Gender in Focus: African Development Bank’s Digital Ambassadors Program training boosts Senegalese entrepreneur business performance, service to community
- Senegalese entrepreneur Fatou Diouf is one of 1,000 youth selected from 21,000 applicants for the African Development Bank’s Digital Ambassadors program.
- The program, which aims to achieve a 50/50 gender balance, is expanding digital skills to African youth especially in rural communities – through a peer-to-peer training model. For this first edition, 45% of the selected candidates were female.
We asked the 32-year-old entrepreneur, who works as a commercial tailor, real estate agent and farmer, about her program training experience and how she plans to use her acquired knowledge and skills.
How did you hear about the program and how did it feel like to be selected?
I was surfing the internet with my phone when I came across the call for applications for the Digital Ambassadors program. Since it was a training for youth, I told myself to try my luck, hoping that I could get valuable skills that I can use in my business. I was pleasantly surprised when I received the e-mail that I was selected as an ambassador among the 21,000 candidates who had applied. I am very happy that I took a chance and got the opportunity!
What motivated you to apply for the program?
I always run towards any opportunity to develop additional skills because I strongly believe that we never stop learning. When I read the call for application, the digital skills part of the program sounded familiar but the freelancing and soft skills were entirely foreign. I saw the training as an opportunity to improve my [information and communications technology] (ICT) knowledge and also learn new skills.
I also wanted to grow as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is a passion and I consider it a personal challenge. I have never liked to work for someone else because I want to be financially independent and be in charge of my own time.
How do you plan to use the knowledge and skills you gained during the training?
I consider it a privilege to have taken part in the Digital Ambassadors program. I know there are many barriers for young people in Senegal to access digital skills including not having access to devices or the means to purchase internet access.
I plan to use my acquired skills to impact the communities and associations I’m already a part of, like the Federation of Tailors in Senegal that has 9,000 members. Despite having only been to Koranic school, these tailors have an entrepreneurial spirit and I believe digital literacy will improve the way they run their businesses.
Which part of the digital ambassador’s program was your favourite?
I loved the freelancing module; I realized that I was already a freelancer without knowing and now I have gained more business organizational skills – especially things like budgeting. I also appreciated the soft skills part of the training, I think these skills will be valuable during the training of other tailors. I now know how to communicate better, understand others, and manage conflicts.
Fatou Diouf says the Digital Ambassadors skills training helped her secure new business managing the Federation of Tailors social media accounts.
Has the training changed your career perspective?
Thanks to the program, I now manage the Federation of Tailors in Senegal’s YouTube, Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Through the program I met like-minded ambassadors from Côte d’Ivoire, and I have now gotten business orders from clients in Côte d’Ivoire. So, I got to experience the meaning and value of networking first-hand.
The training taught me to effectively use [Microsoft Office suite software applications like] Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. In my real estate business, I am now using PowerPoint to make presentation of the houses on sale.
In my tailoring business, I recently won a tender to supply 2,000 school uniforms in Sedhiou [region in southwest Senegal]. Digital skills were invaluable in this process because I used my Microsoft Excel and Word skills to prepare my bid – and I did it all on my own, while other tailors had to hire consultants to help them prepare bids.
The Digital Ambassadors program has also made me realise that digital literacy is not only for the highly educated. I would like to say to all the young people who wish to join the digital ambassadors program – you don’t need a diploma or a CV to join the training, the program will meet your at your level of education. Whatever your level of education – you can do it!