Black Excellence: How Yacoub Sidya Built A $50 Million Security In Mauritania At Age 24

by Duke Magazine

Yacoub Sidya is a Mauritanian whose success story is well-defined and inspiring. Born in 1978, he was raised by his mother in the country’s capital, Nouakchott. Being a football enthusiast and player, Sidya won a soccer scholarship to the Northern Kentucky University where he studied Business Administration. Following the completion of his degree, he had a stint with Town and Country Sports complex in Northern Kentucky as a coach and a referee.

While working with 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. Fortunately, Sidya met the criteria.

He got 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 role, Sidya was earning about $30,000 a week in addition to other bonuses.

However, things took a downturn following the company’s 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 for the business to stay afloat.

Being affected by the inadvertent decision that cost him his job, Sidya became jobless at age 24, 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.

At this time, there was a coup attempt in Mauritania which resulted in political tensions and emergence of criminalities of all sorts. His sister was not spared either as 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 fuss inspired him to  establish a security firm. After deep thought on delving into the security outfit business, 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. 

Sidya 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 at 2019, had over 5,000 employees, 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.

Today, he 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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