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This week we’re really pleased to be showcasing the work of Lamine Sarr, Publishing Director at NENA. His company is focused on the digitisation of publishing, such as launching digital libraries on e-readers, in order to improve access to educational and cultural resources in Africa. Lamine defines himself as a social entrepreneur in digital publishing and hopes that through example and vision, he’ll inspire the younger generation to take control of their destiny and to create businesses or activities in areas with high social impact.
Please can you tell us about your work?

My work is based on digital publishing; our aim is to digitise, save and make accessible African scientific and cultural heritage, for Africans and the rest of the world. We focus on retrospective digitisation and work with existing traditional publishing houses such as libraries, in order to make their catalogues and archives digital online.

How is Engage and the Transform Fund going to help you achieve your ambitions?

Since 2008, we’ve digitised content on laws and African literature and social sciences. The Transform Fund and the support of IsDB will help us complete the e-book production process. It needs a lot of resources - financial, human and technical resources. They will help us with this, as well as the enhancement of our online platform, as we plan to develop a web mobile application. When we started, we were 2 people working. Now we are 6 and with the support of IsDB we’ll be 22 employees in the next few years. 

Which Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) does your work support the most?
The main one for us is SDG4: enhance the quality of education. We noticed that in Africa there was a lack of documentation and of libraries at universities and elementary schools. Our main objective is to digitise what exists and make it available to all in online libraries.
Why do you think it’s important to support the SDGs?

In Africa, 65% of the population are under 25 years, in 2050 the African population will double to reach 2.4 billon. For me, there are 3 main challenges associated with this; to feed them, to educate them and to give them jobs. The situation is very challenging. Nobody can tell you that they have the solution - I don’t have the solution, I’ve yet to meet someone who has the perfect solution, but our aim is to do our part in helping to make the situation less challenging. 

The legend of the hummingbird is something that motivates me and my team. Have you heard of it? A long time ago, there was a huge forest fire raging the countryside, all the animals were terrified and running for their lives, amongst of all this was a tiny hummingbird. The hummingbird was going back and forth from the stream to the forest with a small amount of water in their mouth to try and put out the fire. The other animals noticed what the bird was doing and got annoyed, saying that with the small amount of water the hummingbird was putting on the fire, it wasn’t going to make a difference. To which the bird replied that the hummingbird was doing their bit to help. Afterwards all the animals joined the bird in going to the stream for water and eventually the fire was put out. It’s an allegory of the situation happening now. 

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business to make a difference in today’s world?

Do your part, as we are all members of the human family. If you want to do something, don’t wait until that all the conditions seem right. You will never have the right situation, the perfect time to do something. Do your bit, do your part, and begin with something small that can grow. 

What was the last book you read and why?

The last book I read was in French and is called ‘Pouvoir Illimité’ (Unlimited Power) by Anthony Robins, it’s about positive mental attitude. I read it because sometimes we work in an environment where we can feel alone. This is why I’m very happy and grateful to be here amongst the other Transform Fund recipients because I can see the energy and creativity around me and it gives me motivation to do more.

Learn more
Learn more about NENA on their website or connect with them on Twitter - @EditionsNENA.