Aged 49, Karim Sy is a Senegalese who we can say that creating is as natural as breathing. Not to create to earn money, but to participate in development. In short, Karim Sy believes in social entrepreneurship: Jokkolabs is for him a way to develop it in Africa. The current business model is obsolete, we would have to go back to human, remembering that apart from a portfolio of stocks, we also manage people, he says. “Staff are compared to thoughtless robots whose mission is to follow the orders assigned to them,” he laments.
Karim Sy and the family …
Karim Sy is the result of the union of a Malian (of Senegalese origin) and a Lebanese. Born in France, he spent his youth between several countries (France, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Canada). He arrived in Mali at the age of 15, where he would spend two (02) years. It was a stay which according to him, was very important, because allowing him to meet the family, to make new friends. Father of two (02) boys, Karim Sy is married to a researcher in economics.
Jumps from one project to another …
Karim Sy is a serial entrepreneur. At the age of 23, he took over the drilling project of a former student, a project which, for lack of knowledge on the African continent, had been a failure. He implemented it in Mali as follows: it involved building a water pump borehole 10 kg and 30 m deep, thus allowing the villagers easy access to water. Following the success of this project, he joined forces with another entrepreneur to set up a hydraulic drilling company, a collaboration which unfortunately ended due to the divergence of their visions.
He then set up, with his brother, a papyphone structure and a network of 2,000 telephone booths in Mali. This is being done with the collaboration of businessmen from the UAE. Despite the great success of the company (number 1 nationally), they are forced to put the key under the doormat.
No time to lament! Karim Sy is embarking on another project. But this time with one of his cousins: business aviation, a project allowing him to discover Senegal, where, seeing the IT boom in an Africa where he is little known, he immersed himself in digital computing by buying the company Oracle and at the same time abandoning the aviation project. Following problems with the founder of Oracle, he closes the door and creates his own consulting and audit firm, Opensys (he is one of the pioneers).
He then founded, Optique, dealing with business development issues. Poly competent, Karim Sy also plays the role of expert on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in several African countries such as Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Togo and Burkina Faso. Where he assesses the policies of these countries and the growth sectors for export.
October 10, 2010 corresponds to the birth of Jokkolabs. Contrary to what you might think, this is not a business. Consider it more as an association or even a club of entrepreneurs. Its raison d’etre being to support entrepreneurs in setting up their business, it is more of a collaborative space.
Karim Sy had to take a break from all his activities in order to concentrate on this project which is close to his heart. Many entrepreneurs have joined the experience such as Mareme Malong (Cameroon), Seydou Sy (Mali), Jean Louis Ercolani (France), Mohsen Chirara (Senegal), Cheickh Omar Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Aboubaker Benslimane (Morocco) ), Philipe-Marie Koffi (Ivory Coast).
A co-working space certainly, but not like the others …
It all starts with the name, Jokkolabs. Jokko is in Wolof (language spoken in Senegal) a superposition of two (02) words: “Joxko” (give him) and “Jotko” (join him). This reflects a desire for communication and sharing within the group. This is corroborated by the words of Karim Sy: “Jokkolabs also wants to carry values that go beyond a space of creativity and innovation. We see ourselves as catalysts who support and strengthen a dynamic with actors on a particular project ”.
Jokkolabs is the first co-working space in West Africa. Its activities are articulated between virtual online exchange and physical space for joint work. It’s all about an ecosystem of open innovation for shared prosperity.
Some landmark projects
- Wizilli: this is a social media marketing platform developed by 3W; first partner agency of Facebook and having developed applications there.
- Dev Engine Lab: start-up progressing every day. She has developed applications for American, Senegalese and Asian companies. In addition, its promoters also support other start-ups such as Marodi. They also launched the start-up Coin Afrique (in collaboration with a former Google France employee). They are also laureates of the Pan-African challenge (organized by Jokkolabs and Société Générale), thus earning them the development of a Proof Of Concept with an African subsidiary of Société Générale (for an application to improve the customer experience in branch ).
- ART + Casamance: virtual museum of contemporary African art. One project while hiding another, Jokkolabs accompanies it to set up the ART + AFRICA (shared virtual museum for African gallery owners and artists).
Hydraulic and mining drilling, business aviation, consulting, financial system … it can be said without hesitation that Karim Sy is a jack of all trades. Through his role as a catalyst for initiatives in Africa and France, he joined the Presidential Council for Africa (CPA). His experience in a thousand and one business sectors has enabled him to build Jokkolabs, whose goal is to promote structural changes both economically and socially. Present in several African countries as well as in France, more than 600 start-ups supported by the digital hub which is self-financing, Jokkolabs has not finished making people talk about it, just like Karim Sy.