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Entrepreneurship competition encourages the Malian diaspora to start businesses on their home turf

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

The Malian diaspora counts between four and six million people, many of whom have benefited from a good education and rich experiences, that could help develop high-potential businesses in their home countries.

However, starting and running a business in Mali isn’t easy. That’s why Pape Wane, a Malian reality TV producer, decided to partner with local business incubators to launch the Diaspora Entrepreneurship competition in order to identify, promote, and support members of the diaspora community who can seize business opportunities in Mali, while also understanding the unique challenges of the local ecosystem.

Using the codes of reality TV, the competition has strived to resonate with Mali’s youth by increasing their awareness of entrepreneurship’s potential to address the country’s socio-economic challenges.

A new generation of CEOs: Running a business in West Africa as a woman

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Also available in: Français

What is it like to set up and run an incubator as a woman? The answer, much like anywhere else in the world for working women, is that it’s complicated.

In many countries, it’s still unusual to see women working in certain sectors. Regina Mbodj, CTIC Dakar CEO, knows very few women in Senegal who studied ICT. “When I came home and told people about my studies, a lot of people responded, 'I thought only men did that!'"

Mariem Kane, an engineer by training and now president of Mauritania’s incubator Hadina RIMTIC, said that career development can be difficult for women who have been trained in hard skills. “It’s tough for women to find opportunities in these sectors and, because we’re considered more suited to softer skills, we aren’t given the opportunity to prove ourselves.”

A new generation of CEOs: Businesswomen in Africa discuss gender inclusion in the private sector

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

As we saw in our second blog, entrepreneurship plays a critical role in promoting sustainable growth. Yet, in many West-African countries, long-standing stigmas against the private sector are still big obstacles for women and young people who aspire to become entrepreneurs.
 
Family support, in particular, remains critical for women’s career choices, and the private sector doesn’t always enjoy a good reputation among parents. “It’s very hard for them [parents] to understand why we want to do this instead of getting a steady government job,” says Binta NdiayeMakeSense Africa CEO. “My mother is an entrepreneur, but she did that on top of her regular job and raising a family in France, so it’s not seen as a career in-and-of-itself.”
 
“Entrepreneurship is inherently risky, so if you don’t have that support and encouragement, or even your family’s blessing to go for it, I can understand that it could be extremely challenging for some women,” says Mariem Kane, founder and president of Mauritania’s incubator Hadina RIMTIC.

Ndiaye for one, though, is not deterred: “It’s up to us to educate them on this potential and to have the resolve to follow-through. If you can convince skeptical parents, you can convince any investor.” 
 
Considering that these incubators are run by women, do they make special efforts to recruit women entrepreneurs?
 
Lisa Barutel founder and CEO of La Fabrique, acknowledges that even though La Fabrique received a huge response to a recent call for proposals targeting women, far fewer apply to general calls that do not have a specific focus on women entrepreneurship. “Normally we don’t go out looking for candidates, as we can be inundated with applications, but when we noticed this discrepancy, we did launch a program to identify women with potential,” she says.

A new generation of CEOs: Six businesswomen discuss entrepreneurship and start-ups in West Africa

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

Across West Africa, it’s very difficult to find a workplace as innovative and diverse as business incubators. Known for their young, energized, and often gender-balanced staff, these organizations are an encouraging indication of what’s in store in the coming decades, as the region presents a younger, more open, and increasingly female workforce to the world.

In francophone West Africa—where there was not a single incubator at the beginning of 2011—six young women are currently leading major incubators, some of which have World Bank Group support.   

With backgrounds in computer science, engineering, finance, logistics, project management, and social entrepreneurship, these women have profiles that are just as varied and impressive as the start-ups they support. Given the World Bank Group’s commitment to promoting gender equality, as laid out in the Gender Strategy, our team talked to them to learn more about their work and leadership experience.