Philippe Simo is part of this fringe of the African diaspora which has developed an important community around him. Childhood in Cameroon, studies in France and investor on the continent, he developed the idea of economic development of Africa by Africans. But in reality, the reality is different.
Almost four years ago, Philippe Simo launched “Invest in the country”. With over 500 subscribers, his YouTube channel attracts many Africans residing abroad. The Cameroonian entrepreneur says he wants to "contribute to the development of the African continent" and, to achieve this, he wants to "support the African diaspora in entrepreneurship and investment". An arrival in the business world that took time. Before wanting to give “power to entrepreneurs”, it was in Christian circles that Simo tried to break into. He thus established himself as a pastor, without success. A few years later, the Cameroonian quit his job in a few French companies – including Areva – and went into business as a real estate developer. By launching "Invest in the country", he showed a desire to initiate an economic movement of Africans towards Africa. But already, a first inconsistency appears: it is in France that the statutes of his company are filed.
VIP training at 1 euros
Above all, while he distills his advice to the diaspora to make money, Philippe Simo seems totally out of step. Because our man is domiciled in a low-rent housing (HLM) in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, one of the poorest towns in Île-de-France. However, to reside in HLM, it is imperative to provide proof of low income. For critics of Philippe Simo, the latter does not have the income he claims to have or has sufficient contacts to be housed under advantageous conditions.
But it is his business that questions quickly. Simo offers training at gold prices. He proposes, during these, to teach his “students” how to invest, and more specifically in Africa. In an article in the newspaper Le Monde, he says that by investing in the production of chickens, he is able to obtain a profit of 30% in… forty-five days. A promise almost impossible to keep. But the man persists: chicken farming, he says, is “one of the most profitable businesses you can start in Africa on a low budget”. His credo: investing in Africa costs little and brings in a lot for those who do not have the means to establish themselves in France.
To do this, Philippe Simo recounts “the realities of Africa”, but also “the scams” that “many who were born in France (…) are unaware of”. Simo was actually born in Douala. But from an early age, he left to study engineering in Troyes, France. From the start of his conferences, Simo was considered, as Le Monde pointed out, as “a smooth talker”. But the Cameroonian knows above all where the money is: the diaspora has the means and selling him training can bring in big profits. With training between 400 and 1 euros, the entrepreneur reaps the benefits: in two years, he claimed to have had 500 customers. Among them, barely a quarter have embarked on a project in Africa.
Companies based in France
If he is decried, Philippe Simo knows how to sell one thing: the dream of fortune. A simple mirage, according to the testimonies of some of his former clients, who had to pay for training that was far from satisfactory. But the Cameroonian knows how to communicate. And he hides his lack of degrees in real estate, entrepreneurship or investment thanks to well-oiled communication. Above all, behind his facade of speech, to really want to invest in Africa, it's disappointment. Simo owns seven companies whose statutes are all… in France, and most of whose activities seem to suggest that they are empty shells.
Testimonials from former employees show that only the sale of training interests Philippe Simo. A former collaborator indicates that she was recruited to coach some of her training courses, without having any experience in the field. She describes “a man greedy for money and disinterested in human values”. She describes behind the scenes of Simo's business: he encourages his employees to offer the most expensive training possible. With, for sellers, derisory commissions, reaching… 80 euros. Thus leaving a colossal profit to the influencer.