Ndeye Diarra Diobaye is a fiery advocate for Afro – Feminism in the diaspora and beyond. She is the founder of Bleuette, a boutique consulting firm specializing in stakeholder engagement through events planning, branding and content marketing.
She was born and raised in France and grew up around different African and African – American cultures. Her mother is French and Senegalese; and her stepfather is African-American. She studied international relations at Sciences Po Paris where she discovered her interest in media and journalism and earned her Masters at the London School of Economics.
She has worked in several cities and countries including London, Paris, Gabon, Congo, Sénégal and more recently Morocco.
On Her career journey and choosing to work across Africa
During college, she studied abroad in India, where she deepended her experience in the media. Her work as a reporter along with living in an emerging economy prompted her to start looking for opportunities in Africa. She soon relocated to Congo and worked for a french media company. Working for a french company on the African continent didn’t sit well with Ndeye’s spirit. To her, it felt strange that a company that was building media content garnered towards Africans was based in France. She made it her mission to work for African companies and organisations and participate in shaping an “Afro-Responsible” narrative and agenda.
After earning her Masters in London, she worked for a consulting company in Gabon where she focused on public affairs. She was then given the opportunity to create her own firm, which she named Bleuette, after her maternal grandmother and has been working on the development of her business for a year.
With her drive and ambition, she would have easily had a promising career in France but she wanted to create impact. She noted that if she had stayed in France her career would have been limited as “you don’t really have the representation of seeing a lot of women at the top and there aren’t that much black women in powerful positions” whereas in Africa, you have examples of women who have had successful careers and created a space for other women to follow their league. For example, Ibukun Awosika, a Nigerian business mogul and first woman to be appointed Chairman of the FirstBank of Nigeria, Clare Akamanzi, a renowned Rwandan lawyer who is now CEO of the Rwandan Development Board or Aminata Kane Ndiaye who was recently appointed CEO of Orange in Sierra Leone. These women are passionate about empowering women in Africa and lead the way for many young girls and women.
You are never too young
Although she left a steady job to launch her own company at 23, Ndeye did not doubt because of her age: “It really felt like now was the moment in my career where I could take a risk and jump into the unknown.”
She has only been on the African continent for two years but has already collaborated with several companies on a variety of projects! Ndeye notes that the best advice you can give to anyone who wants to work in a niche field is that “You don’t always have to have a ton of experience before you do something. Having 5 years of experience in a certain field does not mean that you are going to be the best asset for a job, you can be as asset even when you don’t have as much experience”.
Growing up in France, Ndeye was always aware of the fact that she was a minority. In France, there aren’t a lot of black women in professional spaces. The educational system does not prepare young women to have successful careers or stand up for themselves in professional spaces. Ndeye realized at a young age that she had to work twice as hard to make it. Her mom always said that “the work that you produce has to be twice as good because you are both black and woman”.
Working in Africa
Although she was always certain about wanting to work on the African continent, adapting to the working culture was not always an easy task for Ndeye. “As someone from the diaspora, you have to go through a phase of deconstructing a lot of what you thought your life was going to look like. Many of us see the continent as an opportunity to prosper and our imagination is fueled with successful repat stories but we don’t mention how difficult it can get.”
On Seeking Mentorship
A lot of black women think they only have to have black female mentors, Ndeye’s mentor is actually a man from Togo and is the co – founder of Trace, an urban culture media powerhouse. Black Women should not only seek mentorship from women,“ a true mentor is one who provides you with opportunities”. Ndeye’s mentor has consistently helped her throughout her career whether directly or indirectly. “He has taught me the power of a network and how crucial it was to connect with people, get to know them and keep in touch with them. It’s unlocked many opportunities for me”, she said.
There are enough successful black women who are willing to be mentors but the question is how do we connect these women to potential mentees? In Francophone Africa, the mentoring culture is slowly taking off and it might be hard to build those relationships. In Ndeye’s capacity, she tries to provide opportunities to people who are looking for job offers and connecting people who could work together “I am surrounded by people who are young, talented and driven, my hope is that when one of us unlocks a door, we all get to benefit from it.”
Everyone is a work in progress. Achievements don’t add any value to who you are as a person. Your career should not define who you are or your values. Life is a work in progress, sometimes you put in work and you don’t reap the fruit immediately – that’s okay . It’s like cultivating a garden, you have to learn to be patient, resilient and don’t expect the results to come right away.