by Lucia Conti
Amel Saidane is a Tunisian entrepreneur and a digital transformation expert. She is also the President of Tunisian Start-ups, and member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network.
In July 2020, she will be a speaker in the Spotlight Session of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) international online conference, “Women in Industry and Innovation”.
Saidane wasn’t always the open-to-unknowns entrepreneur role model she is today. She spent the first ten years of her professional life in a corporate environment, where the problems were manageable by design.
From a corporate world to becoming an entrepreneur
When she first decided to start her own business, she was scared. “I loved it because I could move without boundaries,” she says. “But the parameters were countless and unpredictable. How should I manage it?”.
This problem required a whole new mind-set: Saidane realized that, as an entrepreneur, she had to let go of micromanaging. “If you’re building something from scratch, you can’t control everything,” she says, “So don’t do it, and welcome all the steps”.
Which to her means moving forward and knowing that even a misstep could bring new competences. “The keyword is resilience. We should never step back in a crisis,” she says.
This is the reason why Saidane is convinced that during the coronavirus outbreak we could learn a lot from entrepreneurs, because of their capacity to manage things in unpredictable times.
Female entrepreneurs as multidimensional talents
Saidane believes women to be very good at handling multiple tasks simultaneously. She observed that her best performances came with having a set of different tracks she could connect.
“The plan is not linear, but multidimensional,” she explains, and invites her peers not to be afraid to test new things. “You’ll fall and stand up again” is her motto.
It is no surprise that Saidane encourages women to pursue tech careers and fight for leading positions, if they want to.
She believes women’s natural inclinations to fit the profile required for leaders in the digital age. In her vision, the old pyramid-shaped system will be replaced by flatter organizations divided into sub-groups, and this type of agile structure will require a lot of flexibility and more of a listening-and-giving-space approach to communications - “something that women leaders can do very well”, she explains.
Why women are underrepresented in top jobs
Unfortunately, women are still under-represented in top jobs. “I think it’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” Saidane comments.
She believes that, as long as women are not equally represented in policymaking, policies will be defined by a male-only perspective.
She also states that women are not equally represented in funding and investing either. “More than 95% of capital investment in the world is invested by men in men and this leaves peanuts to women,” she clarifies.
In Saidane’s vision, as long as women are not deciding what kind of projects are going to be funded, female leaders will be a minority.
She appreciates the fact that UNIDO is bringing women’s perspectives in women-related debates. “It is not about discussing women issues for the sake of it, but about having the proper discussion and include women” she says.
The African tech response to Covid19 and the idea of a Digital Arabian Network
Going back to technology, Saidane has recently joined the UN Economic Commission for Africa analyzing the tech response to COVID-19. She reports that coronavirus has been a sort of wake-up call to move faster.
“We have noticed that we should have used technology more,” she points out, adding that the importance of digital transformation in Africa is now more evident than ever.
A deep knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and being a self-defined, “digital transformation enthusiast” also brought her to believe that the MENA countries should strategically think of digitalization as an opportunity to unite and become one digital partner state.
She’s sure that if the MENA countries keep bringing their own “mini and not meaningful” platforms, they will never be able to compete. “The countries with the largest platforms have access to the largest amounts of data and control everything in the world,” she underlines.
Therefore, she hopes for a digital collaboration between the MENA countries and this idea is not only theoretical because Amel Saidane is also a member of the Digital Arabian Network, which is inviting the digital players of the region on board under the motto “Connect. Transform. Create.”.
We Mean It
Saidane’s aim for the future is to have new projects developed and to keep advising on the potential of the MENA region, in terms of technological innovation.
Her final message relaunches UNIDO’s tagline for the Promoting Women’s Empowerment campaign: “We mean it,” Saidane says, “Be serious about meaning it, because we seriously mean it.”