The first time I met with Cheikh Traoré and Fatou Mbaye I was inspired by their mission and work. Founders of the local social enterprise, OPEN SARL, they work to support and connect local community members to financing opportunities to invest in entrepreneurial activities in the community. They help youth and women in Thiaroye secure funding from local financial institutions, acting as advocates and cosigners.
Founded in 2015, the social enterprise has helped approximately 750 community members and cooperatives access funding to create small businesses in commerce, food transformation, fishing, animal husbandry, and farming. Working with local associations and NGOs, Cheikh saw the continuous struggle these groups faced in securing funding for their projects. Motivated to fix this issue, he decided to create a social enterprise (OPEN SARL) that filled this gap, supporting local projects and ideas by helping community members apply for loans through banks. Community members wanted to create employment opportunities to motivate youth to stay in Thiaroye, they just didn’t have the means to do so.
Work does not come easy in Thiaroye, most work in the informal sector or take their chances to migrate to Europe. Several associations and cooperatives have formed in order to pool resources to create opportunities within the community. These efforts are often undermined by a lack of funding or top-down projects that don’t prioritize local needs. Cheikh and Fatou work tediously to identify individuals’ immediate needs and help create a plan to meet these needs.
Fatou explained that women often come to OPEN SARL after a child or husband has left to migrate to Europe. Migrants often sell their possessions to finance the trip, meaning their families are left without a source of income and without support from the migrant. This gamble can pay off if the migrant arrives in Europe, but oftentimes they face refoulement (a process of denying entry and repatriating someone) or are never heard from again. This situation forces many women to seek better paying opportunities to support their families. Women will often take up food transformation but lack the initial capital to invest in the opportunity. OPEN SARL helps these women secure financing for these entrepreneurial activities. Without OPEN SARL, most would not be approved for financing or the rates would be too high.
While funding is crucial to supporting community members and creating employment opportunities in Thiaroye, Cheikh and Fatou acknowledge the importance of trainings, and other skill-building activities, if these projects are to succeed. They see their collaboration with AP as an opportunity to provide financial and training opportunities to locals, ensuring that everyone has the resources necessary to achieve their goals, creating durable work that can support their families.
Posted By Jeremiah Gatlin
Posted Jul 28th, 2021