Awa Caba: “The RAF shows an Africa full of hope and innovation”
Eate of the Innovation Award at the second edition of the Rebranding Africa Forum, in 2015, for his Sooretul project, Awa Caba appreciates the impact of this award on its activities and expresses its expectations for the third edition of this “forum which, at the heart of Europe, reveals the talents and innovations of young Africans ”.
You are the winner of the 2015 Innovation Award from the Rebranding Africa Forum. What does this distinction represent for you?
This award represents for me the accomplishment of a long-term work which required a lot of sacrifices and investments personal and of a whole young team. To be the winner of the Innovation Award from the Rebranding Africa Forum is a privilege since among all the innovations from Africa, mine has been chosen. I therefore appreciate it at its true value and remain aware that it is still the beginning of a long road which will bring me to the summit.
How was this award beneficial to the Sooretul project he rewarded?
This prize was beneficial insofar as it allowed us to be known internationally and to have the opportunity to present the project at the heart of Europe and to show a concrete innovation of this young Africa. I also have a rich address book which allowed me to approach avenues of partnership in the process of being implemented.
The award ceremony was broadcast on the 8 p.m. television news of the first leading channel in Senegal. Just after my return from Brussels, I also participated in three television programs with a large audience on the three leading channels in Senegal to talk about Sooretul and the Rebranding Africa Forum. This strong presence in the national and international media has given Sooretul a lot of visibility and even more credibility. Site visits from Senegal, some African and European countries have increased significantly.
So you have felt the impact of the RAF Innovation Award on your activities …
Indeed ! We have just signed, a few months ago, a partnership with Orange, Senegal’s leading telephone operator, for the implementation of USSD services on mobile phones with the aim of promoting the sale of local products from women in agribusiness. These steps for the partnership started long before I participated in the RAF. But I can say that international consecration gives even more power and credibility in the eyes of the partners.
In addition, I was recently cited by Forbes Africa as one of the most promising entrepreneurs under the age of 30 in Africa. It certainly comes from the fact that I have worked a lot, but I dare to think that this recognition also comes from the fact that the Rebranding Africa Forum has propelled me to the forefront of the scene of young African entrepreneurs in technology and l ‘Agriculture.
What are your reasons for satisfaction with the development of this e-activity for women engaged in the processing of local fruits and cereals? And what still needs to be perfected?
In 2011, Sooretul was a utopia for many Senegalese and even for local product processors. In 2014, the platform was launched with five transformers and 150 products. In 2015, we moved to ten product processing structures with more than 300 products and a turnover of around 8,000 euros. This year, we have more than ten structures awaiting integration into the Sooretul platform.
This progressive evolution of Sooretul, despite the difficulties encountered, is one of my reasons for satisfaction. It is also a great satisfaction to participate in the social and solidarity economy of small and medium-sized women businesses in agribusiness through technology. I have at least managed to put my knowledge to work for the development and empowerment of women.
The other reason for satisfaction is to see that through this platform, consumers are able to eat local food and that the impact is visible throughout the agricultural value chain through this activity. My last satisfaction is that it is in the hardest moments that I believe it even more and that I see the vision that I have of Sooretul taking shape in front of me.
This means that there is still a long way to go and that there is much to be perfected. First in the presentation of products, capacity building for women in packaging, labeling, branding for internationally competitive products. More work is also needed on logistics, online addressing and payment systems for e-commerce and better integration and understanding of technologies in agriculture.
More generally, how is the Jjiguene Tech Hub association doing today, of which you are a co-founder and which aims in particular to bridge the digital gap between the West and Africa, but also and above all the “generic gap” between men and women?
Jjiguene Tech is also making its way and has managed, in three years, to impact the lives of several young girls, women and even men. In 2015, we ran two flagship programs, the “Girls Coding Camp” and the “Business Challenge Camp”. One hundred and twenty girls were trained in a weekend in the basic principle of the algorithm and web programming in four regions of Senegal during the Girls Coding Camp and 60 young boys and girls were trained in the development of their business plan with the Business Challenge.
Women in the informal sector have also been trained in the basics of using the computer. This year, we have the “Code’s Club” program with “I AM THE CODE”, a movement that mobilizes governments, companies and investors to support young women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, art and design.
This association organizes, among other things, a “Tweetstival” in order to raise funds for humanitarian causes. How do you assess this experience?
A very positive assessment, since the Twestival was a means to show that through social networks such as twitter, we can have a positive impact for children who suffer from cancer. We started from nothing and succeeded just by a simple communication to mobilize a fund for the children.
This activity was one of the first actions carried out by Jjiguene Tech in Senegal. Thanks to technology, we always continue to change the lives of children, girls and women, whether they are sick or not, healthy, students in large high schools or colleges of Senegal, working in the formal or informal sector.
Africa is waking up more and more technologically with various innovations and creations that show the genius of the continent. How do you appreciate the initiative of the Rebranding Africa Forum in general, and specifically in its concern to publicize and reward such innovations?
The Rebranding Africa Forum is an international forum that, at the heart of Europe, reveals the talents and innovations of young Africans. At a time when all the media are only talking about the ills of the continent, it is an initiative that shows a positive Africa, full of hope and innovation.
It is in this that I appreciate this initiative which gives the possibility to African innovations which are not lucky enough to be well known in their country to have international recognition. This initiative also makes it possible to challenge projects, even after having received an award since it will be a question of showing after the Rebranding Africa Forum that solutions continue to create wealth in Africa.
The third edition of the Rebranding Africa Forum will take place from 13 to 16 October in Brussels on the theme “Meeting the challenge of industrialization in Africa”. What do you concretely expect from this meeting?
I expect from this next edition clear recommendations and concrete projects on the industrialization of Africa. I expect from this meeting that investors, entrepreneurs, sector experts can together, through the panels, bring out concrete ideas on the possibilities of setting up African industries for Africans and by Africans in order to absorb this mass of the young population in search of jobs, and to be able to exploit our natural resources.
All these discussions and recommendations must be translated subsequently into concrete actions so that we do not come back five or ten years later to talk about the same themes on Africa. It is high time, for example, that we overcome the small and medium-sized enterprises of women who create small industries, each in their locality. The potential is there, let’s give these women the necessary and sufficient technical and financial means, put in place all the favorable conditions in order to create industries and have internationally recognized “made in Africa” products.
Awa Caba remains more than ever “Geek, feminist and feminine! “, As she defines herself?
Awa Caba is good