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This Is Africa – Néné Keita (France/Mali)

Néné Keita

Tell us about yourself and your history to date.

I am Néné, 27 years old, born in Mali but raised and educated in France. I’ve always been passionate about civic engagement and inter-cultural relations. I am the head of DiaspoHub since 2017 and relocated to Mali the same year.

Tell us about your professional and business career. How did you get the idea to start DiaspoHub?

I studied political sciences, HR and international management. I first started my career in HR and more especially in head hunting and recruitment. After some years, I realised that I was not totally fulfilled and that I needed something else, something more impactful in my career.

At that time, I wasn’t decided to relocate to Mali as I had never lived or worked there. After a phase of market studies and networking in Bamako in 2016, I got the chance to meet an entrepreneurs association from the French diaspora in Bamako.

They were looking for someone to create and implement an incubator for diaspora entrepreneurs. It was the perfect challenge for me and it was a way for me to create bridges and to have an impact on economic development through diaspora mobilisation.

I first got supported by this association and then took my autonomy to implement and launch the programme that started in November 2017.

Today the team is made up of 3 people and a board of 7 experts.

DiaspoHub

Tell us about the current opportunities you are pursuing. What are some of the avenues you are looking to focus on?

With DiaspoHub, we are seeking to encourage, mobilise and facilitate the contribution of the Malian diaspora through entrepreneurship. Malian diaspora is very committed in the daily subsistence of their families but not enough in the “sustainable” economic development of Mali.

So we want to change the paradigm and to impulse a new form of engagement within the diaspora through supporting those who have innovative and ambitious business ideas. The goal is to mobilise the skills, ideas and funding of the diaspora.

Tell us about some of your key personal and professional goals. Where would you like to be in 5 years?

In 5 years the objective is to be a reference for diaspora entrepreneurship and to be able to build a real corridor between “diaspo-entrepreneurs” and Mali. And then, step by step, roll out the same concept in other African countries.

Moreover, the challenge is also to get weigh in on public policies to get a better understanding of diaspora needs in this field because it is not adequately developed or considered.

The big dream would be to implement the same type of programmes in every African country that has a big diaspora. We are testing the model in Mali and then we will “conquer” other countries!

Néné Keita DiaspoHub

Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them.

The challenges were numerous and great!

Firstly, identifying the entrepreneurs in the French diaspora; who are they? Where are they? We had to reach out to diaspora associations, be visible in the main events and to basically get to know them.

The Malian diaspora is very spread out and disorganised so it was very difficult to know where to communicate about our programme and our opportunities.

Secondly, it was a challenge to convince and boost them to take up the challenge of entrepreneurship in Mali. As you may know, Mali has been living several crises these last few years that made it less attractive for investment.

So our work was also to reassure and show them the opportunities.

Thirdly, we had to implement a programme between France and Mali to be able to adapt to their “come and go” and be efficient despite the distance.

We also face challenges in finding local support from local institutions. Additionally, we had to find funding for the projects. That is still work in progress.

We offered diasporans mentorship, coaching and business networking so they could meet and get inspired by people who took the same path.

Local support is still on its way. It is very difficult to make them understand what it at stake with DiaspoHub.

Néné Keita DiaspoHub

You are passionate about engaging the African diaspora to help entrepreneurship in Africa. Why do you feel that entrepreneurship in Africa is an avenue that can help advance Africans?

The youth in Africa are suffering from unemployment and entrepreneurship seems to be the only mid-term alternative for this generation.

I believe that engaging Africans and the diaspora in entrepreneurship is the only path for development.

The realities for the continent is that entrepreneurship is a necessity for the youth that have to wake up and take part in the development of their own emancipation, starting from work and employment creation.

The diaspora has this richness of having and bringing new ideas, as well as skills that can have a great impact if we succeed in integrating them in the business environment in their countries of origin.

I think the first way to attract the diaspora is to make the country attractive through tourism (making it a pleasant place for vacations). You then market the unknown local opportunities by communicating through the local representation in the country they are living.

What are the 3 biggest challenges African entrepreneurs face right now? How can the African diaspora help overcome these obstacles?

I would say the biggest challenges are:

Lack of skills to establish and manage perennial companies;

Access to market: multinationals monopolise the market and don’t give a chance to small and mid-companies to emerge;

Funding: lack of investment funds, banks able to fund start-ups and to support them.

The diaspora has better access to all of these services, skills and so on that facilitate entrepreneurship for them. The challenge is to open these opportunities to local entrepreneurs and share the skills and access to international funding, etc.

We have to think about systems or programmes to implement skills transfer and sharing. The diaspora have this energy to change and impact that is less present in local entrepreneurs so they  bring new waves of hope and innovation.

Néné Keita DiaspoHub

What is your vision for Africa?

Emancipation, economic independence and Africa pride. Today, minds are still chained, limited. The greater Africa to me is an Africa that will have a vision for itself and walk towards it.

We have to know who we are, where we go and what we want for ourselves!

My vision is for Africa to GET a vision of its future by digging into its natural and human resources to build a continent where everyone can fulfil oneself thanks to employment, high level healthcare systems, women emancipation and empowerment, as well as peace.

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