By Fatima Datt, Communications Specialist

Growing up as the youngest of five children, Salamba Diene saw early on the costs and sacrifices of running a family business; a business she felt she would take over one day. Salamba’s family was entrepreneurial, especially her mother, Adama Diop. She tried her hand in businesses ranging from waste collection to import/export, often with Salamba’s father working alongside her.

Adama had seen her own mother make a living selling doughnuts, and with her father being a sailor, she’d had a modest upbringing. She always had the desire to create a solid local business that would have an impact on people’s lives while providing a better life for her children.

In 2006, Adama and her daughter (Salamba’s older sister), Mame Khary Diene, created Bioessence, a reputable company in the cosmetics sector in Senegal. Seeing the daily struggles and successes of being a self-made woman, it was natural for Salamba to also follow in her mother’s footsteps and perpetuate her legacy.

Salamba has always told me since the age of 3 that she will take over from me.

– Adama Diop, Salamba’s Mother

At only 23 years of age, Salamba joined Bioessence as the Director of Operations, taking responsibility for production management and the certification of cosmetic products, while also maintaining relationships with partners, such as economic interest groups. At the point when Salamba’s mother became more involved in other business ventures and her sister needed to move on from Bioessence, Salamba was ready to take over the business.

In 2017, Salamba took up the baton, and began to lead in the rebirth of the Bioessence. She added to the range of beauty and wellness products and changed the name to Biosene. Salamba introduced the agri-food subdivision by collaborating with local community farmers, especially the female producers, to produce and transform agro-food and cosmetic products from raw materials.

As a CEO, Salamba faced some challenges, particularly due to her young age. In navigating the unavoidable difficulties presented by the economic impact of COVID-19, Salamba desired to take an approach that proved to be impossible for most business owners—she wanted to avoid laying off her staff and to continue meeting market demand for Biosene’s products. By diversifying the company’s product line to include hydroalcoholic solutions, Salamba was able to retain many of the 57 staff with direct jobs with the company. This allowed some others with connected jobs to also stay employed.

Photo Caption: Salamba Diene, CEO of Biosene at the International Agriculture Fair, Paris. Photo Credit: Biosene

Throughout the pandemic, Biosene was able to continue to respond effectively to market demand. Although there were unavoidable layoffs of some daily employees, many of them were reintegrated when it became possible. As of today, there are 97 Biosene staff.

In April 2021, the USAID West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) awarded a $479,957 co-investment grant to Biosene to support a two-year project to strengthen the company’s supply chains in Senegal and throughout West Africa. With the grant, the company is purchasing 340 metric tons of semi-finished products and raw materials consisting of millet, fonio, baobab fruit and powder, hibiscus, moringa, and white beans from 6,600 farmers and processors.

The Trade Hub grant is being leveraged with private sector funds, including investments guaranteed in part by a financial partnership with the Bureau de Mise à Niveau (BMN), an institution that supports companies in strengthening their competitiveness through improved governance and increased organizational and technical capacities. Biosene benefited from BMN’s financial support of $53,803, which allowed for the purchase of equipment and team training in marketing and sales techniques.

As part of the co-investment partnership with the Trade Hub, a significant initial action that Salamba was able to take was an organizational audit of Biosene. The audit revealed areas that were negatively impacting the company’s productivity and led to corrective measures, including the development of a new organizational structure for improved management of internal communication. Further, reviewing procedures throughout the company allowed tasks to be streamlined and redistributed, leading to improved efficiency and productivity in many areas.

Currently, Biosene is building a new processing and storage facility to increase its production and storage capacity. Though the process has been slowed with various challenges, including issues related to building on the allotted land, the role of the Trade Hub has allowed the Biosene team to grow in project management. The funding provided through the co-investment grant has eased the pressures related to reduced cashflow, allowing the company to proceed with building plans.

“Given the cost and the work involved, it is clear that this would not have been possible without the support of the Trade Hub, which allows us to fill our stock shortages, meet our high demand, and have a facility that meets the required standards”.

Salamba Diene, CEO Biosene

With the arrival and installation of some of the processing equipment at Biosene’s existing site, the company has had a foretaste of the benefits, including the increase productivity and the improvement in workers’ health and well-being as they’ve been able to reduce the hours spent on manual activities.

There are several other positive results Biosene has seen thus far. The new packaging machine has significantly doubled productivity, with 2,500 packages being processed per day by seven staff with the old machine, compared to the 5,700 packages processed by three staff with the new machine. Compared to the mostly manual process used previously, the increased automation of the production process means reduced risk of contamination of the finished product.

Further, the processing of one metric ton of finished product has been reduced from two days to one. This has greatly improved customer satisfaction and is vital in creating new market opportunities. All these factors lead to an increase in Biosene’s business competitivity and also adds value to the “Made in Senegal” brand.

Along those lines, there have been efforts to increase the local sales point footprint with supermarkets, petrol stations, etc. in anticipation of the increased capacity and growing demand. Recent customer contracts signed with EDK, Star Oil, Elton, and Pridoux make way for Biosene products to be found in more than 40 new points-of-sale in Dakar and its suburbs.

The development of this new facility is a significant accomplishment that Salamba is very proud of. The impact of the partnership on the beneficiaries through the creation of jobs and the empowerment of women’s groups also bring a sense of fulfillment and fuel her drive to continue to do meaningful work. To ensure Biosene’s sustainability, the company has expanded its business portfolio, particularly in exports, to ensure consistency across all markets. Salamba has set a goal of opening a branch in Côte d’Ivoire within the next five years.

Today, at 33 years of age, in addition to managing Biosene, Salamba is a wife and a mother. For her, it is now even more important to develop the business, as it will allow her to pass on to her children the family values and the entrepreneurial spirit that she inherited. Reflecting on the efforts made by Biosene and the prospects that are opening up, Salamba says

“I can only salute the existence and the contribution of the Trade Hub, thanks to which we are gradually improving our productivity, our competitiveness, and our socio-economic impact on local producers and women’s groups.”