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Anta Babacar had just returned to Senegal from Paris, where she was studying at prestigious universities and working for a multinational company. At the time, she thought that her experience abroad would help build Sedima, her family’s poultry business back home. But a meeting with Sedima’s general director – her father – ended unexpectedly. Instead of being assigned a desk, she was sent to a farm to learn the basics of raising chickens. “I was really convinced I was getting an office job,” says Anta Babacar. “I had an MBA, a master’s degree, I knew the business, was born with the chickens. What else he could ask for?”

Six years later, at 33, she is the chief executive officer of Senegal’s largest poultry company – and she understands her father’s reasoning. His decision offered her the chance to gain knowledge of the business from the ground up. That experience influenced her leadership style, building decision-making skills that have demonstrated to others that she deserves their respect as top executive. Under her management, several important projects have come to fruition.

Anta Babacar’s leadership has positioned Sedima to expand operations and enter new markets, this time beyond Senegal’s borders. Anta Babacar is part of a new generation of African business leaders reshaping the dynamics of the continent’s private sector. Sedima, which operates the largest chicken-processing plant in West Africa, employs 780 people directly – and an additional 40,000 people across its supply chain. It is now expanding into some of the world’s toughest markets – countries affected by conflict or political instability. It is also venturing into the fast-food chicken business.

“Today I know this company isn’t just a family company anymore,” she says. “It must go beyond the country, it has to become a multinational. That’s why last year we invested in Mali. We now have the hatchery there. We’re now also starting to invest in two countries in Central Africa.”

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