In 2021, Global Mind Consulting celebrates its ten years of existence. On this occasion, the firm is organizing, throughout the year, meetings bringing together professionals from the communication and information sector. The objective: to address the new generation of communicators and journalists of the continent, and to question the evolution of the professions of the sector.
In this interview, Seynabou Dia Sall, who created this African success story, shares with us her lessons learned and her ambition for the future.
You were recently distinguished as one of the “most inspiring women in the media and communication professions in French-speaking Africa and its diaspora in 2021”. This distinction echoes other awards and nominations: African Woman of the Year in 2017, Diaspora Awards in 2019… How do you live this kind of consecration?
With great humility and modesty. In our professions, it is often said that we must know how to take stock, learn lessons, analyze what worked and what didn’t, to always improve. I always tend to look to the future, and today, while I am extremely touched and honored by these distinctions, I see above all the road that remains to be traveled. The challenges are many and great, especially on our continent, and the public relations sector is no exception. We have a lot to do and accomplish, every step is important, the journey continues.
You mention the many challenges ahead. What are they?
Ten years ago, when we created Global Mind Consulting from Gabon, the observation was simple and without appeal: we had to succeed in changing the African narrative. And this ambition is still with us, ten years later, by accompanying the actors of the continent’s transformation.
Whether in the media, at international forums, or simply in discussions with actors who do not know the continent, we quickly realize that the perception of Africa is still too often summed up in a negative or stereotyped image: diseases, political instability, insecurity… Very little is said about the high-impact initiatives and constructive achievements that are emerging on the continent.
Africa has always represented an economic interest – before being cultural or political. Gradually, the concept of Africa Rising has emerged: governments, institutions, and companies have realized that there are enormous opportunities to be seized in all areas of activity. From now on, the Chinese, the Russians, the Canadians, the Germans, the French, the Americans… all are looking to develop on our continent.
This economic interest can be positive for the continent, but in my opinion the major challenge for Africa is to manage to analyze, structure and organize these partnerships, in a win-win logic. It is obvious that these partnerships must be designed with African actors, in the interest of populations, territories and economies. It is a necessary balance of power: the United States has become the power it is today because it has economic, political, cultural and military weight. Africa is no exception; we must fully grasp these issues in order to impose ourselves and set the tone on the international scene.
How can we achieve this change in narrative?
It is up to Africans themselves to carry it out. We must commit ourselves to enhance the Africa we know. We need to show, in a much more objective way, everything that is happening on our continent. Africa is an incredible breeding ground for creativity, innovation and transformation: our mission, as public relations professionals, is to promote the actors who are helping to change things.
I am thinking in particular of the many initiatives led by women and young people. Entrepreneurship is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Global Mind Consulting and we are convinced that strengthening the private sector in Africa is the major challenge for the development of our continent. We regularly lead capacity building sessions dedicated to entrepreneurs with organizations such as the African Union, Junior Achievement, HUB Africa or the African Entrepreneurship Awards. The objective: to enable project holders and entrepreneurs to develop and sustain their business.
The challenges are so numerous that we need to co-construct and capitalize on our strengths and best practices: we cannot each have our own roadmap and tell ourselves that we will eventually succeed. The actors and organizations of the continent must become aware of the need to work together, to create bridges and to stimulate new constructive synergies. The establishment of the FTAA (African Continental Free Trade Area) is an excellent opportunity to seize. It is this kind of pan-African initiative that the continent needs today.
Global Mind Consulting is often cited as one of the references in the field of public relations in the sub-region. What are the steps that have forged this leadership?
This is a difficult question! I believe that there are several elements. We quickly focused on the added value of our firm: what expertise can we bring to our clients? This has been our leitmotiv for the last ten years: to be always aware of the African context, by continuously analyzing the major development issues, economic trends and social and political evolutions, in order to guarantee a tailor-made support adapted to the realities and challenges of our clients and partners on the ground.
We also realized quite quickly that we needed to consolidate our activity from Gabon in order to extend our reach to Central Africa, and it was this same reasoning that led us to open a second office in Senegal two years ago, to extend our reach to West Africa. And beyond the continent, we are fortunate to work with leading players who operate from Europe or the United States.
Our prism is not geographical, but rather based on the expertise and support of companies, organizations and institutions. Our teams are thus able to intervene on the whole continent, and internationally. It is this agility and proximity to our clients and partners that has been our strength for the past 10 years.
This year you are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Global Mind Consulting. What have you planned to mark this symbolic milestone?
For us, these 10 years represent an opportunity to bring together the actors of the communication and media ecosystem. It is important for us to “give back” and share our experience, to extend the microphone to our partners in order to invite them to share their expertise and know-how. The challenge for us this year is to address the future generation of communicators and journalists, who are currently being trained: it is necessary to structure and professionalize our sectors, to enable young people to be better equipped and prepared for the changes in our professions.
The second subject is naturally to inscribe our 10 years in the vision that has carried us since our inception: to change the African narrative, by identifying and promoting those who make a difference and are committed to moving the lines for our continent. It is by promoting these AfroChampions that we will be able to provoke and encourage other vocations. During these meetings, we will invite the actors of the economic, social, cultural and political transformation of the continent so that they can testify and express their vision of their profession. Today, we are in a particular context with the Covid-19: how to rebound and reinvent our businesses in 2021?
As you mentioned, there is a need to promote entrepreneurship, especially among young people. In Senegal, recent events have highlighted a certain malaise among youth. Do you think that boosting youth entrepreneurship is the key to our Senegalese and African economies in general?
The events of last March are full of lessons for those who know how to hear and see, but also for those who are eager to understand the changes that are needed in our societies. I believe that it is an invitation to say “we exist, we are here and we intend to be heard”. It was also, in my opinion, an invitation to face up to the problems that arise and to find concrete and lasting solutions, particularly on the question of employment.
Entrepreneurship is one of the solutions to face youth unemployment, and allow them to earn a decent living, to be autonomous and to build their future. However, we are not taught today how to be entrepreneurs: how to choose an activity? How to structure it, how to make it last? How to be well-equipped and surrounded by people? How to stay true to one’s vision and how to implement it?
In 2040, Africa will be the continent with the largest workforce in the world. However, today, employment prospects are largely insufficient for youth and formal jobs are unable to absorb the growing number of new entrants to the labor market: African markets create an average of 3 million salaried jobs per year, a number that is much lower than the 10 to 12 million young people entering the market each year. Hence the need to set up concrete training programs, adapted to the needs of our companies and capable of anticipating the evolution of our societies.
But be careful, we must not see entrepreneurship as a miracle solution that can fix everything and avoid having thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean every year in the hope of a better future. It is not entrepreneurship alone that will solve this. On the other hand, it can provide new perspectives, provided that we can better train and support our entrepreneurs over time.
You published an article in Point Afrique, in which you called on women to unite to break the glass ceiling. What are, according to you, the battles to be fought to break this famous ceiling?
Organize ourselves in order to build and advance together. To succeed alone is not to succeed. We need to multiply initiatives that allow women to come together and join forces, both in terms of skills and networks. I am thinking in particular of the Women Investment Club (WIC): the first women’s investment club in Senegal, which gives women privileged access to modern financial instruments, in the service of inclusive economic development. We need these types of platforms, bringing together women who have built their own success and who can encourage and support other women who are starting out.
The second thing, which is equally important, is our ability to think outside the box. Unfortunately, it is the informal sector that is the most present in our societies, for both women and men. The challenge is to develop models that are compatible with this reality.
Finally, we must succeed in making these initiatives and projects carried by our women entrepreneurs live on beyond our countries. There are many examples, but I am thinking in particular of the Mburu Network, a collective of women committed to social entrepreneurship who are involved in the development of local cereals grown in Senegal. Tomorrow, I would like to see Mburu Congo, Mburu Morocco, and why not Mburu on the Champs-Élysées! In Africa, we have an enormous amount of resources, and this is not limited to mines, manganese, oil and gas. Our resources are also intellectual, cultural, gastronomic… In all fields, we have precious talents that we unfortunately do not value enough.
To go back to this cultural aspect, you yourself co-founded the AAC55 initiative, Action Africa Culture. Can you tell us more about this project and its ambitions?
We often tend to neglect the economic weight that culture can have in the transformation and development of our countries. Unfortunately, this is a great mistake. One only has to look at the example of the film industry in the United States, in India (with Bollywood) or in Nigeria. It is essential to invest in, promote and support the cultural sector and its actors in Africa, so that they can be a real engine of development. This is the vocation of AAC55, which we created two years ago with Fatima Wane-Sagna: we are convinced that culture is an economic vector in its own right.
From one country to another, from one generation to another, the problems are often similar. Today, we must be able to promote concrete solutions, without waiting for our governments. This is perhaps the most important element at AAC55: to allow cultural actors to come together and create their own solutions.
Finally, it is crucial to ensure that culture does not remain the preserve of those who can afford it, of those who are affluent. Having access to art and culture allows one to travel and discover another reality than the one one knows, it helps to deconstruct the certainties and limiting beliefs that one may have about oneself. Culture creates hope, motivates, inspires and gives that energy that can be lacking in order to surpass oneself.
I am thinking, for example, of the Yennenga center here in Dakar, supported by the Franco-Senegalese director Alain Gomis and which AAC55 is accompanying. This center is the first cinematographic and audiovisual cultural center in Senegal and aims to become a full-fledged film incubator, offering free two-year training in post-production. The objective is twofold: to make the cinema professions accessible to all, while allowing Senegalese directors to have the necessary skills and resources directly on the territory. No need to relocate post-production, which represents a huge financial advantage.
What can we wish Global Mind Consulting?
To continue, of course! To consolidate what we have achieved up to now and to always value this African expertise in which I believe so much. Global Mind Consulting is a versatile, creative, dynamic team that believes in what it does and is extremely eager to accompany the actors of positive transformation, well beyond the four corners of our continent.
Source: Intelligences Magazine