Working with Anzisha has opened me up to appreciating the world of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship – to me, is synonymous to economic empowerment. When I look at how our young Anzisha finalists have had the audacity to go out there and start a venture of their own which also employs their peers, I am inspired. I become excited to share their stories with the other youth I come across so they too know, that it is feasible and possible to become a business owner at age 18. Naturally, when I heard about the Fellows Exploration Grant (a grant opportunity to go anywhere in Africa to further explore my interests as a member of the ALA Fellowship program) at African Leadership Academy, I was first inclined to visit Mali, my country of origin. My grant focused on understanding the opportunities for social entrepreneurship and economic growth in Mali.
During my stay, I had the chance to meet and parlay with several NGO leaders, all under age 35 and transforming perceptions of Africa and Malians understanding of their capabilities through their non-profit ventures. Prior to visiting, I did not know what to expect, my understanding of Mali’s atmosphere was two dimensional: diversity in the kind of jobs one can attain is slim, and based on my observations of my family members and the kind of jobs they work in, I assumed work either came from the government, corporations or international non-governmental organizations. While this seems to largely persist, I experienced a perception shift with the wonderful encounters I have had with Mohamed Kante, founder of iNERDE, Fatima Al Ansar Chleuh, founder of the Tiwalte Organization and Issam Chleuh, founder of Impact Group and co-founder of Impact Hub in Bamako.
iNERDE: Mohamed Kante, is founder of iNERDE, a youth empowerment organization that equips middle school students with the knowledge and skills to imagine and create in the STEM world. The organization strategically partners with middle schools throughout Mali to explore their capabilities. One of the organization’s core belief is “STEM is the economic engine of the modern world and every world citizen needs to be technically literate to flourish. STEM education promotes innovative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, entrepreneurship and creativity.”
On the opportunities in Mali’s emerging economy, Mohamed shares:
“Everything has to be done. There are lots of opportunities. If you are not careful you might be paralyzed by analysis. You don’t have to wait for the government to take action. Example: OrangeMoney, a money transfer tools through SMS, charges 6,000 CFA to send 30,000 CFA. It’s a large fee, but one of the only options Mali offers for money transfer. Way of life requires certain services. There are services the population wants and will indulge in once offered.” Are you up for the challenge?
Tiwalte: Fatima Al Ansar, 2012 Alumni of African Leadership Academy (Anzisha’s host organization) is founder of Tiwalte, a non-profit which seeks to empower young women across Mali to develop skills in peacebuilding, entrepreneurship and leadership. During my visit, I had the chance to experience her event’s first programming of the 2016 year. She worked diligently to attract partners, media personnel and young women of varying ethnic groups to encourage a conversation about the above topics. The day opened up with Fatima’s own personal story, a discussion of tension between Mali’s ethnic groups, a panel of Malian women entrepreneurs, sharing their stories and journey to starting their ventures, culminating a brainstorming leadership activity. Later in the day, the group creatively brainstormed solutions to problems their community is facing and how to address them as the young women they are. Learn more about Tiwalte here.
Impact Hub Bamako: Impact Hub Bamako, is founded by four movers and shakers in Mali: Kadida Konare, Issam Chleuh, Mohamed Kante, and Fayelle Ouane. Impact Hub Bamako is a collaborative working space and incubation hub. Impact Hub Bamako is affiliated with Impact Hub Net Global, the world’s leading network of business incubators. Impact Hub Bamako also offers training, incubation and acceleration programs for companies that are open to all but specialize in young people, women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in agriculture and agribusiness.
With 66% of the Malian population under the age of 25 and 60% of the working population in vulnerable forms of employment (McKinsey, 2012) there is a particular need for Malian youth to be engaged in committing to exploration of contributing positively to their nation’s economy in the year’s to come. These young entrepreneurs are leading the way. Learn more about Impact Hub Bamako here.
About Fanta: As a Malian-American passionate about empowerment of historically disenfranchised communities through increasing access to economic opportunities, learning about African Leadership Academy’s vision to develop the next generation of African leaders, lured me in at first sight. A couple of months of interviews with the Academy later, I accepted an offer to work as Fellow Relations Associate for the African Leadership Academy and Mastercard Foundation’s Anzisha Prize program.