Video report: Making green deals on tough streets
Daouda Sanogo is an award-winning entrepreneur. In the first part of a five part series about people who are making a difference in deprived neighbourhoods in France, he discusses how having a unique idea has enabled him to succeed in business.
In 2005 Aulnay-sous-Bois was the scene of some of the most intense violence between police and young men of mainly African origin, during a month of race riots that swept across the country. Cars and shops were burned and rioters fired shots at the police.
Today Aulnay-sous-Bois is an orderly suburb like any other that surrounds Paris.
But the riots of 2005 did lasting damage to Aulnay-sous-Bois’ reputation, and unemployment remains three times higher than the national average.
While these problems hold many young people back, Daouda Sanogo bit the bullet four years ago and set up his own business four years ago. He is the managing director of Alliance Co., a company he created when he saw a gap in the market for recycling electronic equipment for large corporations.
He says the key to surviving as a businessman in this neck of the woods, is having an idea that is unique.
“This kind of business was rare when I started out, except for two or three collectives that were set up by large corporations to serve their internal needs,” explained Sanogo and adds, “I was the first person to set up a business that recycles old electronic equipment from large companies.”
Daouda Sanogo was one of the few in his form to pass his school-leaving exam, the baccalaureate, which then enabled him to get a job on the local council in the environment department. He has been working with the environment for 11 years now. So when he decided to start his business he had a lot of expertise in the sector, although he lacked contacts within large corporations.
“It was difficult initially was making contact with those corporations,” recalled Sanogo. “But once I got a contact with the first large corporation and I proved that I could really help them then more business started coming my way.”
As well as creating employment and work experience opportunities for young people in Aulnay-sous-Bois, Sanogo is also involved in a business talent spotting initiative in France’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
“I am on the jury of a group called Talent in the Inner Cities, that helps to identify the best business ideas in disadvantaged areas with the aim of promoting diversity in business,” said Sanogo.
So rather than being ashamed of his postcode, Daouda Sanogo is doing what he can to help Aulnay-sous-Bois shake off its poor image.