Thiaba Camara Sy: bridging figure between Senegalese and Belgian companies

Thiaba Camara Sy is an advisor in economic diplomacy for Belgium in Senegal. Amongst other things, she played a crucial role in the organisation of the successful princely economic mission in May this year. Discover her story.

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Thiaba Camara Sy

Thiaba Camara Sy at the seminar on 'human rights and business' organized during the princely economic mission. © FPS Foreign Affairs

Thiaba Camara Sy is an advisor in economic diplomacy for Belgium in Senegal. Amongst other things, she played a crucial role in the organisation of the successful princely economic mission in May this year. Discover her story.

Since February 28, 2023, Thiaba Camara Sy from Senegal has been an 'advisor in economic diplomacy’ for Belgium in Senegal. And she takes on this task with enthusiasm. She was indeed an ideal candidate for the role. On the one hand, she knows the economic world in her home country through and through (see box with biography), while on the other, she also has some excellent connections with Belgium.

Summer holidays in Brussels

‘As a child, I regularly spent my summer holiday in Brussels, with some friends of my parents,’ explains Camara Sy. ‘And in 2004 – along with a Belgian friend, Michel Pellegrin – I founded a company for training managers. At that time, I was taking some training courses in management myself with our partner PENTA in Waterloo, who ultimately gave us our certificate to teach management courses based on their method. And in January 2016 I followed a training at Deloitte University Europe in Brussels.’

Through all those contacts, she has gained a highly favourable impression of Belgium. ‘Belgium came across to me as a modern country with far-reaching innovations, particularly in financial terms. During my visits to Brussels at the beginnings of 2000 I was surprised that electronic payment was already so common while cheques went out of use very quickly, compared to other European countries I knew. Perhaps because it's quite small, everything there has a more human face, including the economy.’

Who is Thiaba Camara Sy?

Thiaba Camara Sy is a Senegalese expert in auditing, accounting and providing advice on management. She led Deloitte Sénégal for 27 years. This division of one of the world's largest companies for auditing – critically evaluating companies – is something she founded herself in 1990. During that period, she sat for eight years on the Board of Directors for Deloitte Afrique, the group of Deloitte divisions in French-speaking Africa.

In 2016, along with three other women, she founded Women’s Investment Club (WIC) Senegal, a network of female angel investors which comprises today about 100 members spread over 3 continents. By joining their resources they could establish in 2019 WIC CAPITAL, the very first impact fund dedicated to female entrepreneurialism in West Africa, followed by WIC Academy in 2020 which promotes the leadership and competencies of women through coaching, mentoring and technical assistance.

Encouraging female entrepreneurship is one of her great passions. For example, Thiaba Camara Sy – in her capacity of certified coach - also accompanies young female business leaders to unleash their potential and to improve their management performance. And her activities in corporate social responsibility are focused on education and defending women's and children's rights.

She sits on the Board of Directors for various organisations and companies, such as the American NGO Tostan International, the Senegalese dairy company La Laiterie du Berger once supported by BIO, the Ivory Coast bank SIB (Société Ivoirienne de Banque) and the Senegalese PayDunya, a company offering digital solutions for payments via Internet and smartphone, among other things.

In conversation with ambassador Roisin

Through the Belgian cooperation agency Enabel, her ties with Belgium naturally grew ever stronger. Camara Sy: ‘When I was chair of the Club des Investisseurs Sénégalais, I assisted Enabel to promote their agropole project in Senegal. Together with the Senegalese government the agency was developing the agriculture, the processing of agricultural products and the agro-industry in the centre of Senegal. My role involved making the project known to Senegalese investors and guaranteeing solid Senegalese participation.’

Her meeting with former Belgian ambassador Hubert Roisin in Dakar followed thereafter. ‘In May 2020, the EU embassy in Senegal organised a number of conversations in consequence of Europe Day. EU ambassador Irène Mingasson invited me to make a video with the Belgian ambassador about female entrepreneurship in Africa. It was an immediate fit. I found ambassador Roisin a highly engaged person and we had an exciting discussion.’

Thiaba Camara Sy

Thiaba Camara Sy at the launch of the 2nd season of a podcast called 'Conversations Féminines' (female conversations). © Thiaba Camara Sy

Confidential intermediary

After their encounter the Belgian embassy regularly invited Thiaba Camara Sy to the economic events it organised. And when ambassador Roisin proposed her last year to become an advisor in economic diplomacy, she accepted at once. ‘My role as an economic advisor is a perfect fit for my commitment for my country,’ she explains. ‘Because that way, I can be of some use to both Senegal and Belgium. And Belgium is a major partner for Senegal with some very old bonds. Many Belgians live in Senegal, and vice versa.’

What do her tasks consist of? ‘Essentially the role of economic advisor – as I understand it - comes down to encouraging commercial exchanges between Belgium and Senegal, and intensifying the potential economic opportunities. It is a kind of confidential intermediary to make Belgium better known to Senegalese entrepreneurs and Senegal to Belgian investors. The embassy can contact me at any time if they need any information about regulatory affairs or an economic analysis.’

Princess Astrid on economic mission

As an economic advisor, Thiaba Camara Sy played a crucial role in the organisation of the successful economic mission with Princess Astrid in May this year. © FPS Foreign Affairs

Economic mission with Princess Astrid

Thiaba Camara Sy played a crucial role as an economic advisor in the organisation of the successful princely economic mission in May this year. ‘A great deal of preparatory work goes into a mission like that,’ she explains. ‘I was mainly involved in the organisation of the seminars 'Human rights and business' and 'Female entrepreneurship'. I helped to develop the priority themes, formulate the concept notes and select the participants. Moreover, I participated in the seminars myself, respectively as a moderator and as a speaker. During the mission I met several Belgian entrepreneurs with whom I discussed about the economic environment in Senegal.’

Either way, the princely mission was an intense experience, but a very enriching one. ‘I saw it as a real privilege to be able to have lunch with Princess Astrid. Her staunch commitment to female entrepreneurship made a deep impression on me. She is a most warm-hearted and captivating person – a true role model!’

Close friendly ties

She continues to work closely with Enabel through her company WIC. ‘For instance, as part of the partnership between Enabel and WIC, I participated in a brainstorming session that wanted to figure out the theory of change of a pilot project which ended up in PEM WECCO which wants to bring promising Senegalese SMEs into contact with Belgian companies.’

Her ties to the embassy and Enabel are very close and friendly. ‘I go there regularly, which means I forge personal bonds with the whole team.’ The workload that her role as an economic advisor brings with it is quite acceptable, she thinks. ‘The princely mission was obviously an intense week for me, but overall, I spend about two hours per month on it.’

In any case, she is very satisfied with her role. A network of economic advisors is highly useful and necessary. It helps an embassy to integrate and gain an intimate feeling for the economic environment of the guest country. Thiaba Camara Sy will therefore remain available with pleasure for as long as she can be of use to the Belgian embassy.

Advisors in economic diplomacy

The task of the advisors in economic diplomacy is to provide information to the Minister via our diplomatic and consular missions and to give advice about all issues of an economic and financial nature or about opportunities for our country.

Becoming an advisor in economic diplomacy doesn't happen overnight. Our FPS expects them to have sufficient knowledge of Belgium's social and economic climate and also to be fairly knowledgeable about how our country functions. And, of course, they should also have a good understanding of the social, economic and financial affairs of the country in which they work.

Find out more on our website: Advisors in economic diplomacy