"I believe in service leadership"
- Portrait of Astou Diouf ©Didier Pazery
Astou Diouf from Senegal is part of the first cohort of Mastercard Foundation Scholars studying at the Sciences Po campus in Reims. Astou plans one day to start a business in the agri-food industry in Africa.
You are nearing the end of your first year at Sciences Po. What were your first impressions? Did your experience change over the course of the year?
I arrived in a totally new environment and like any newcomer, I had to adapt to the social norms and take care of all the administrative procedures required to get set up here. At first, I was in that exciting phase of discovery of Reims and its beautiful buildings, and I was impressed by the cultural diversity inside and outside Sciences Po. Then as time went by, I had trouble adapting to the climate and keeping up with the coursework, what with the fairly abrupt transition from high school to university. But thanks to very effective academic support and guidance, I gained experience and maturity.
In Senegal, you took part in a summer camp focused on developing leadership and entrepreneurship skills. What qualities do you think a leader or entrepreneur needs today?
To a certain extent, the essential qualities of an entrepreneur or a leader are complementary. They centre on being able to identify the needs of your community and to respond effectively. It’s not a matter of individual action where the aim is to show off your own skills but of collective action that requires the active participation of each member of the community. I believe in service leadership and that’s the basis of my desire to help the needy through practical and impactful involvement.
You are a Mastercard Foundation Scholar and you plan one day to start a business in the agri-food industry. Can you tell us more about that?
The plan is focused on developing Senegal’s agribusiness industry through the transformation of agricultural products, which involves improving producer-consumer relations, industrial restructuring and the development of efficient strategies that suit existing social structures. On a larger scale, the plan’s objective is to promote interregional cooperation in the industry in Africa so as to facilitate economic integration. Given the global dynamics of the agriculture industry, I believe it is imperative to strengthen the sector in Africa and to be able to respond to food and environmental challenges. Thanks to the summer camp I attended, I got interested in various agri-food sectors and I had the privilege of working with students and business leaders who aspire to contribute to the continent’s development. I would like to play my part.
What have you learned at Sciences Po that will help you with your project?
In general, I’ve been able to develop my critical thinking and analytical skills on a given subject through each of the modules I’ve taken. The strong focus on political, economic and social dynamics around the world will help me to study and analyse the factors I’ll need to work on to see my plan through.
How does the Mastercard Foundation programme support you with your experience at Sciences Po and your career plans?
Being a part of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars programme and meeting other young Africans who share a love for Africa is really a golden opportunity. Thanks to the superb programme coordinators, Marie Azuelos and Lucille Amsallem, my fellow scholars and I have been able to overcome the difficulties that we’ve faced both academically and socially. With regard to our career plans, we have taken part in several activities that gave us insight into rewarding professional opportunities, such as the Forum Afrique Destination Emplois that was held in Paris. In addition, the programme gives us the chance to build a considerable network through a mentoring scheme and meetings with executives and senior civil servants.