me. We all just have to do our part.”
It goes without saying, then, that Aniaba has big plans for his future. As he finalizes the logistics of having his first autobiography sold in digital stores, he is also preparing for his studies at Morehouse College in the USA which are set to resume in September. He plans to study Economics.
When asked what the most transformative lesson he learnt at ALA was, his closing remarks are this: “Always start with what you have. Sometimes we think about the outcome and not the process, but the truth is that big ideas start small, so start experimenting early, and then figure out how it’s going to work through the long term.”