Sao Tome and Principe Architect Edwlne Neto
Architect Edwlne Neto

Why did you choose to focus on design with local and alternative materials?

Sao Tome and Principe is a Small Island located in the west of Africa at the Gulf of Guinea. Most of the construction material is imported, for instance, the cement which is mostly used in construction here is sold at high cost. This factor contributes to raising the cost of the masonry house, so the population relies on wood since we don’t have to import it and it is much cheaper.

By analyzing this issue I realized that we have got 2 choices when it comes to construction, use imported and expensive material and meet international construction requirement or use local, cheap materials and do not meet international construction requirements.

What we need, is local, cheap, sustainable material that meet the international construction requirement. This was the starting point of my research on designing with local alternative materials.

Who are your clients?

My customers are young professional, underprivileged people living in rural areas and suburbs, companies that develop ecological tourism and the government’s social housing projects.

What problems do you face?

Being a young entrepreneur, financing my business is a major problem; I don’t want to borrow money so I have applied for many entrepreneurship and fellowship programs looking for non-refundable seed capital to start the business. After the financial problem remains the stress of not having a steady paycheck. It’s extremely stressful when you don’t know when or if you’ll be paid again especially when you have a family that relies on you financially.

Who has influenced you the most in your life?

As an architect, I think, I am influenced by David Adjaye on his architectural style and designing philosophy but as a young African entrepreneur a man that truly influenced me is my father, as an example of a man and an entrepreneur.

What is your favorite building in Sao Tome?

My favorite building in Sao Tome and Principe is the San Pedro Chapel, it is the only one built on the sea side on Marginal Avenue. I like it because it is a strong design concept, and it fits properly in its environment.

Is there something you are extremely proud of?

When I returned home from Mandela Washington Fellowship, I got some friends together and we founded SeptiLab- (Laboratory of Start Up, promotion of technology and Innovation) and we empower youth to become entrepreneurs. Last year we launched the Project Rise up Entrepreneur and seven young entrepreneurs were selected to receive support to develop their business.

What is your advice to a young professional that feels they maybe made the wrong choice and want to quit?

Quitting is never an option on the road to success. Find the way forward even when it seems to be impossible. If you have a positive mindset and are willing to persevere, there is little that is beyond your reach. The attitude of being ready to work even in the face of the hardest challenges and despite the odds is what will make all the difference in your life.


What we need, is local, cheap, sustainable material that meet the international construction requirement.


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