Senegalese-born Mariéme Jamme is recognised by international organisations as a young leader to watch. Mariéme was invited as a leading speaker at the Women’s Forum in Deauville, through the Rising Talents Initiative launched by Eurazeo and Egon Zehnder to promote female business leaders under the age of 40. A self-taught entrepreneur, Mariéme is the CEO of London-based SpotOne Global Solutions, helping technology companies to be more profitable. Committed to empowering Africa, she talks to Myriam Crété-O’Carroll about what it means to be a change maker.
Tell me about your childhood
I was born in Senegal in 1974 and I have a twin brother. I think, as children, we didn’t have the easiest childhood. We had a very tumultuous childhood due to my mother’s aristocrat status. My parents hold big positions in Senegal, but they didn’t have the discipline to sit down and educate their children. They were more focused on their career development. That caused great instability in our childhood.
How did you end up where you are now?
When my dad died in 1992, I had two options: either stay in Senegal and get married to one of my cousins or come to Europe. As I had a French passport from my Senegalese nationality, I came to France where I studied marketing and communications while doing multiple little jobs to pay for my studies. Initially I wanted to find a job in France, but I found the country very racist towards black people, specially women. I wanted to do something for myself and I realised I needed to speak English or another language, so I learnt both English and German. I then came to England and found the UK a very easy and tolerant country. I was very interested in technology at that time. I was hungry for knowledge and I knew I could train myself there. So I started working for many UK banks and everything I know has been self-taught.
How did you start your own company?
I got to a point where it was time for me to move on from the banking system. I was earning enough to start my own company and I decided to focus on technology. That’s how I opened SpotOne Global Solutions 15 years ago.
What does SpotOne offer?
We help tech companies – software editors and software inventors – to get a foothold in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. We now have teams working for us across the globe.
You’ve been recognised by prestigious organisations such as CNN and the World Economic Forum as a young leader to watch. What is your leadership style?
I’m very humble about my position and all these nominations and awards. My team thinks I’m cool. I will never forget I used to eat soup every day in France when I started. I’m this young Senegalese girl who is very honoured and very privileged to be here and lead these amazing people who believe in me.
What do you think really drove you to be here?
Sometimes desperation but I also think that, when you have been emotionally abandoned, you have no choice but work hard to survive by all means. Fear was a choice and I said no to it. I decided to work hard to be where I am today.
You are committed to empowering Africa. What would you like to share?
I love my continent and I am always promoting Africa. People think I’m over enthusiastic about Africa but I see the continent developing at a very fast paste. We all need to change our perceptions and attitudes around the way we think about Africa – African and Non Africans. People are making a lot of money and the Africans are getting wiser. You have educated Africans going back home and leading the continent. It’s not all rosy in Africa but the Africans don’t want to be poor. They want to have lands, farms and develop the agriculture sector. They also want technology and access to the Internet like everyone else.
They want everything we have in the West, so if we don’t make friends, share ideas and discover what’s happening in the continent it will be a huge mistake.
Do you have a personal message to deliver?
My personal motto is that fear is no choice. You must be confident in what you are doing and understand that it’s ok to get it wrong sometimes. If you really understand your subject you must go for it and make things happen for yourself. Nobody else will do it for you, so you have to be strong, committed and share ideas. I believe in that because you never know who you’re going to meet round the corner.
We’re all people with connections around the world; we’re all dots on a map.