SEYNABOU DIENG, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY MAYA - MALI
When Seynabou Dieng returned to Mali in 2015 after studying abroad for ten years, she hired Maya, a young cook who had come to work in the capital to support her family. While shopping at the market, the two women noticed that the vegetables and herbs were thrown away at the end of the day as there was no way to keep them fresh. Seynabou decided to buy the unsold produce and turn it into ready-made natural products, such as instant baobab juice, honey caramel sauce and vegetable stock. It was a way for her to fight food waste and promote local production. She called her company Maya, as a tribute to her cook, who had shared her expertise.
“With my company Maya, we’ve developed an inclusive model by largely involving small local producers”, says Seynabou Dieng. Maya sources from local cooperatives and offers them training and favorable terms. The company has benefited a total of 11 cooperatives and 3,000 farmers. It has also trained 250 producers.
“Our vision is to offer African consumers local products which have a positive benefit for Africa’s economies. To do so, we target the African market and operate in Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire,” says Seynabou. Maya received support from Hub IIT (financed by AFD), a team of expert engineers and technicians, which assists micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the food processing sector in the Sahel.
“AFD Group has been a facilitator of opportunities for me. I first benefited from the Social & Inclusive Business Camp, which immediately allowed me to attract €15,000 of private investment.” Using the knowledge she gained about financing tools, Seynabou managed to build a network of African entrepreneurs, which supported her when she developed her activities in Burkina Faso. “In November 2019, I took part in the Bootcamp in Marseille where I met someone who allowed me to raise €70,000. I’m going back to Marseille this year, but this time as a mentor, to share my experience.”
Sandy Alibo, founder of the collective Surf Ghana
After working at sports events in France, Sandy went to live in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and contacted the surf and skate community, which was small and invisible at the time. She then created an Instagram page (@surfghana) to put sliding sports enthusiasts in touch. When she saw that many Ghanaians were interested in these sports but didn’t feel “legitimate” playing them, she set up an NGO, Surf Ghana, in 2016. Her objective was to promote the African presence in sliding sports. Four years on, Surf Ghana has managed to increase the number of players by five or six times.
Surf Ghana is a collective, which fosters social integration through skateboarding. Young people, who are sometimes out-of-school or jobless, are trained in all the activities of the skateboarding and surfing industry: organizing events, coaching and producing videos. The NGO also focuses on women’s empowerment with a girls-only “Skate Gal Club”.
In December 2021, Surf Ghana also launched the creation of a skatepark in Accra – the first in Ghana – called “Freedom Skatepark”. The Skatepark will be a source of opportunities for talented young sports enthusiasts who hope to be sponsored or take part in competitions.
“I think AFD Group wouldn’t have considered financing the construction of a skatepark a few years ago,” said Sandy. “Having listened to us and seeing the project develop, it was eventually convinced.” Through its Sport en Commun program, AFD has also built a bridge with other sport stakeholders. “We’ve been able to discuss the future of sliding sports in Africa and the addition of skateboarding to the Olympic Games with the largest international organizations in extreme sports and the International Olympic Committee. [We spoke about] the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar in 2026.”
Further reading: AFD Group and the Sahel
Grace Banda, Executive Director of Barefeet Theater - Zambia
“We aim to give a chance to the shattered youth from deprived backgrounds and help them build a better future.” For Grace Banda, who manages Barefeet Theater, plays are a powerful tool for action, which gives young people in difficulty the chance to forge a new path. Founded by a group of Zambian artists in 2006, many of whom had grown up on the streets, this cultural and social organization receives and supports vulnerable children from Lusaka. Working with more than 40 children’s centers in Lusaka and Zambia through theater workshops, educators reach out to street children, offering them both accommodation and a strong means of expression and learning.
Barefeet Theater’s action is based on several programs, including:
- An Outreach Program: Barefeet Theater’s outreach workers get in direct contact with vulnerable children to encourage them to take part in the workshops and courses, which can be a first step towards a better future.
- “Interventions”: through emergency interventions, rehabilitation stays and regular meetings, the theater provides vulnerable children with a safe place where they can learn and grow up.
- “Performance Company”: young people can contribute to the work to assist local people through the Performance Company’s shows. Once the artists have been paid, all the proceeds from the shows are invested in social assistance activities.
- “Youth Arts Festival”: through this annual festival, which is going from strength to strength as it has become one of the largest art festivals in Zambia, children can make their voices heard and share their ideas with the Zambian public and the government.
“Through our partnership with AFD Group, our objective was to train 30 people in musical arts. In the end, we’ve exceeded these objectives,” says Grace Banda. Barefeet Theater has also had the opportunity of collaborating with Samba Résille, a center for cultural and citizen initiatives based in Toulouse: “This has allowed us to learn from each other through a real cultural and human exchange.”
Read all the entrepreneurs’ stories: They Are Building the Africa of Today and Preparing the Africa of Tomorrow