After a successful career in banking between Dakar and Abidjan, Khady-Dior Ndiaye (E.12) is now managing a hydrocarbon project in Senegal for the American group Kosmos Energy, which is likely to change the face of Africa. Portrait of a stubborn woman.

It is not by chance that Jeune Afrique has ranked her in the Top 50 most influential businesswomen on the African continent. Born in Côte d’Ivoire and educated in the best international schools, Khady-Dior Ndiaye (E.12) has chosen to put her energy at the service of Africa. After a career at Citibank, which led her to manage the bank’s activities in 14 countries, including five African subsidiaries, Khady is now at the head of the Senegalese activities of the oil and gas exploration and production multinational Kosmos Energy. A key position: on the borders of Mauritania and Senegal are strategic gas reserves that will impact the development of the region.

In finance since childhood

The daughter of a Senegalese-Ivorian couple living in Abidjan, Khady was immersed from an early age in an environment where finance and development were discussed. « My father, who is also my role model, spent his entire career at the African Development Bank (ADB), which he ended up chairing. I still remember the family’s joy when the AfDB got its first triple A rating, even though I was too young to understand what it was all about.” The troubles of the 1990s in Côte d’Ivoire led her to continue her studies at the Institut Florimont in Geneva, which gave her access to a cosmopolitan world. After graduating from high school, she considered a career as a diplomat and chose to enter the prestigious School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. « That was the one I wanted and no other because Bill Clinton, President of the United States, had graduated from there, » she laughs.

Key accounts and diplomacy

As soon as she graduated, Khady decided to return to Côte d’Ivoire and become a diplomat. Finance caught up with her thanks to an internship at Citibank Côte d’Ivoire. She got her first job there in July 1998 and only left in December 2018, when she was in charge of Citibank’s activities in West and Central Africa. In twenty years, Khady has gone through all the different jobs in the bank. According to her, « the driving force of a banker is to provide its public and private clients with added value, to raise funds to enable them to develop their activities and to find innovative solutions. The satisfaction is even greater when our action benefits an entire country. Khady recalls a transaction in 2009 for the government of Côte d’Ivoire. « The country had a debt payment problem and was on the verge of default. The Ivorian Minister of Finance mandated Citibank to raise the resources needed to meet its commitments to its international creditors.

“I learned that while charisma is innate, leadership is something you work on. I’m still honing mine!”

This was the sine qua non for Côte d’Ivoire to obtain substantial debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative led by the IMF and the World Bank. Together with several banks, we set up a syndicated loan, secured by cocoa taxes. This operation, the only one of its kind at the time, enabled the country to meet its commitments, and to benefit from debt relief of nearly US$3 billion. As COO in charge of the front office of Citibank Côte d’Ivoire, Khady was on the front line. « I was proud to contribute to this operation, which had a decisive impact for Côte d’Ivoire. »

From practice to theory

In the midst of an upward trend, Khady felt the need to go back to school. « I wanted to put some structure into what I was doing. When you work, you are in a hurry, you decide by instinct. I wanted to validate my working methods, to learn new ones, to inject theory into my practice to improve it. For the choice of programme, Khady reasoned as she did for Georgetown: « I wanted the best school, the one that would allow me to make a qualitative professional leap. HEC has an excellent reputation in Africa, with an EMBA ranked number one in the world: I did not hesitate. She planned to take two years off in Paris, but Citibank offered her a great opportunity in Senegal. « The management team at HEC Paris was extremely agile and understanding: they allowed me to come to the campus every two months halfway through the course. I am grateful to them for helping me to complete this EMBA that was close to my heart. During the programme, Khady is marked by two lessons. « The leadership course showed me that it is possible to develop your own management style, to be honest and aligned with yourself when leading a team. I learnt that while charisma is innate, leadership is something you work on. I am still refining mine! Laurence Ortega’s strategy course is also exceptional: it teaches that a good strategy is useless if you don’t have the tools to implement it. Every manager should have taken it once in their life ». Finally, Khady is strengthening her network: « By sailing through several promotions, I have met some extraordinary people. »

Valuable resources

At the height of her career at Citibank, Khady decided to join Kosmos Energy in 2019. It’s a challenge, but it makes sense because the hydrocarbon sector is opening new opportunities for Africa. The impact of the activities she oversees at Kosmos Energy will be colossal. « I am the country manager for the development of a huge natural gas field discovered off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania. The success of this project will transform these two countries, opening prospects for sustainable development by providing local people and industries with low-cost electricity. It will enable a transition to renewable energies, increasing their share in the energy mix. These reserves should position the region as one of the major players in the hydrocarbon market. « The context of the Ukrainian crisis reminds countries of the need to diversify their supplies: it is an opportunity for exports from the African continent. The challenges are great and the obstacles numerous. But Khady has been at the helm for two years: « The project is already 70% advanced; by the end of next year, we will be able to extract the first cubic metre of gas. Khady supports the younger generation through the Kosmos Innovation Center: « We gave a loan to a strawberry farmer to get him through the Covid period. To get by, he turned his stock into jam, which he now exports. I like to see young people being entrepreneurial, facing difficulties and providing solutions. A violin of Ingres? « I am passionate about African art. I collect African art. When you love something, you must show it off, » she says with a smile. Africa, the red thread of her heart’s choices!

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