Success Story July 14, 2021 at 02:00 pm

After a coup attempt, this entrepreneur built a $50m security firm in Mauritania at just 24

Abu Mubarik July 14, 2021 at 02:00 pm

July 14, 2021 at 02:00 pm | Success Story

Yacoub Sidya. Photo credit: Forbes

Yacoub Sidya was born in Mauritania in 1978 and raised by his mother in the capital, Nouakchott. He won a soccer scholarship to the Northern Kentucky University where he studied Business Administration. After completion, he worked for Town and Country Sports complex in Northern Kentucky as a coach and a referee.

While working for the Town and Country Sports, he was linked to a job offer by an American telecoms company called Discoverytel. The telecom firm, headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut was looking for someone who could speak both French and English and Sidya met the criteria.

The Mauritanian was offered a job in voice termination. He used VoIP GSM Gateways to convert the received VoIP signal to GSM format and pay for the international call at the local tariff. In his new job, Sidya was pocketing close to $30,000 a week in addition to other bonuses.

However, things turned sour when the company made a huge investment in Nigeria as part of its vision to spread its operations in Africa and to reach more customers. The investment did not yield the desired returns and Discoverytel had to downside in other to stay in business.

Sidya was part of those who were affected by the decision to let some workers go. At 24, he became jobless but had managed to save up to a million dollars. “I had all this cash on me, and I was always thinking of what to do with my life from there. I was looking for a business opportunity, but in Mauritania, most people are traders. We just import and export stuff, and every trading idea I could think of had already been taken by so many other people,” he told Forbes.

During the period, there was a coup attempt in Mauritania which resulted in political tensions and criminals taking advantage of the situation to rob people of their valuable properties. His sister was not spared either. Two private security officials guarding his sister also capitalized on the unrest and robbed her.

Sidya asked his sister to hire a reputable security company to protect her. However, he was told there was only one security firm in town. This was how he got a business idea to establish a security firm. After pondering over the deal for a while, he reached out to a Swiss friend who has a security firm in Geneva and offered a partnership in 2003 at the age of 24.

He invested $200,000 in the company and later, he acquired the shares of his partner after he decided to opt out of the business. He named the company MSS Security and secured his major contract with a major logistics company. Within a year, the company had become very famous and one of the most sought-after security firms in the country. It was also reportedly valued at over $50 million.

“MSS Security became of the one largest security companies in West Africa, providing services such as access control services, CCTV, secure logistics, residential security, commercial and industrial security, close protection, and more,” according to Forbes. The firm started with just 40 workers and as of 2019, had over 5,000 workers, including some in Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Congo.

In 2008, Sidya became interested in gold mining after his security company was approached by a Canadian junior mining company in the capital to provide services for its executives. At the time, the firm was one of the largest mining companies in West Africa.

He now runs PPM Holding (Phoenix Precious Metals DMCC), a gold trading and mining firm based in Dubai. Aside from holding 12 mining licenses in Africa, he buys gold from artisanal miners from West Africa and their representatives.

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