Mamadou Ndiaye, MBA ’06 (E): Bringing IT to West Africa
In 1994, Mamadou Ndiaye left Dakar, Senegal with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and dreams of developing a successful career in the United States. Seventeen years later, he returned home, holder of masters degrees in statistics, computer science, and business from Columbia, Polytechnic University of Brooklyn, and Johnson at Cornell University (respectively), as the country’s first-ever IBM country general manager.
Since accepting the position this past January, Ndiaye’s mission has been to help improve Senegal’s IT infrastructure — specifically, by working with the telecommunications, banking, and government sectors. To that end, Ndiaye’s team and a local business partner recently implemented IBM’s first major project in the country: a new import and export tracking system for the government, driven by two IBM z10 mainframe computers, which allows customs officers to see what’s happening across all its borders in real time. The mainframe solution has significantly increased efficiency, reduced power consumption, and cut operating costs. Expectations for similar projects continentwide are high, Ndiaye says. In most markets, the primary imperative is to increase market share. In West Africa, and Senegal, specifically, it is different, says Ndiaye. “Here we are helping to develop the market. Most importantly, we communicate that IBM is not only a hardware company, but a solutions provider. What we tell our clients is that there are huge amounts of information out there, and that we can harness this information not only to create growth, but to connect people.”
The job of running IBM’s Senegalese operations means long hours, Ndiaye says. But the rewards of being back home are enormous. For the past five years, Ndiaye’s schedule allowed for only a few visits a year — including a trip home to distribute textbooks and computers he purchased for the winners of a regional math competition he founded. Now, Ndiaye regularly drops by the homes of his lifelong friends to chat after work, and, every other week, he makes the 150-mile trip to visit his father, who still lives on the peanut and millet farm where Ndiaye grew up.
Ndiaye sees progress everywhere he looks in Senegal. “There’s a lot of new infrastructure and new technology here,” he says, of his native country. “Some countries would love to have what we have.” While he would love to stay as long as he can, he knows IBM may someday offer him the chance to tackle new challenges elsewhere.
“If the business calls me,” he says, “I will go.”