During the Women in Africa Summit, businesswomen and CSR directors from several Orange entities come together to share their views on the role of digital in the development of their respective countries and on the different initiatives the Group has set up to support women and innovation.
Discussion between Seynabou Thiam, founder of the start-up Yaay and Rokhaya Solange Ndir, Head of Digital Ecosystem Relations at Orange Senegal.
Women face strong cultural barriers but opportunities do exist!
What fields do Senegalese women tend to work in today? What are their main needs in terms of support?
Rokhaya Solange Ndir: West Africa has one of the highest rates of female entrepreneurship in the world, reaching around 25%. Women are very active when it comes to trade and local production. There are therefore needs in terms of financial support (micro credit), setting up a business (legal assistance) and promoting it, mainly online.
Seynabou Thiam: Many Senegalese do more than one job for example sales to round up their monthly wages. I realised there was no real platform to connect these women to each other – mums in particular – around these local issues.
How does digital technology help these women? How can Orange Senegal support this momentum?
R. S. N.: Digital offers many opportunities for women entrepreneurs. It’s an inclusive tool that enables them to develop their business regardless of where they’re from. After having discussed ideas with various stakeholders, we launched the Linguère Digital Challenge in 2015, a prize dedicated to women’s digital entrepreneurship and support programme. We also encourage networking between women.
S. T.: Regardless of the activity, the internet enables you to connect to the whole world, create your own website, promote it and free yourself from external influences. Women face strong cultural barriers but opportunities do exist!
Can you tell us about Yaay.sn, the online platform that connects Senegalese mothers?
S. T.: I had the idea after creating a Facebook group to connect my network. We set up the Yaay platform with a friend. The financial support offered by Orange enabled us to get better equipped and recruit people. We then offered services to the Group, for example helping it better understand the needs of the Senegalese market. In addition to the platform, we connect people in physical spaces such as our dedicated centre that will open its doors very soon.
R. S. N. : Yaay is a textbook case: after having won first prize at the first Linguère Digital Challenge, the start-up has become an Orange provider by organising women’s empowerment events and helping initiate young people into the digital world.
How important is it for you to attend the Women in Africa (WIA) 2019 meetings?
S. T.: It’s a great networking opportunity for sharing experiences. It’s also an event that our “Smart Ecosystem For Women” entity is supporting. We support a delegation of 54 entrepreneurs from across Africa to make the most of the summit and set up as many opportunities as possible.
R. S. N.: WIA 2019 is a forum for empowering African women. It’s a chance to share best practices and advocate fundamental topics to help our continent’s development and emergence onto the world stage: education, health, agriculture… Women are at the heart of these issues.