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Economy

Video report: Electric cars break France's social barriers

media Morald Chibout, CEO of Autolib Rosie Collyer

Morald Chibout is the chief executive officer of the electric-car-sharing scheme Autolib', which started up in the Paris region last year. In the fifth and final part in the series of radio and video reports profiling people making a difference in deprived neighbourhoods here in France, he discusses his vision of breaking down social barriers.

Transport is one of the keys to social mobility. Public transport in Paris is extensive, affordable and reliable especially in the centre of the city. However, in the suburbs and districts around Paris the car is still king.

Many people living in poorer suburbs don’t have access to a car. But Autolib', an electric-car-sharing scheme, is aiming to change this. They have over 2,000 cars stationed in and around Paris, as well as in other large cities in France.

The scheme was initiated by the Paris city council, which approached local councils of the surrounding towns to get it on the road and then hired the Bolloré company to run it.

The person driving the campaign is Morald Chibout. He and his 10 brothers and sisters grew up relatively poor in a small town in central France. The experience influenced his decision to make cars accessible to people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

“We are democratising the car. For anyone who wants to use a car for a day, they pay just 15 euro,” Chibout told RFI. “There are lots of people who don’t have access to a car, the young for instance.“

Aged 50, Chibout is one of the most successful people from an ethnic minority in the business world today here in France. He has risen from humble beginnings. His parents, who were both illiterate, came to France to find work in the 1960s.

By contrast Chibout took full advantage of the French education system. He graduated from the Sorbonne University and went on to rise up the ranks of several leading French companies including France Télécom and EDF.

He reached the pinnacle of his success in 2008 when he was nominated Marketing Man of the Year. Chibout is well aware he belongs to an elite group of company executives.

He says he feels compelled to share his positive experiences in the tough world of business with budding entrepreneurs from minority backgrounds.

“I take part in lots of meetings with entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he explains. “I help them with their marketing strategies, and their commercial strategies. I also help them put together a business plan.”

But there is still a widely held perception among ethnic minorities here in France that accessing funding from banks to start a business is difficult due to racism.

“Diversity is an opportunity for France," he insists. "This country could benefit from developing the businesses of people from all backgrounds."

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