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Burkina Faso

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

Alexandre Laure's picture

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.”

Poor places. Rich places. Can geography explain it all?

Nga Thi Viet Nguyen's picture



“Tell me where you live, and I can predict how well you’ll do in life.”
 
Does welfare vary largely across space?
 
Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know for a fact that location is an excellent predictor of one’s welfare. Indeed, a child born in Togo today is expected to live nearly 20 years less than a child born in the United States. Moreover, this child will earn a tiny fraction—less than 3%—of what his or her American counterpart will earn.

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.   

Innovation: A meaningless “catchword” or something more useful?

Alanna Simpson's picture
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID

Challenges in development are growing at unprecedented rates, driven by complex human crises: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty. 

Fredo or Michael? Parents play favorites among siblings

Shwetlena Sabarwal's picture

In The Godfather II, Vito Corleone chooses his younger son, Michael, instead of his older son, Fredo, as his successor. This decision is based on Michael's intelligence and ability. Fredo, who is considered weak, is dismissed to do more menial tasks for the family. This has huge implications for Michael, Fredo, and the Corleone saga. 


CC (The Godfather) Image courtesy of Insomnia Cured Here on Flickr

What makes parents decide to "invest" in one child over another? In economics, a key idea is that parents either reinforce or compensate for children’s endowments, such as health or intelligence. They reinforce by investing more in the human capital of their better-endowed children. Or they compensate by investing more in their worse-endowed children to reduce inequality among siblings. The core notion is : either parents are striving for equity (the compensating strategy) or efficiency (the reinforcing strategy of Vito Corleone).

Desertification is not Fate

Magda Lovei's picture

In East Africa and West Africa, about 300 million people living in dryland areas rely on natural, resource-based activities for their livelihood. By 2030, this number could increase to 540 million. At the same time, climate change could result in an expansion of Africa’s drylands by as much as 20%.

West Africa’s charismatic marine life, or “aquatic bushmeat,” under threat

Peter Kristensen's picture
 A sea turtle rests on a rock in Guinea-Bissau. Photo credit: IBAP


In Ghana, coastal erosion and rising seas are burying some seaside villages, like Fuveme, which is now completely under sand.  As in neighboring countries, hydrocarbon exploration is well underway not too far from the shore, and coastal urban areas are expanding. The fish stock has declined dramatically, and formerly thriving fishing communities are in trouble.

Start-up from scratch? How entrepreneurship can generate sustainable development and inclusion in the Sahel

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

In a first for Africa’s Sahel region, entrepreneurs from Senegal to Chad assembled in Niamey, Niger, for the SahelInnov Expo last month to showcase their businesses and exchange ideas. From livestock to drones, all sectors were on display as a new generation of entrepreneurs and start-ups emerges with bold and innovative ways to address the challenges facing their countries and communities. Increasingly recognized as a strategic path to economic growth, supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs has a key impact on development and is generating more interest from governments in the Sahel. 



Michaëlle Jean, the Secretary General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, the President the Republic of Niger, and Almoktar Allahoury, the CEO of CIPMEN.
Photo Credit: CIPMEN


Hosting the event was Niger SMEs Incubator Center (CIPMEN) whose CEO, Almoktar Allahoury, lauded the initiative. “This is the first time all stakeholders have come together: entrepreneurs, public officials, investors, academia and development partners in one place to discuss the many opportunities and remaining obstacles for the private sector — this is just what we need to take the region to the next level.”

Indeed, entrepreneurship could be especially important for this extremely poor region, with half the population living below the poverty line. Burkina Faso and Niger, for example, are among the fastest-growing economies in the world, yet their GDP per capita are just $395 and $652 respectively, compared to the Sub-Saharan African average of $1,647. A vibrant and active entrepreneurial ecosystem would therefore not only boost economic diversification and improve productivity, it also could prove the vital lever to tackling two of the Sahel’s biggest challenges: youth unemployment and climate change.

The devastating combination of climate change, mass migration, trafficking and the rise of violent extremism has resulted in recurring humanitarian crises and massive food insecurity, affecting more than 20 million people across the Sahel in 2015. Enduringly high birth rates, furthermore, will require millions of jobs to be created to respond to the needs of a rapidly growing and increasingly young population. Institutional reach remains weak and a state of protracted insecurity has taken root over vast swathes of territory.


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