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This page is about the sharing of experiences, coming from a wide range of stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa: entrepreneurs, but also incubators, investors, development actors…

FinTech for Africa’s SMEs – An interview with Omar Cissé of InTouch Group

A report from the Central Bank of West African States shows that the bank account penetration rate in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from  19% to 21.8% between 2020 and 2021. This…

A report from the Central Bank of West African States shows that the bank account penetration rate in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from  19% to 21.8% between 2020 and 2021. This has been a steady and sustained trend over the last ten years, but it still places the countries of the UEMOA zone among those with the lowest bank account coverage in the world.  

This low rate deprives a large part of the population of basic financial services and limits their participation in the formal economy. Today, this lag is largely offset by the massive adoption of new financial technologies (FinTech) on the continent, notably mobile banking, even more so since the Covid period.

On the same subject : African SMEs have potential to be at the forefront of tomorrow’s digital world

Entreprenante Afrique talked to Omar Cissé, founder of InTouch, a pan-African fintech launched in 2014 offering a pan-African, tailor-made digital solution for secure payment management, providing users with a single platform for administering almost all payment methods present in the countries where InTouch is deployed. 

Omar Cissé shares his thoughts on the trajectory of InTouch since its creation, the factors behind its success, and what FinTech brings to the African economic landscape and to entrepreneurs in particular.

Entreprenante Afrique : In less than ten years, InTouch has made its mark on the African FinTech landscape. Is InTouch today a unicorn?

Omar Cissé Omar Cissé : We hope to be by 2027. Since 2022, we have maintained positive EBITDA, marking a significant milestone towards profitability. We are intensifying our efforts to expand our business further.

189 million transactions, amounting to a total transaction volume of €2,730 million.

The initial version of InTouch was launched in 2015, and by 2017, we had facilitated approximately 5 million transactions. However, the pivotal moment came with the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. When sanitary measures were implemented, businesses of all sizes sought to transition to digital payment methods. Since then, this trend has only gained momentum. In 2024, we processed 189 million transactions, amounting to a total transaction volume of €2,730 million.

Now, InTouch operates in 16 countries, with plans to expand to 25 by 2025. We accommodate nearly 300 different payment methods and operate through 48,000 TouchPoints across our operational countries.

 

Entreprenante Afrique : How do you explain this rapid growth?

In addition to external factors such as Covid and technological development, the human factor stands out as a pivotal factor. What began with a team of four in 2015 has now expanded to include 400 professionals, encompassing developers, sales representatives, and a diverse array of roles. These team members are distributed across the regions where InTouch operates, organized into hubs – such as Côte d’Ivoire for West Africa, Kenya for East Africa, Cameroon for Central Africa, and Egypt for North Africa. This approach enables us to deliver customized services and foster closer relationships with our clients.

The second factor contributing to our success is our shareholders and strategic partners, including the TotalEnergies group, CFAO, and Worldline, who have played a pivotal role in our advancement through technology transfer.

a solution for efficiently managing a large volume of small transactions across various channels, all within a unified platform.

The third factor is our access to financial resources. Since our inception, we have raised between 7 to 9 million euros every two years. The fintech sector is one of the most attractive investment segments within the African technology landscape. 

The final key factor driving our growth is the trust we have established with our customers and investors since the inception of InTouch.

What sets InTouch apart is our ability to provide customers at any stage of development—whether start-ups, SMEs, or large corporations—with a solution for efficiently managing a large volume of small transactions across various channels, all within a unified platform. This simplifies the monitoring and reporting of financial operations.

 

Entreprenante Afrique : To what extent is FinTech, and InTouch Group in particular, changing the African economic landscape? Are you in competition with the traditional financial sector ? 

Omar Cissé :

We do not view ourselves as competitors to banks or microfinance institutions. Instead, we position ourselves as technical partners, digitizing financial relationships. InTouch addresses the gap left by the slow adoption of banking services, such as providing small traders access to nano-credits at very affordable rates through a dedicated platform. While still a pilot project, our partnerships with microfinance institutions enable these operations, as InTouch is not a financial institution in the traditional sense. 

the rise of FinTech carries in its wake the promise of financial inclusion for the greatest number

Small companies have been our primary focus since inception. Our customer base includes 16,000 small traders in Senegal and 34,000 across our portfolio. Prior to InTouch, my experience with companies through CTIC Dakar and Teranga Capital revealed that payment management is a significant challenge for entrepreneurs, especially in Africa. Offering these companies the ability to accept various payment methods is truly transformative. It encompasses secure payment handling, precise invoicing, and a tracking system that boosts productivity. This leads to clearer financial insights and analysis for entrepreneurs. 

In broader terms, the rise of FinTech carries in its wake the promise of financial inclusion for the greatest number, the democratization of basic financial services: banking services, payment systems, credit, savings, insurance, etc.

 


 

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Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects (4/4). Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Household Data

In 4 articles for Entreprenante Afrique, the Café Lumière project in Madagascar is presented, and the results of different alternative evaluation methods carried out at an affordable cost are compared…

In 4 articles for Entreprenante Afrique, the Café Lumière project in Madagascar is presented, and the results of different alternative evaluation methods carried out at an affordable cost are compared to assess the existence of positive impacts of the project on development objectives. This fourth and final article explores the impacts on households by comparing changes in the variables of interest in treated and untreated localities, similar to the ‘localities’ part of our survey. Thanks to the sample size of households surveyed in each locality[1], we can assess the statistical significance of our conclusions and evaluate the risk of errors in our findings regarding the existence of an impact. We studied variables of interest that can logically be considered as measuring potential impacts of the project on households.

 

Access to electricity

On the sample of surveyed households, 18% are connected  in May 2023to the mini-grid in localities equipped with a Café Lumière. The other forms of access to electricity were mainly individual fixed or mobile solar panels. The rate of access to electricity, defined as including all possible sources of electricity, was relatively similar between the two groups of localities in 2023, with 46% of households having access in localities with a Café Lumière compared to 43% in localities without one.

It is important to note that the rate of access to electricity was higher in localities that were subsequently equipped with Café Lumière (37%) compared to those without (27%), which is a significant difference. While there is no significant improvement in access to electricity from a quantitative point of view, there is a replacement of individual solar panels by connections to the mini-grid, which is considered a qualitative improvement.  According to the Multi Level Framework (MTF) defined by the World Bank, the first type of access is considered level 1, while the connection to the mini-grid is level 2. This is due to two differences between the two types of access: higher available power and lower intermittency. Data on the use of electrical appliances corroborates this finding.

 

Use of electrical appliances

In order to analyse the use of electrical appliances, we calculate an index, which is the sum of the electrical appliances used by a household. The appliances taken into account are: cooker, refrigerator, fan, radio, television, video recorder, DVD player, computer, tablet, fixed telephone, and mobile phone. Thus, a household owing a fan and a radio would then have a score of 2, and a household possessing all of the mentioned items would have a score of 11.

During the second wave of surveys, we observe that households living in localities with Café Lumière use more electrical appliances than those living in localities without Café Lumière. Households living in localities with Café Lumière have an average of 1.7 electrical appliances compared to only 1.5 in other localities. Although this difference may appear small, it is statistically significant at the 1% threshold.

The increase usage of electrical appliances in the treated localities is clearly due to the improved quality of access to electricity for the 18% of households now connected to the mini-grid.

To corroborate this conclusion, we construct a second index of electrical appliance usage, considering only appliances that require relatively high power to operate, typically unavailable when electricity access is at level 1 of the MTF. This index includes the following appliances: cooker, refrigerator, fan, television, video recorder, DVD player, and computer.

On this new index, we find a very significant positive impact of the Cafés Lumière. On average, households used only 0.20 high-power electrical appliances in 2023 in localities without a Café Lumière, whereas they used 0.37 in localities with Café Lumière (this figure even rises to 1.20 for households using the mini-grid, whereas there was no significant difference in 2017/2018).

 

Household wealth

To assess any potential impact of Café Lumière on household wealth levels, we construct a series of composite indices based on variables reflecting households’ material possessions. It is important to clarify that this index represents a stock of assets, rather than a flow such as the household’s monthly or annual income. We proceed with Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), which is a data analysis method that synthesises information from multiple qualitative variables into a few complementary axes. The axis containing the most information is generally considered representative of household wealth. The possessions of households used to calculate this composite wealth index take into account elements related to housing quality, such as materials used for the floor, walls, or roof, the number of rooms and floors, etc., as well as electrical appliances (see list above) and all belongings owned by the household, such as a bicycle, a moped, a car, a watch, etc. Each household is then assigned a score representing its level of wealth. This index has a mean of 0 and ranges from a minimum of -2.17 for the poorest household to a maximum of 5.22 for the wealthiest household.

When we analyse the difference in scores in 2023 between localities equipped with Café Lumière and those without, we observe that the average wealth index of households living in localities with Café Lumière is higher, albeit not quite significantly. As illustrated in Figure 1, the average wealth index for localities with Café Lumière is 0.19 compared to only 0.03 for localities without Café Lumière. The absence of disparity in 2017/2018 strengthens the robustness of this conclusion. It is noteworthy that when we calculate the wealth index without taking into account ownership of electrical appliances, what we could call a “non-electricity wealth index”, we find no impact of Café Lumière. This leads us to conclude that while Café Lumière may have had a positive impact on electricity access and its usage by households, this improvement in their material living conditions has not yet spread more widely.

 

Socio-economic data

Beyond the objectives of improving the overall energy and economic situation in the treated localities, the main objective of the Café Lumière project is to contribute to socio-economic progress. Regarding economic poverty, we observe a slight improvement in the distribution of the wealth index benefiting the poorest 20%, but this cannot be directly attributed to the introduction of Café Lumière.

Looking at access to health and education, which are the areas most often studied in similar evaluations, we find some evidence of impact in the first area, but not in the second. This is consistent with the localities section of our survey, which showed many health centres connected to the mini-grids, but proportionately fewer schools.

Finally, we examined the project’s effects on the insecurity associated with theft of livestock, crops, or other goods experienced by households in rural regions of Madagascar. It is often argued that the introduction of public lighting at night may help improve this situation, but this is not clearly proven at this stage.

In terms of health issues, if we compare reports of symptoms such as respiratory problems (cough/cold, etc.), diarrhoea, fever, headache and eye problems or burns, we find no significant difference between the two groups of localities in 2023. However, it is interesting to note that during the first wave of the survey, i.e., before the installation of the Cafés Lumière, symptoms were much more prevalent in the localities that received the Cafés Lumière, and these localities experienced a significant decrease in symptoms prevalence between the two waves, which could be interpreted as a consequence of the Cafés Lumière project.

Focus on childbirth: we observe that childbirths occurring in a well-lit environment due to electricity have become almost routine in localities with a Café Lumière. Indeed, for women living in a locality with Café Lumière, 78% of them give birth in facilities with electric lighting compared to only 40% in other localities. This difference in average is statistically highly significant.

 

Conclusions

This fourth and final stage of our series of articles on the evaluation to date of the impacts of the Café Lumière project in Madagascar has allowed us to study the benefits received by the population of the concerned localities in terms of access to electricity and livings standard, as well as its impacts on socio-economic development. Before the implementation of the project, the studied localities were not characterised by absolute energy poverty, which can be defined by the absence of access to any source of electricity. On average, in 2017-2018, one-third of households already had access to electricity through standalone solar panels.

The most visible energy impact of the project on households is that 18% of households in equipped localities now benefit from a connection to the mini-grid. For these households, this energy impact is significant as it results in the use of more numerous and higher-powered electrical appliances. In our previous blog article, we had also shown that some subscribed households used their subscription for both their own consumer needs and for income-generating activities.

We have observed that in the equipped localities, the wealth index of households has increased, but only when taking into account the ownership of electrical appliances. Therefore, the enrichment of households through the arrival of the mini-grid does not seem to have created economic transformation beyond the acquisition by connected households of some electrical appliances requiring the transition to higher power and lower intermittency provided by the mini-grid. Efforts still need to be made for the poorest households, as even though they benefit from improved public services and shop services, they cannot yet trigger genuine economic development. This observation echoes the fact that we had shown in our previous article that, so far, the impact on income-generating activities had been limited to the electrification of their production tools by the mini-grid.

In the social spheres, the arrival of mini-grids has had positive impacts on health. The situation has particularly improved due to the connection of primary health centres (csb2) to mini-grids. The improvement in public health has also benefited from synergy with other national and international programmes in collaboration with the World Bank and UNICEF, notably for vaccination campaigns.

The impacts observed so far appear to be limited, but this observation needs to be put into perspective by the fact that we are currently only seeing short-term impacts. Thus, if all equipped localities were to achieve the same results as the most successful locality in terms of household connections, Talata Dondona (36%), we would double the number of household connections. Furthermore, economic transformations that can be stimulated by purely energy-related impacts necessarily take a long time to materialise. The same applies to socio-economic progress, which may require complementary public policies, as in the case of healthcare.

 

[1] 599 households were interviewed during the first wave (2017/2018), and 595 during the second wave (2023). 133 households from the first wave were not found during the second. They were replaced by 129 new households. In total, 466 households were surveyed during both waves.

 

Further reading in the same serie of articles on “Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects”: Cafés Lumière in Madagascar (1/4), Using Remote Sensing: Initial Results on the Impact of Cafés Lumière (2/4), Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Locality Data (3/4).

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Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects (3/4). Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Locality Data

In 4 articles for Entreprenante Afrique, we are presenting the Cafés Lumière project in Madagascar and comparing the results of different alternative evaluation methods carried out at an affordable cost…

In 4 articles for Entreprenante Afrique, we are presenting the Cafés Lumière project in Madagascar and comparing the results of different alternative evaluation methods carried out at an affordable cost to test the existence of positive impacts of the project on development objectives. In this third part, we draw on the activity reports of the operator Anka, which provide, for each equipped locality, a monthly series of electricity consumption data by major type of use, and associated data on the number of customers. We supplement this information with the initial results of the socio-economic surveys conducted in 2017/18 and 2023, in its locality survey section. These data, some of which  enable comparisons to be made with control (non-equipped) localities, enable identification of the main transmission channels for access to electricity in relation to sustainable development objectives. This analysis will be supplemented in the fourth part of this blog by the household section of the survey, in which the responses from 50 households per locality will be used to refine the diagnosis by considering the downstream effects of electrification on household well-being.

 

Overall Performance of Electricity Generation

As demonstrated in the previous article, the Cafés Lumière project has positively influenced access to electricity in the equipped localities. However, it is important to note that this impact may differ from one locality to another. Figure 2 illustrates the effect of Cafés Lumière on electricity provision through the mini-grid by comparing the total annual electricity consumption in 2022 with the production potential of the solar panels (converted into annual MWh).

Figure 1: Potential Electricity Generation and Total Electricity Consumption by Locality in 2022

Figure 1 : production potentielle d’électricité et Consommation totale d’électricité par localité en 2022

Figure 1 shows that the higher the wattage of the installation, the greater the amount of electricity consumed, excluding street lighting. However, this correlation does not necessarily imply causation, as the power of the installations was determined based on the population to be electrified. The relatively low ratio between daily consumption and potential generation reflect the non-uniform daily load curve. In the 2023 locality survey, it was frequently noted that the mini-grid often reaches its capacity during peak periods, posing a significant constraint for the few three-phase subscribers.

At Ambatonikolahy and Amparaky, the facilities appear to produce below their potential, possibly due to the limited number of household subscribers, and the largest consumers, as observed elsewhere, are constrained by capacity. In the case of Ambohimalaza, insufficient photovoltaic production during peak times (when the husker is in use) is compensated for by the utilization of the emergency diesel generator. A detailed examination of Anka’s activity reports provides clarification of these observations and also offers an opportunity to compare the progress achieved in the main consumption categories.

 

Household Consumption

Initially, households benefited from the Cafés Lumière project through the establishment of shops. These shops, functioning as energy kiosks, target individuals who may not have the means to afford a subscription to the mini-network. The income generated from these shops suggests that many households were initially customers in the shop before subsequently subscribing to the mini-grid. While the role of the shops was crucial in the early stages, the main quantitative impact of the project now occurs through the mini-grids.

Figure 2: Growth in the Number of Subscriber Households

 

Figure 2 illustrates the fluctuations in the number of subscribing households. It is a dynamic scenario with a wide range of situations. With the exception of Cafés Lumière in Ambatonikolahy, Ambohimalaza, and Amparaky, there has been substantial growth in household electricity usage, but this growth is broad rather than intensive (with no significant rise in consumption per subscriber, which is approximately 5 kWh per month). For a tangible economic impact, households will need to augment their electricity usage, expanding beyond domestic lighting consumption to activities that could generate income. Further insights from Anka regarding the structure of electricity consumption in 2023 allows us to observe the start of this dynamic in the next section.

 

Consumption by Income-Generating Activities

Another significant source of economic impact is the development of income-generating activities (IGAs), the establishment or modernisation of which relies on the use of electricity. From this perspective, the outcomes are varied. Currently, Anka’s activity reports mention very few IGAs, with the highest number, 4, in Antanamalaza. Moreover, most of these activities consume modest amounts of electricity, with the only exceptions being huskers and grinders associated with agricultural activities in Ambatonikolahy, Ambohimalaza, Antsampandrano, and Amparaky. Other diversified activities include bars, carpentry, hairdressing, pastry-making, car painting, fishmonger, and video games.

With a few exceptions, the development of IGAs is slow. Additional data provided by Anka on the current situation at the beginning of 2023 indicates a genuine potential for change. Anka has observed that several households are already using their subscription to power electrical appliances for productive activities without officially registering as entrepreneurs. By mid-2023, there were 32 users of electricity produced by the mini-grid engaged in providing services, including 12 officially declared as IGAs. Among the 20 producers identified in households (constituting 5% of the total subscriber households), a variety of activities are pursued, such as bars, grocers, small restaurants, fruit juice sales, telephone recharging, multiservices, and welding. These activities are present in all localities, and their diversity reflects a certain level of dynamism. It is worth noting that the small restaurants and shops identified in the locality section of our socio-economic survey, on average 5 per locality, are only partially listed as service producers by Anka.

It is not possible to separate the consumption of households engaged in service-producing activities from the overall household consumption, but an approximation can be derived using consumption data for officially declared income-generating activities (IGAs). The consumption of IGA households is markedly higher, approximately 40% more than that of other subscribing households. The expansion of these activities could subsequently drive an increased demand for electricity for productive purposes, thereby enhancing the economic impact of the Cafés Lumière.

Data from the locality section of the socio-economic survey enable a more precise interpretation of these consumption figures. There was no noteworthy increase in the number of service-producing activities, both in the localities electrified by the mini-grid and in the control localities. However, where these activities previously operated, and still do in the control localities, using diesel generators and individual solar panels, almost all of them in the equipped localities have transitioned to the electricity provided by the mini-grid. This marks progress for the equipped localities, and for all the activities that have switched from diesel to the solar mini-grid (on average more than 6 per locality), and it contributes to environmental conservation.

 

Public services

The last category of electricity consumption identified by Anka is public services, it represents a minority share of the electricity consumed on the mini-grids in 2022. Nevertheless, it can have a significant impact on the achievement of sustainable development goals: health (SDG3), education (SDG4), and peace, justice, and effective institutions (SDG16).

The health objective has garnered considerable attention, with all the basic health centres (CSB2) in the electrified localities (5 CSB2s in 6 localities supplied by the mini-grid) having an average monthly consumption of 23 kWh per CSB2. For comparison, only half of these centres were electrified (via solar panels) in 2017. Currently, all these health centres are equipped with lighting and refrigeration, but the use of electricity to operate medical equipment remains infrequent. In contrast, the situation is markedly different in the control localities, where only half of the health centres have electricity access in 2023, generated by solar panels.

Education is also a focal issue but with more modest aspirations. From a scenario where no school was electrified in 2017, half of the schools in the equipped areas are now electrified, albeit with low consumption (1.8 kWh per month per electrified school). In comparison, none of the schools in the other localities have access to electricity.

The collective activities associated with SDG16, including 8 administrative structures and 10 churches, consumed an average of 8 kWh per month per structure in electrified localities in 2022. In these areas, approximately half of the town halls and police stations are electrified in localities equipped with a mini-grid, while all churches have access to electricity.

Public lighting can also impact MDG16 for security. All localities electrified by Cafés Lumière have invested in public lighting, although not always as a priority, with its connection to the mini-grid sometimes being delayed. Outside Ambatonikolahy and Talata Dondona, the nighttime coverage is limited. Moreover, the Amparaky town council decided against such an investment in 2022 due to perceived high costs (this situation will change in 2023). Overall, in 2022, electrified localities consumed only 12 kWh per month for public lighting, which is less than the consumption for administrative structures or churches.

The availability of public lighting does not significantly differ in localities with a mini-grid compared to control localities, with an average of around 5 streetlights per locality. The mini-grid supplies two-thirds of the streetlights in the concerned localities, but this does not seem to enhance the security situation. The 2 localities with a mini-grid providing extended night lighting do not report any reduction in security problems. The main security issues are linked to crop theft, and it appears that the police activities play a more significant role in improving security.

 

Further reading in the same serie of articles on “Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects”: Cafés Lumière in Madagascar (1/4)Using Remote Sensing: Initial Results on the Impact of Cafés Lumière (2/4), Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Household Data (4/4).

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Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects (2/4). Using Remote Sensing: Initial Results on the Impact of Cafés Lumière

Typically, current assessments of decentralised electrification projects struggle to establish their tangible impact. Achieving this would necessitate expensive and time-intensive efforts, because it would demand extensive data not only from…

Typically, current assessments of decentralised electrification projects struggle to establish their tangible impact. Achieving this would necessitate expensive and time-intensive efforts, because it would demand extensive data not only from the equipped localities but also from control localities. Nonetheless, substantiating the presence of an impact is crucial to assist public decision-makers, both at the national and international levels, in expanding the adoption of these solutions.

In a series of four articles for “Entreprenante Afrique,” we introduce the Cafés Lumière mini-grids project in Madagascar and compare the outcomes of various affordable evaluation methods applied to these projects. These methods aim to assess the project’s positive effects on development objectives. In this second of four articles, we explore the feasibility of evaluating impacts through the use of remote sensing data, which is generally a low cost approach.

The contribution of remote sensing to impact analysis

Remote sensing uses high-resolution satellite imagery that covers nearly the entire globe, offering near real-time accessibility at a low cost. This technology can effectively capture various measurable terrestrial phenomena relevant for the study of human activities. For the assessment of electrification projects’ impacts, satellite imagery measurements of night-time luminosity can be employed, once sufficient experience has been gained in interpreting this data. It has been consistently demonstrated that an increase in night-time luminosity correlates well with the increase in electrification over time, even at fine levels of granularity (see Berthélemy, 2022, in The Conversation). It has even been argued that rise in night-time luminosity reflects growth in economic activity (Hu and Yao, 2022).

Nonetheless, critics of this new approach, which relies on observations of natural phenomena partially linked to the outcomes of human activities, raise concerns about potential assessment bias. In our context, night-time luminosity specifically measures the light generated at night, primarily from lighting sources, especially public lighting. It does not have a direct connection with total electricity consumption, of which it typically represents a minor portion, and even less so with its impacts on socio-economic development. While public lighting can influence safety, and consequently economic activity, it can only capture a fraction of the consequences of electrification on human activities.

Application: the Cafés Lumière Mini-grids have a Significant Impact from 2021 onwards

Night-time luminosity can serve as a real-time indicator for detecting the effects of electrification. To illustrate this, we have calculated the average annual night-time luminosity for the 6 equipped localities and compared it to that of 6 similar non-equipped localities, which were randomly selected by Electriciens sans frontières to create a control group. The data was analysed taking into consideration the following constraints :

  • The different localities were not equipped at the same time ;
  • The Cafés Lumière were progressively set up, with priority given to installing the shop before commissioning the mini-grid. Since the shop has little effect on light emission, the effects of Café Lumière can be initially evaluated by examining the influence of the mini-grid ;
  • In 2 localities, Ambatonikolahy and Talata Dondona. public lighting operates during specific hours when the satellite passes overhead (between 12pm and 2am in our case). Other localities prefer to have public lighting from 9pm to midnight and from 5am to 6am.

 

Figure 1: Assessment of night-time brightness (annual averages 2013-2022) in both equipped and non-equipped localities (radiance measured in w/cm2_sr)

Figure 1. Évaluation de la luminosité nocturne (moyennes annuelles 2013-2022) dans les localités équipées et non équipées (radiance mesurée en w/cm2_sr)

Figure 1 shows a similar trend in the average night-time brightness for both the 6 equipped villages and the 6 control villages up to 2020. However, the equipped group exhibit more brightness in 2021 and 2022. This difference is approximately 10% compared to previous data, which, though modest given the initially low level, is statistically significant. Our findings from Figure 1 are corroborated by a more formally rigorous statistical test that utilizes monthly data for each locality, while also controlling for the seasonal effects and fixed effects associated with each treated or untreated locality. The deployment of the mini-grid leads to an increase in night-time luminosity comparable to that depicted in Figure 1, and this increase is statistically significant.

Concerns about potential bias arising from the presence of street lighting are only potentially justified in the case of 2 out of the 6 localities (Ambatonikolahy and Talata Dondona). In principle, these concerns can be examined by considering that street lighting is often installed subsequent to the mini-grid becoming operational. These fears are not borne out.  In fact, when we attempt to account for both the presence of the mini-grid and street lighting simultaneously, the latter shows no significant effect.

This does not imply that public lighting has no effect; rather, it suggests that we are unable to provide demonstrable evidence of its effect. This limitation may be attributed to the statistical power of the test, given the small number of observations with the presence of public lighting.

In the third article, we will employ more precise data, notably on monthly electricity consumption categorized by usage, which will enable us to assess the contribution of public lighting to the increase in night-time luminosity.

 

Further reading in the same serie of articles on “Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects”: Cafés Lumière in Madagascar (1/4)Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Locality Data (3/4), Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Household Data (4/4).

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Resilience and adaptation in times of insecurity: Mali’s renewal will come from the private sector (2/2)

  Recent crises and the resulting structural vulnerabilities have considerably diminished the capacity of Sahelian countries, already historically very weak, to attract investment. For instance, after an all-time high of…

 

Recent crises and the resulting structural vulnerabilities have considerably diminished the capacity of Sahelian countries, already historically very weak, to attract investment. For instance, after an all-time high of 860 million USD in 2019 (5% of GDP), foreign direct investment to Mali (net inflows) has fallen drastically to just 252 million in 2022 (1.3% of GDP).

Despite the low priority given to private sector development in fragile security contexts, it plays a central role during and after conflict situations. Experience has shown that the private sector remains active even in times of conflict, and can adapt to overcome systemic shocks.

In this interview, Malian entrepreneur Mohamed Keita, Director and Co-Founder of Zira Capital, a company created in 2022 and dedicated to financing and supporting start-ups and SMEs in Mali, shares his fund-raising experience and argues for the need to continue supporting the private sector despite a difficult security and socio-political context.

 

Entreprenante Afrique: What is the current state of entrepreneurship in Mali?

Mohamed Keita: Over the past ten years or so, the Malian economy has been affected by the combined effects of the security crisis and political and institutional crises. We are keeping a close eye on how the situation evolves, and our wish as entrepreneurs is of course to quickly return to a stable business environment. 

But despite this difficult context, despite the challenges, we observe that entrepreneurs are still succeeding at creating opportunities locally. They develop projects and goods that satisfy local needs. They create and maintain jobs that support thousands of households, and stimulate other aspects of economic activity in the process.

Malian companies are exceptionally resilient, but they need strategic partners to support them, both financially and extra-financially. This is why, together with other players (BNDA, Investisseurs & Partenaires and a number of private individuals), we have launched Zira Capital to support these small local businesses through financing mechanisms and tools tailored to their development projects.

 

Raising funds to support entrepreneurship in such a high-risk country is no easy task, how did you address the financial backers?

M. K.: The model of Zira Capital, a fund co-created by or with local players to provide equity financing for local businesses, is a model that has already been set up and is beginning to prove its efficiency in other African countries, in other countries in the Sahel zone, such as Burkina Faso or Niger. However, it’s a completely new concept in the Malian entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The initiative was well received, and generated enthusiasm among Malian entrepreneurs. Even before the official creation of the management company, we had built up a pipeline of quality projects. We had built up a database of high-potential companies in a variety of sectors, all of which are linked to the fundamental needs of the Malian economy: agri-food, which accounts for 45% of GDP and employs 80% of the population, but also energy, essential services, health and education.

Our main argument for convincing people of the need to create our financing facility was this pipeline of quality entrepreneurs, rooted in the country and whose needs had been clearly identified.

Investing in a country like Mali obviously involves taking on a certain degree of risk. But mechanisms can be put in place to mitigate them. During the fundraising process, which lasted several years, we faced several challenges. We had identified a number of potential partners, including subsidiaries of multinationals with whom discussions had reached a more or less advanced stage, but whose enthusiasm gradually subsided in view of the changing political situation. This is understandable when a certain degree of investment security can no longer be guaranteed.

But fortunately for us, the vast majority of investors identified at the outset of the project maintained their confidence in our project, and supported us through our first closing in 2022.

“Investing in a country like Mali obviously involves taking on a certain degree of risk. But mechanisms can be put in place to mitigate them”

 

The Sahel countries have received significant public aid from the international community in recent years, with mixed results. Should we rethink the mechanisms of public aid? Does SME investment represent a more impactful alternative?

M. K.: In 2021, Mali received USD 1.42 billion in official development assistance. This represents an important resource for the country in general. I wouldn’t say that aid is inappropriate, but that it needs to be channeled more towards local actors, in particular private companies. Some historical approaches to public aid have shown their limits. And we need to deploy innovative mechanisms and more substantial resources to enable public private finance institutions (DFIs) to be more present, faster, and more effective.

I am among those who firmly believe that the development of our countries, particularly fragile states like Mali, relies on the growth of a network of small and medium-sized enterprises.”. An effective way of doing so would be to bet on making more resources available to these companies, especially resources they have difficulty mobilizing locally.

“I firmly believe that the development of our countries, particularly fragile states like Mali, relies on the growth of a network of small and medium-sized enterprises.”

What’s important to note is that Mali’s entrepreneurial fabric is vibrant. There’s a tremendous amount of effervescence, and more and more people are starting up. Rather young people, who bring new solutions, who despite the context, develop services with quality, manage to launch projects. And I think this adds a note of hope to the country’s overall picture, which is rather complicated, with a security crisis that has lasted for ten years or so, and political instability. For my part, I’m among those who are betting that Mali’s renewal will come largely from the private sector.

 

Further reading: in our “Resilience and Adaptation” series, discover Maïmouna Baillet’s article, “the battle of Niger’s women entrepreneurs

 

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Resilience and adaptation in times of insecurity: the battle of Niger’s women entrepreneurs (1/2)

  Nigerian women have always stood out for their resilience and survival instinct in an arid, hostile environment. Although written records of Africa’s traditionally oral history are relatively recent, as…

 

Nigerian women have always stood out for their resilience and survival instinct in an arid, hostile environment.

Although written records of Africa’s traditionally oral history are relatively recent, as early as the end of the 19th century they began to extol the courage of a warrior queen, a figure of resistance to the colonists – Sarraounia Mangou. 

From 1960 to 1974, Niger was back in the limelight thanks to its first “First Lady”, Mme Aïssa DIORI, who charmed not only with her great beauty, but above all with her unrivalled charisma and rare intelligence. Her prestige radiates around the world. “Rubbing shoulders with the greats of the world (Elizabeth II, Haile Selassie, Nasser, De Gaulle, Johnson…), Madame Diori commanded respect and admiration. At her husband’s side, she began the process of female emancipation through hard work and rigor in this Afro-Muslim region.”  She embodied resilience so well. So disturbed, in fact, that she was personally targeted and mortally wounded in the 1974 coup d’état.

In 1992, in addition to the world-famous March 8, Niger established a Nigerien Women’s Day to honor this resilience. Indeed, following the historic 1991 march by women to demand greater representation on the preparatory commission for the Sovereign National Conference, May 13 came to symbolize Nigerien Women’s Day, instituted by presidential decree.

 

As a reminder, here are a few aspects of this hostile environment. Although they represent 50.60% of the population, women have the highest illiteracy rate, at 78% (compared with 60% for men), and are also the poorest. Indeed, four out of five poor people are women, sinking under the weight of socio-cultural and economic barriers such as material dependence, characterized by low decision-making power, arduous work, and difficult access to basic services. Financial dependence, reflected in low monetization, laborious access to knowledge, jobs, and productive resources. 

Niger holds two sad records, both impacting women: the highest fertility rate in the world (6.2 children per woman in 2021 vs. 7.6 in 2012) and the highest rate of early marriage: 77% of our girls are married before the age of 18 and 28% before the age of 15. And these are just the official figures… many believe that the reality is even more alarming. 

In this context, women have been quick to realize that solidarity – in line with the now fashionable concept of sisterhood – is their only option, and female entrepreneurs are no exception to this trend.

 

Culturally, they are confined to a type of profession that is “acceptable” for women: sewing, beauty care, food processing or fruit and vegetable marketing and cooking, which are also low-margin, low-income sectors. And with low barriers to entry, competition is high and activities are often informal.

In cities, they run or invest in very small businesses and SMEs. They accumulate initiatives and jobs. When they have had access to training, they keep their salaried jobs and develop their VSEs at the same time. Insecurity doesn’t affect them much; they simply adjust their working hours and take precautions to avoid dangerous areas on the outskirts. 

In rural areas, they engage in IGAs – income-generating activities. In villages, women are traditionally involved in market gardening, raising poultry and small ruminants. This income enables them to help support their families. With insecurity, looting and attacks have deprived many of them of income, leading to higher market prices and the impoverishment of entire communes. Forced migration, rural exodus and the loss of fathers and sons at the front have increased the vulnerability of rural women as well as gender-based violence.

 

However, since 1992, they have been organizing themselves into a Union. This is an association or structure of women who have voluntarily decided to band together to defend common interests, but above all to build their financial autonomy through tontines – most often 100% female. Insecurity has further strengthened this solidarity. 

The financial system has also adapted, and is increasingly offering products to these groups, giving them access to savings and then credit, and freeing them from the guarantee or surety previously provided by a man. The dematerialization of traditional tontines also makes it possible to combat looting and secure the assets of these women’s unions.

Whether rural or urban, women entrepreneurs in Niger are organizing, building and maintaining their resilience. Groups dedicated to women entrepreneurs are springing up on social networks, as are professional associations and incubators dedicated exclusively to women. For over 20 years, one microfinance institution, MECREF, has taken up the challenge of catering to a clientele made up of 100% women. Indeed, in Niger as in the rest of the world, studies show that women entrepreneurs are better paid than men.

“Whether rural or urban, women entrepreneurs in Niger are organizing, building and maintaining their resilience”

 

However, the situation remains critical in many regions. Since the beginning of 2023, according to official figures, some 670,000 forcibly displaced persons have been registered in Niger, 52% of whom are women.

Nigerien women will have an increasingly important role to play in rebuilding peace in Niger. Military families are often left to fend for themselves. And just as we saw during the great world wars in Europe, women are now perfectly capable of heading these families and generating income to support the family.

Their resilience is still being tested by the coup d’état of July 26, 2023. Sanctions are taking their toll on households and women in particular, including rising food prices. Nigerien women are calling for peace and a diplomatic way out of the crisis, but they are also passionate about this historic page that the whole country is now writing.

“Their resilience is still being tested by the coup d’état of July 26, 2023”

 

So, more than ever, empowering women is part of economic development and must be a priority. This has a greater impact on health, education and economic development in general. And the fact that they are more involved and that we can provide them with more support will have an impact on safety across the board and at local level. 

Further reading: in our “Resilience and Adaptation” series, discover Mohamed Keita’s article, “Mali’s renewal will come through the private sector“.

 

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Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects (1/4). Cafés Lumière in Madagascar

The distribution of electricity outside national grids, facilitated through mini-grids, a generic term encompassing various system sizes (pico, micro, mini, or small), stands as the main means of extending access…

The distribution of electricity outside national grids, facilitated through mini-grids, a generic term encompassing various system sizes (pico, micro, mini, or small), stands as the main means of extending access to electricity for rural populations in Africa . In principle this approach should contribute significantly to achieving the MDG7 (Sustainable Development Goal 7: ensuring universal access to reliable, sustainable, and modern energy services at an affordable cost). However, the mini-grids sector faces significant challenges in making substantial progress. National, and at times international, decision-makers encounter difficulties in scaling up this approach due to a lack of compelling evidence regarding its impact, a void that economists and evaluators have so far struggled to fill.

In a series of four articles, we introduce the Cafés Lumière mini-grids project in Madagascar, highlight the limitations of the standard evaluation conducted for accountability purposes, which fails to offer substantive proof of impact, and explore alternative methods for assessing and documenting the socio-economic impacts of the project.

Cafés Lumière in Madagascar: a Shop, a Welcoming place, and a Mini-grid.

The Café Lumière solution, conceived and developed since 2019 by Electriciens sans frontières, provides, in 6 villages in the Vakinankaratra and Itasy regions of Madagascar, a shop with a photovoltaic solar power system, backed up by batteries and a generator.

The Cafés Lumière are unique in their dual role as a mini-grid and a multifunctional energy hub. In other words, the Café Lumière, usually located in the centre of the village, has a shop which offers services such as mobile phone and lamp charging, and supplies electricity to meet other local demands. Thes multi-service platforms deliver energy services and a welcoming space for productive activities which need electricity. The mini-grid supplies electricity from the Café Lumière via local connections to households, businesses, public lighting, and community services. A portion of the electricity consumption for the community services is funded by a contribution collected from sales to other users, households, and businesses.

Four fundamental principles guide the installation of Cafés Lumière :

  1. Ensure a minimum access to a sustainable electricity service for all members of a rural community.
  2. Enhance the quality of community services, particularly healthcare and education, by establishing long-term minimum access to electricity.
  3. Promote the development of private productive activities.
  4. Contribute to a political and regulatory framework that empowers local stakeholders to oversee and sustain Café Lumière facilities and services over the long term.

This solution is based on a public-private partnership which involves the operator, Anka, the Agence de Développement de l’Électrification Rurale (ADER), the Structures Collectives de Gestion Mixte (SCGM) at the village level, and the solution provider, Electriciens sans frontières.

With a presence established in each of the villages involved, the service provider operates in close proximity to isolated rural populations. This proximity allows for the sharing of relevant information and immediate actions (operation and maintenance of facilities, sale of services, etc.). Furthermore, a remote monitoring system for energy production has been implemented, enabling the tracking of Café Lumière activities, which plays a pivotal role in generating monitoring and evaluation data for the project by compiling monthly activity reports. These meticulously detailed data facilitate a comprehensive examination of the project’s impact.

The primary funding source for the project came from the French Development Agency through the Sectoral Innovation Facility for Non-Governmental Organisations (FISONG) and its replication under an NGO Initiative Note (NIONG).

In its approach, the Cafés Lumière project is an innovative solution. Based on multiparty funding, and in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the project demands consideration for expansion on a broader scale.

Standard Evaluation for Accountability Purposes

Aid agencies use a standard approach to assess the efficient allocation of funds, commissioning an independent firm to produce a report on project completion. This report serves as the final evaluation of the project, as long as it complies with principles of accountability.

This evaluation reports projected results, aligning more with expected rather than observed impacts. In the case of an infrastructure project, the assessment takes place shortly before the planned launch of the equipment, which is often too premature to gauge the expected medium- or long-term effects. While this evaluation fulfils administrative objectives, it may not necessarily enhance our knowledge on how projects contribute to sustainable development goals.

 

In the context of the Cafés Lumière initiative, the initial analysis conducted on behalf of the French Development Agency concluded that there has been a significant positive impact on the living conditions of the local populations, especially women, and on the enhancement of public services, including education, access to healthcare facilities, and public safety. The findings from focus groups underscore the substantial support provided by this project for fostering economic vitality and the growth of income-generating activities. These results are encouraging and provide an initial indication of the momentum generated by the Cafés Lumière.

However, it is important to note that the evaluation, completed in January 2021, occurred at a time when not all Cafés Lumière projects had reached their full completion. While the multiservice platforms had been launched for all 6 Cafés, only 3 mini-grids were operational, with just 1 having been in operation for over a year. Consequently, the information base collected was too limited in terms of both its timeframe and geographical coverage to draw robust conclusions.

From a methodological perspective, these standard evaluations suffer from several shortcomings. They are deficient not only due to their limited timeframe but also because they lack a counterfactual comparison. The standard evaluation conducted for the French Development Agency in the case of Cafés Lumière does not attempt to compare the treated localities with other similar localities that have not had the same intervention.

Electriciens sans frontière had foreseen this requirement by selecting the 6 treated localities at random from a larger pool of 12 localities. Baseline data on the socio-economic profile was collected in collaboration with FERDI for these 12 localities. However, the use of this survey framework, which is inherently costly, may not have been suitable for 2020, and we will delve into this matter in the fourth article of this series, noting that a second round of the survey in May 2023 is currently being processed. In the meantime, alternative investigative approaches have been explored, combining the utilization of remote sensing data and activity reports from Anka, the operator.

 

Further reading in the same serie of articles on “Measuring the Impact of Decentralised Electrification Projects”: Using Remote Sensing: Initial Results on the Impact of Cafés Lumière (2/4), Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Locality Data (3/4), Characterisation of the Impacts of Decentralised Electrification Projects on Access to Electricity Using Household Data (4/4).

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Are universities in Africa excluding women?

Abidjan, early 60’s, the young Dicoh Mariam Konan starts studying chemistry at the Technical High School. She soon became the first female chemist in the Ivory Coast. Her portrait on…

Abidjan, early 60’s, the young Dicoh Mariam Konan starts studying chemistry at the Technical High School. She soon became the first female chemist in the Ivory Coast. Her portrait on the 25fcfa coins, still in circulation today, illustrates the impact of her career. It symbolizes a West Africa in progress, with educated women, while the period of independence is in full swing. 60 years later, this progress is slowing down, only 8% of Ivorian women continue secondary studies. A figure that applies to the rest of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. How to explain this situation?

Over the years, sub-Saharan women have found many socio-economic barriers to pursuing higher education. These include gender stereotypes and women’s place in society, a clear preference for boys’ education over girls, and poverty. Indeed, the cost of higher education generally falls more heavily on poor households than on rich ones.

Yet, studies show that women play a key role in the continent’s economy. According to UNESCO, the impact of girls’ education on national economic growth is undeniable: a one percentage point increase in girls’ education increases the average gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.3 percentage points and increases the annual growth rate of GDP by 0.2 percentage points.

These figures raise many questions:

  • What mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure sustainable access to higher education for girls?
  • How can we influence deep-rooted societal practices?

A look at 3 mechanisms set up by I&P Education and Employment, aimed at increasing the number of young girls enrolled in higher education institutions to enable them to find their place in the job market.

Overcoming the socio-economic barrier

At ISM Ziguinchor, 11:00 a.m., Elise, originally from the Sédhiou region of Senegal, is taking a management course. After having interrupted her schooling due to pregnancy, she received a scholarship for excellence from ISM Ziguinchor. The first institution of higher education in the capital of Casamance, the establishment is a fine example of parity, in fact, girls represent 55% of the staff.

The policy is clear: “When awarding scholarships, 60% of girls and 40% of boys. For equal competence, the choice is made for girls,” says Georges Bernard Ndèye, director of the school. When asked why girls, the answer is simple: “The desire to get girls out of their vulnerable situation.

Higher education has an additional cost for families living in rural areas or without a university who have to go to capital or secondary cities. For families this means additional costs such as transportation, accommodation, and food[2]. In Ghana, for example, among the poorest households, sending a young person to a higher education institution increases their non-food expenses by 37%[3], an unthinkable sacrifice for many.

Sending a student to college increases a poor household’s non-food expenditures by 37 percent in Ghana

Students and their families analyze the benefits of higher education versus the income if the young person worked right after high school. For Priska Manga, a doctor at Cheikh Anta Diop University, the first obstacle for girls is the family. Social norms (role of men and women in the family, marriage, maternity, etc.) also play a role. A Wolof proverb says “Diangou Djiguène amoul ndieurigne”, a woman’s studies are of no use. Investing in the higher education of young girls can be seen as a waste of time and investment for the most vulnerable families.

Parental education is a critical factor in decision making. When the head of the household has completed secondary school, children are 10 times more likely to pursue higher education than a child in a household with a lower educational level of the head. Thus, convincing vulnerable families of the importance of higher education for girls is necessary. But it is essential to couple this societal change with financial support mechanisms. The granting of a scholarship may be a condition for a young girl from a disadvantaged background to pursue higher education.

Local and adapted infrastructures

In 2016, ISM Ziguinchor, wishing to respond to the accommodation problems of its students, decided to create a branch in Kolda, a city located 500km from Dakar. At the beginning of the school year, the administration realized that the majority of the students were married girls, whose families did not want them to move away for their studies. Families want to keep their daughters within a family circle, to protect them, but also to avoid any incidents that would damage their reputations (unwanted pregnancies, etc.). Bringing the institution closer to female students in rural areas increases their access to quality higher education when social norms prevent them from going to the city alone. For student mothers, the provision of childcare facilities at the place of learning helps them stay in school. To help female learners focus on their education, UNICEF has set up a daycare system as part of the “Girl Power” project in Côte d’Ivoire. The project aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial skills of young girls in the suburbs[4].

  • Dormitories: when school becomes home

Families also use tutoring systems. The student (girl or boy) is placed under the authority of a tutor, usually a family acquaintance. When necessary, or when there are difficulties within the host family, the girls drop out of school. Another solution is to make the school the place to live. The construction of dormitories in schools allows families to find a reliable solution to the issue of distance from the place of learning. This solution is being tested in ESSECT Poincaré schools. Located in the city of Bouaké in Côte d’Ivoire, the school welcomes students from all over the region – mainly agricultural – and beyond.

  • The importance of decent and adequate health facilities

In addition to having a decent toilet, it is also a question of equipment adapted to female physiology and available in the sanitary facilities.

Once they enter the school, students spend a large part of their day there. In addition to the availability of facilities, it is important that they feel comfortable. Both private and public, restrooms are places that must meet the requirements of safety, hygiene and privacy[5]. Since joining the IP2E program, Mr. Ndèye considers that decent sanitary facilities are fundamental for the development of young girls. During their menstruation, girls need to have access to toilets with water, soap and garbage garbage cans where they can dispose of their sanitary protection[6]. The availability of these pads is also necessary. In addition to having decent toilets, it is also a matter of having appropriate facilities available in these spaces. When interviewed, girls express an interest in separate toilets. They often emphasize the criteria of hygiene and the desire for privacy and safety.

  • Ensure the protection and well-being of students

Providing a safe learning environment goes beyond infrastructure. Gender-based and sexual violence affects girls more than boys. It is present during higher education, but goes unreported. It can include harassment between students, harassment between professors and students, and the exchange of good grades or job offers for sexual favors. Within the IP2E program, all supported companies develop a “student safeguarding” policy. This policy aims to prevent and respond to different types of incidents (sexual violence, physical safety, etc.) and to increase awareness of these issues among students and staff. Institutions are developing mechanisms for reporting and handling complaints. These mechanisms help build trust and improve the learning experience of young girls.

Inspiring Role Models

At the Institut Ivoirien de Technologie (IIT), along with business and computer courses, students receive leadership and personal development courses. Prisca and Grâce, two second-year students, explain that these courses help “to know oneself, to find one’s strengths to overcome one’s weaknesses. They often discuss the girls’ development with their male classmates. For Grace, one of the reasons for not pursuing higher education is the lack of self-confidence in girls. This lack of confidence stems from the “low esteem” that those around them place on the education of young women.

Gender stereotypes are also found in the orientation. The so-called promising fields, such as science, are often assigned to boys. Fabricia Devignes, a gender expert at UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning, explains that “the representation of women has an impact on girls’ education and learning outcomes.

In the companies of the I&P Education and Employment program, one institution makes the difference in the sciences: the USSD (Université des Sciences de la Santé de Dakar ). The Board of Directors of the USSD is chaired by a woman. In the university, 60% of the students are young women. When questioned, the female students explain that most of them come from families where their parents are already working in the health sector. To strengthen the resolve of these future doctors, USSD is also implementing a women’s leadership program. These are mentoring sessions during which women in the health sector will lead exchange sessions with the students. For Professor Ndir, it is by taking the example of female role models that there will be women leaders in the field.

Changing mindsets

In Tamale, northern Ghana, educational company Openlabs is bringing role models into the local community to change attitudes. To train girls in computer skills, Prince Charles, campus manager, and his team conduct outreach to girls as young as primary school, families, women’s groups, and religious leaders. To facilitate the exchange, some team members come from the targeted communities. Zeinab, a student from the Choggu community, spoke. She explains that it is possible to be a young woman, belong to the community and pursue higher education. Prince Charles went on to explain the financial benefits that the education of young women will have on these communities. He also explains the scholarships and discounts that Openlabs offers to young women.

In recent years, the historical gap in access to secondary education between girls and boys on the African continent has narrowed considerably and is now being reversed thanks to government efforts (in Senegal, in 2021: 52% of girls versus 48% of boys). This quasi-parity has highlighted a non-generic inequality, but rather a strong disparity according to the social and geographical origin of future students, and partly explains the low rate of continuation of higher education. Although few girls and boys pursue higher education in sub-Saharan Africa, girls from disadvantaged or rural backgrounds are at the bottom of the pyramid in terms of access to university.

Guaranteeing sustainable access to education for vulnerable girls requires providing mechanisms for financing higher education. For girls in rural areas, the multiplication of community-based higher education offers is also a lever to be implemented. The institutions must be safe places, where the well-being, safety and health of the students will be preserved. Finally, it is necessary to change mentalities, especially regarding the place of girls in scientific fields, in order to ensure that women fully participate in the development of the continent.

“The emancipation of women goes through education. If we manage to have more educated women, we will have women leaders everywhere.”

According to Dr. Priska Manga, “The emancipation of women is through education. If we can have more educated women, we will have women leaders everywhere. Disadvantaged girls need continued access to quality education in order to become self-sufficient and active in the development of their region[8]. Quality higher education develops and strengthens the skills needed to enter a highly competitive labor market, and enables them to claim a decent, adequate and equal income to improve their quality of life.


[1] https://www.globalpartnership.org/fr/blog/leducation-des-filles-releve-du-bon-sens-economique

[2] Darvas, Peter, Shang Gao, Yijun Shen et Bilal Bawany. 2017. Enseignement supérieur et équité en Afrique subsaharienne : Élargir l’opportunité au-delà de l’élite. Directions du développement. Washington, DC : Banque mondiale. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1266-8.

[3]Darvas & all

[4] UNICEF. Projet Girl Power. 2020. https://team.unicef.fr/projects/unicef-projet-girl-power

[5] Marion Simon-Rainaud. 2021. Mélanger les filles et les garçons a facilité l’accès aux toilettes », 7 mars 2021 ? https://usbeketrica.com/fr/melanger-les-filles-et-les-garcons-a-facilite-l-acces-aux-toilettes

[6] GPE. 2018. Comment les toilettes peuvent-elles contribuer à promouvoir l’éducation.

[7] BBC News Africa. 2019. ‘Sex for geades’: Undercover in West African universities. https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-49907376

[8] C. Manse. 2020. Education des filles, émancipation des femmes. https://www.entreprenanteafrique.com/education-des-filles-emancipation-des-femmes/

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