Guinean Tiguidanké Camara went from the luxury of the catwalks to the mud of the mines, becoming the first woman owner of a mining firm in West Africa.

In Guingouiné, a small forest village in western Ivory Coast, she leads a team of ten people – geologists and workers – who prospect the ground in search of gold and also descend herself into a muddy pool to extract samples intended for in the research laboratory.

“When I was a model, I walked for jewelers. They have licenses in Africa which provides them with their precious stones “, explains, in the midst of midges, this forty-something with a young face and a slender figure. These parades for jewelers “aroused her curiosity”, she says. “I asked myself: what if Africans take ownership of the mining business? “

“I am the answer to the question,” asserts the one that the weekly Jeune Afrique has placed among “the 50 most influential businesswomen in French-speaking Africa”.

Taking advantage of local contacts thanks in particular to her father, a former prefect, the ex-model launched in 2010 Tigui Mining Group and bought two mining licenses for gold and diamonds in Guinea, her native country, by drawing on her savings, built up over the years on the catwalks or in the promotion of large luxury houses.

It followed suit in 2016 with a gold exploration and prospecting license in Côte d’Ivoire, now “its base in West Africa”.

“I own a mining company that is 100% mine,” says the founder and CEO of Tigui proudly, pointing out that she is an exception on the continent – “except in South Africa where there are others. responsible women, but most often in partnership ”.

“Exceeded” –

Her model appearance has often led her male interlocutors to ask her, “Whose assistant are you?” », She says. “Exasperated, I was forced to show off my CEO badge one day.”

However, she believes that she has not really experienced macho behavior.

In Guingouiné, we begin to dream of the big changes that could benefit the village if the site were indeed rich in gold – which remains to be seen – and a mine was dug there.

In the local Yacouba language, “Guingouiné means happiness, but we lack everything,” laments the village chief, Alphonse Doh, in his traditional blue and white boubou. “The six-class school is a shack without electricity. Women in childbirth are transported by wheelbarrow over ten kilometers to the first health center… ”

He says setting up a mine would transform the lives of a thousand people: the ex-model and CEO of Tuigi has expressed his intention to help the local community if his mining business turns out to be successful.

And besides the economic benefits, Mr. Doh hopes that Tiguidanké Camara will serve as a model of success in this region where the illiteracy rate reaches over 80% among girls.

Cooperative –

In the meantime, the “miner”, as she is known in the region, has resuscitated a cooperative in the village bringing together women, providing them with agricultural equipment and two solar panels.

“We are very happy with this collaboration”, rejoices Ms. Elise Kpan, the manager of the Guingouiné Women. This organization allowed them “to easily sell their food production to the market and make money,” she said.

The Ivorian mining sector, dominated by the production of manganese (two mines) and gold (five mines), has been booming for a decade in Côte d’Ivoire. The activity currently contributes 5% of the country’s gross domestic product, whose subsoil also contains diamonds, iron, nickel, bauxite and copper.

But women are very poorly represented: 112 women among its 6,000 direct employees and around 400 among the 30,000 indirect jobs in this sector, according to the Professional Group of Miners of Côte d’Ivoire (GPMCI).

Created in 2016, the Women of the Ivory Coast Mining Network (Femici) association wants to change the situation. It brings together geologists, machine operators, lawyers and environmental specialists.

“Mining is a sector of the future that will attract a lot of women”, believes Ms. Christine Logbo-Kossi, director of GMPCI, the only employers’ organization of mining companies created in 2008.

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