Amissa Carvalho-Tshibuabua, born in Ivory Coast to a Senegalese mother and a Congolese father, embodies a global citizen with a passion for ethical entrepreneurship and cultural empowerment. With a BSc Hons in Architectural Technology and a postgraduate focus on Luxury Marketing, Amissa’s journey spans 11 countries, influencing her commitment to diverse and ethical business practices. As a teenager in 2013, she established Rebuild Your World, a Foundation that conducted educational workshops in Lagos to promote alternative education. In 2018, Amissa established “Hëritaj,” a design studio involved in refurbishing the Nike Art Gallery in Abuja. In 2022, after gaining insights from the Richemont Group, Amissa merged her experiences into two ventures. The first, “Gemstones Ethical Marketplace” (G.E.M), operates in the DRC, facilitating ethical trading of precious stones and gold through mobile technology. The second, “Kasaï,” revolutionizes the jewelry industry by combining Swiss craftsmanship with ethically sourced stones from the DRC, integrating block chain technology for authenticity. Currently, Amissa spearheads the exhibition “Aux Coeurs de Nos Terres” with Hëritaj, showcasing the culture and challenges of artisan miners, symbolising her commitment to meaningful impact. The collaborative effort involves Hëritaj, Kasaï, and G.E.M as custodians of cultural heritage, advocates for artistic expression, and champions of ethical mining practices, respectively. Amissa stands as a modern entrepreneur driving ethical business, cultural empowerment, and sustainable development.
The young Entrepreneur speaks exclusively to Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher, Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable
You were born in Ivory Coast to a Senegalese mother and Congolese father, what is your connection with Nigeria?
I was raised by Pan-Africans parents and Nigeria has always been a second home to my family and I. My mother moved into Lagos in the 90s because in her words “it was the only African country that allowed her to feel proudly African”. She fell in love with the cultural pride instilled into the country at a time when the continent was going through an ideological revolution. I therefore attended school in Cotonou (Benin Republic) in order to be bilingual from 1997 to 2009. I would therefore spend my weekends and holidays in Nigeria which helped me learn at an early stage of my life how to navigate and connect the dots between African countries and cultures.
In 2013, you started “Rebuild Your World” what prompted you to start the Foundation?
I’ve always been attracted to community empowerment, in the summer of 2013 I decided to create alternative educational workshops for students in public schools as I came to understand that our educational system was somehow not always adapted to our population’s needs.
What impacts has the Foundation made?
I wanted to create an educational model inspired by the societal needs of our people’s environment so we taught 300 students arts and crafts and they ended up making their shoes, belts and school bags as we made sure they spent a summer filled with activities. Just like Asia, Africa is full of untapped talents so this Chinese proverb,” give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” was a core motivator. Rebuild Your World is at the base of my social entrepreneurship journey and I hope to develop it within the family of mining cooperatives I now work with.
You did something unique in 2018 by establishing “Heritaj” what the motivation?
Staying true to my vision of community development, I developed the concept of Hëritaj when I returned to Nigeria in 2016. I spent 2 years researching on Nigerian artisans and decided to create my structure to empower this sector. We redefined the Africanist renaissance aesthetics by exploring spatial and product design as well as material transformation in the creative industries. Our objective is to develop cultural spaces and products in which one can discover a contemporary world that integrates our traditional knowledge of materials transformation to our contemporary consumption and lifestyle. Thus we opened the artisanal know-how as well as the riches of Sub-Saharan Africa to international markets. In 2019 I met the legendary “Mama Nike” Nikè Davies Okundaye who became a mentor to my structure. I had stumble across her gallery in Abuja and it needed to be revived so I offered my services and we did some renovations of the main gallery and their textile workshops in Abuja. We Organized during Abuja Art week 2020 a hybrid exhibition (with a digital and physical gallery), textile workshops, as well as many other artistic activities. We supported Northern artisans in the manufacturing process of Nigerian organic fabric called “Funtua Cotton” and added Adirè techniques taught at Nike Art Gallery to the finishing process.
How did you get the idea of Gemstones Ethical Market, the first in the DRC, what are you trying to achieve?
G.E.M was born as a mean to respond to my jewelry line Kasaï. Democratic Republic of Congo is a haven to precious stones yet the sector is still highly informal. As I was sourcing for myself, I found a niche I could help develop, so in 2023 I decided to move back to DRC and tackle this journey. A culture of transparency, fairness, and responsible conduct permeates every facet of our being. With resolute dedication, we aspire to foster an ecosystem where the trading of precious stones and gold flourishes. We aspire to establish a future where ethical practices prevail, where miners are duly rewarded for their labor, and buyers have unfettered access to transparent information, guaranteeing the genuineness and ethical provenance of their mineral acquisitions. With unwavering dedication, we endeavor to propel sustainable development, foster societal advancement, and champion environmental stewardship within the mining sector. Our mission is to empower artisanal miners by providing access to micro-finance, increase transparency from traders, and secure accessibility to buyers by establishing a physical platform with tools such as the block chain. Aligned with the government’s need to reorganize the mining industry, we are committed to promoting ethical mining practices, fair wages, and responsible sourcing, while ensuring the development and well-being of mining communities.
Tell us about “Kasai” which is also dear to your heart?
After my experience at Richemont group which own jewelry brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels to name a few, I became eager to showcase a brand enabling our Congolese precious stones to be displayed in the most luxurious angle. I realized that establishing in the long term jewelry workshops in the DRC could help us make a cultural impact globally. Kasaï is a high-end jewelry brand committed to revolutionizing the industry by combining the exquisite craftsmanship of Swiss production with the rich and ethically sourced precious stones from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our unique value proposition lies in the integration of cutting-edge fintech, specifically blockchain technology, to ensure authenticity, traceability, and financial flexibility for our clientele. We strive to empower our customers with the ability to seamlessly value and trade their pieces through blockchain technology, enhancing their overall experience and trust in the jewelry market. Kasaï’s design innovations draw inspiration from the rich landscape and culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo, incorporating elements such as flora, fauna, geographical features, cultural symbols, and a vibrant color palette. The jewelry pieces not only showcase the beauty of Congo but also integrate traditional craftsmanship and storytelling, creating a unique connection between the wearer and the country’s cultural heritage. In addition, Kasaï’s commitment to sustainability aligns with Congo’s values, making each piece not just a beautiful accessory but a reflection of the region’s significance. Our first collection Café, Cacao Miel et Vanille” is a homage to the rich agricultural heritage of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inspired by the lush landscapes and diverse crops of the region, each piece in this collection tells a story of beauty, resilience, and sustainability. We will collaborate with Virunga National Park in order to assist their efforts in protecting the oldest African park.
What should be the guiding principles of an Entrepreneur who wants to succeed?
As an entrepreneur, success thrives on a foundation of integrity, resilience, and a commitment to ethical practices. Embrace diversity, recognizing its power in fostering innovation. Stay adaptable in the face of challenges, and let a passion for positive impact drive your endeavors. Build strong relationships, prioritize continuous learning, and leverage technology to enhance your business. Always keep a keen eye on sustainability and community empowerment, ensuring that success echoes beyond personal achievements to make a meaningful difference in the world. Keep your faith alive and know that your intentions will always be met when you put the work in it. Make sure you are enjoying the journey as it’s the most priceless experience and don’t forget to take the necessary actions to nurture your physical and mental well-being.
What is your big dream, and what should the world expect from you in 2024?
My big dream revolves around creating a lasting impact through ethical entrepreneurship and cultural empowerment. In 2024, the world can expect groundbreaking initiatives from me. “Aux Coeurs de Nos Terres,” an immersive exhibition by Hëritaj will happen at the prestigious Academy des beaux arts in Kinshasa. It will unveil the vibrant culture and challenges faced by artisan miners, fostering awareness and appreciation. The Gemstones Ethical Marketplace (G.E.M) and Kasaï will continue to thrive, revolutionizing the mining and jewelry industries with a focus on ethics, transparency, and sustainable practices. These ventures aim not just for commercial success but to contribute positively to the communities involved. My commitment to education and alternative learning will persist, evolving strategies to empower individuals globally. Expect a continued journey of innovation, integrity, and purpose-driven endeavors in 2024 and beyond.