Making a clean start abroad
Quinton DeShield moved to Angola to start a business, but soon got distracted by a cause.
Bothered by the piles of trash on the beaches outside Luanda, the capital city of the southern African nation, he decided to put “planet over profit”.
With the help of investors in England, he hired 15 Angolans and spent a day clearing the Praia Amélia shoreline. Many people out enjoying the beach on Luanda Day, a national holiday on January 25, joined in picking up trash and hauling bags away for disposal.
“We were able to feed everyone and give them the equivalent of two or three times the average daily rate over here, which is $2 a day,” said Mr DeShield, who moved to Luanda last month to set up GFox Soluções. Now helping Angola find investment and build its economy, he hopes to expand the business to Bermuda. “We filled up 260 black bags in five-and-a-half hours. We only got about 150 metres done, but we cleared a lot where the children were playing.”
The 42-year-old was working as a civil engineer in England until he decided to study actuarial science to further his business dream.
He returned to the island in 2012 and joined BCM McAlpine to save money to fund his degree.
Once back in university in England, he registered his company, but found it hard to get it off the ground in 2018; his belief is that people were unwilling to invest in new companies in the shadow of Brexit. In knocking on embassy doors however, he found a handful of African countries were open to his idea.
Also helpful was that João Lourenço had been working hard to encourage foreign investment apart from Angola’s main industries of oil and diamonds since becoming president in 2017.
“I met the Angolan ambassador in London and he said, ‘Go to Angola, that is the place to do business’,” Mr DeShield said. “I came out in January 2019 and, within minutes of meeting government ministers, I thought this is a perfect place for British investment. The talent is here on the ground, it is just the management and the knowhow that is needed.
“My main role is to bring investment into the country. I look at Angola as the client. We want to train the local staff to international standards so that it is easy for British and European countries to come and do business here.
“I am one of the first British businesses to come under this new system outside of oil. As the UK looks to strike trade deals with a number of countries on the continent of Africa, and [because of] the positive influence the UK has in Angola in regards to removing the landmines to return the land to agriculture and mineral-based resources, we are now perfectly placed to work with investors on the ground to manage their investments minimising some of the risks.”
He started wondering how he could improve the beaches after a downpour at the start of the rainy season. It washed out key electrical equipment in the city and Mr DeShield spent more than 24 hours in the dark.
“When it rains here, it really pours,” he said. “I was surprised that the rain comes down so hard. When you go into the shanty towns, the roads are impassable; there is flooding through people’s houses. The infrastructure isn’t set up correctly, so it is not really taking the water away from the people, it is actually pushing it towards them.”
He believes the combination of poor drainage mixed with poor waste management is why the beaches are in the state they are in. According to Mr DeShield, those used by tourists and wealthy Angolans are kept pristine, but many near the city are covered in trash.
“I wouldn’t swim there,” he said. “Being from Bermuda it’s just too dirty. There is a lot of trash on the beach, but people are in there swimming all the time. They are used to it.”
The effort at Praia Amélia caught the attention of the local media.
“We ended up going on national radio,” said Mr DeShield, who is “slowly but surely” picking up Angola’s official language, Portuguese.
“We got to tell the Angolan people why we were doing the clean-up, promoting GFox and our project. We used all the funds we raised in the UK. Everyone enjoyed it and they are looking forward to finishing off the beach.”
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