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Photo of Gisèle Lopès d’Almeida

Gisèle Lopès d’Almeida

Managing Director, EM – Seeds and Technologies

Senegal

What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Gisèle Lopès d’Almeida is a highly energetic, highly effective entrepreneur and agribusiness leader.  A serial entrepreneur, she has founded multiple agribusiness companies.  Most are highly innovative and forward-looking, drawing on new technologies to find new ways of raising agricultural productivity.  Her companies have patented a series of biological processes for controlling pests and improving soil fertility.  These ventures aim to translate cutting edge research into viable, environmentally friendly business opportunities. 

A highly dynamic business leader, she helped to create a regional private sector agribusiness network, INTERFACE, in 1997, in order to improve the competitiveness of local agribusinesses by making them more productive, linking them with top technical researchers and lobbying for a business-friendly policy environment. Her work consistently emphasizes promotion of private research and innovations that will help to foster more competitive domestic agro-inudstries and increased agribusiness investment in West and Central Africa. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • I came to work in agribusiness by an indirect pathway. 
  • I studied art and architecture in school. Surprisingly, this provided a good conceptual background for entrepreneurial activity.  The idea of a blank canvas on which the artist must prepare her composition is much the same as the role of the entrepreneur in conceptualizing and executing the launch of a new business. 
  • My first job upon returning to Senegal from studies in France was at a firm producing fertilizer, pesticides and animal feeds.  I conducted market studies on fertilizer marketing.  This work led me into agribusiness activity with a focus on marketing. 

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Need to improve the quality of training.  Standards now are too low. 
  • Need new training institutions, preferably privately run.
  • Training now is too theoretical, not practical enough.
  • Need relevant training.  Most material used in francophone countries comes from France We need good case studies and research material building on local research foundations. 
  • Need to learn more from South Africa.
  • English training is very important so youth can access technology from the world over.

Career highlights

  • Managing Director, EM Seeds and Technologies.
  • Executive Committee, seed company VITROSEM.
  • Sales Manager, Société Sénégalaise des Engrais et Produits Chimiques.
  • Founding Chairperson, INTERFACE, a regional private sector agribusiness network. 
  •  Advisory Board Memberships:  Special Program for  Agricultural Research in Sub Saharan Africa  (SPAAR), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), West and Central Africa African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), AFRICA HARVEST, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), etc.

Educational background

  • Primary school:          Dakar, Catholic primary school.
  • Secondary school:      Baccalaureat in Orleans, France.
  • Post-secondary education—from Senegal, Mali, Kenya and the Netherlands—has included a series of short technical training courses in subjects such as tissue culture banana cultivation, leadership, communication, marketing, English, proposal writing and public speaking.