Amine Chouaieb is the 27 year-old CEO of his own company CHIFCO, and a great example of what is possible when youth have both access to technology and the support needed to develop the skills to help them realize their full potential.
In partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Microsoft he is attending the International Conference on Productive Work for Youth in Tunis, Tunisia, this week to help inspire other young people to embrace technology and what it can offer them.
When Amine was 11 years old and living with his family in Tunisia, Amine’s father, who ran a wood import and processing business, surprised him and his brother one day with a computer. The two boys challenged each other to see who could learn the most about the PC, in the shortest amount of time, and prove their expertise by developing tangible outcomes.
It wasn’t long before Amine, through trial, error and sheer interest, gained a solid understanding of the concept of source code and how modifications changed programs. He went on to learn an array of programming languages and was one of the first technologists building and promoting websites in Tunisia – and he did all of this while still in school studying for his A-level exams.
“My father gave me the choice of working in the wood processing area of his business or in the office, but the pay was the same, a dollar a day,” he said. “I chose the office so I could continue to work with technology, and soon I knew my skills were quite good when his employees came to me to amend their existing line of business applications to make them easier to use.”
Amine worked diligently to help spread the power of the web in Tunisia, working with local companies to build their websites for as little as $100 - simply to illustrate the value of the Internet.
“It was great to be young and technology savvy in a country that was not particularly advanced in that way,” he said. “I spent a lot of time explaining basic things like search, chat, messaging and pioneered the development of dynamic websites and one of the first hosting solutions in my country.”
After his A-levels Amine studied civil engineering in Paris and joined an Environmental/Energy consulting firm after graduation. Soon he began applying his technology skills in a new way, becoming absorbed in the concepts of smart grids and energy management. It was then that he realized there was still so much that software could do to optimize the smart energy hardware.
Not long after Amine was studying for his Executive Masters in Strategy at the ESCP Europe business school in Paris, and driving the development of a software energy platform that allows businesses to monitor and manage their energy efficiency.
Amine pictured with Maroua Dhay who works on the local Microsoft Citizenship team attending the ENERSOL World Sustainable Energy Forum held in Tunis earlier this month.
“I had heard about the opportunity to become a startup partner with Microsoft and applied,” he said. I was so pleased when we were accepted and what followed was great – access to development tools, training, guidance, expertise and perhaps most importantly networking.”
Today Amine’s company CHIFCO has offices in Tunis and Paris, and is supporting several customer pilots of their solution. CHIFCO became a startup beneficiary of the Microsoft’s Bizspark program, which is part of Microsoft YouthSpark, and is sponsored by the Microsoft Innovation Center. He speaks with enthusiasm as he explains how his customers are benefitting from real time energy consumption monitoring and management – both the businesses who are reducing their energy consumption and costs, and the utilities who are able to better serve their customers.
“I had observed there was more talk than action in the environmental sustainability space and it was my goal to help do something tangible” he said. “And as my brother and I challenged each other so long ago to deliver results, it is incredibly rewarding to see our customers reduce their energy bills through the use of our solutions. We hope to empower them through ICT, as we were empowered.”
UNIDO and Microsoft have worked together since 2006 to help apply ICT for sustainable development. With Tunisia registering one of the highest unemployment rates in the world with more than 14% of the active population being unemployed, both UNIDO through their youth programs and Microsoft through it’s YouthSpark program are working to help address the issue.