Home' LFNY Magazine : Winter 2015 Contents 53
lycée français de new york
très aimés. Grâce à un de mes amis, j’ai eu la chance de rencontrer
Asa et Keziah Jones à Lagos. Ils m’ont fait connaître la scène artis-
tique et m’ont très bien accueilli.
Quel est votre prochain projet?
Mon but est de continuer à évoluer professionnellement. Dans mon
poste actuel, il y a beaucoup de choses qui se passent au Nigéria et
en Afrique, donc ça dépend. Si j’ai l’occasion de faire encore avancer
les choses au Nigéria, je resterai. Si je peux être plus utile dans les
bureaux de Paris pour continuer à développer la stratégie africaine, je
ferai ça. Les marchés et les cultures asiatiques et latino-américaines
m’ont toujours fasciné, donc on ne sait jamais...
From New York to Lagos
Interview by Julia Pagnamenta (’06)
l Sékou Coulibaly (’99), born in France to Malian parents,
arrived at the Lycée Français de New York in 1996. His mother’s
job had moved the family around the globe with stints in Geneva,
Switzerland and several African cities, including Conakry in
Guinea, Kigali in Rwanda, Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and
Bangui in the Central African Republic. In 2013, he returned to
Africa with his wife, Binta Kate, where he is now general man-
ager in the Consumer Products Division of L’Oréal West Africa
based in Lagos, Nigeria.
How did you come to be at the Lycée Français de New York?
My family moved to New York from the
Central African Republic in 1996. My mother
was working for the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) at the
time, and we had been forced out of Bangui,
the capital, following army mutinies. My
brother, Youssouf, and I were enrolled in the
Secondary School and arrived at the same
time as another African student, Hichem
Kerma from Algeria.
Hichem and I are still friends, and I remember we both thought
that the Lycée was very different from the Lycées we had gone to
in Africa and in France. It seemed that each student came from
a different place, religion and socioeconomic background. I have
always been adaptive, but none of the other schools gave me that
same sense of purpose. The mix of New York’s energy and multi-
ethnic culture, the Lycée’s diverse student body and its emphasis
on academic success and good behavior instilled me with confi-
dence, motivation and ambition to maximize my potential in life.
You’ve spent almost your entire professional career at L’Oréal.
After I graduated from McGill, I became a marketing assistant at
Dassault Aviation, but I left after a year to get a masters in mar-
keting and communications at L’Ecole Supérieure de Commerce
de Paris (ESCP-EAP). I competed for a six-month internship when
I was at ESCP-EAP at L’Oréal, and it was a tough environment at
the beginning. I was interning and writing my thesis at the same
time, and it’s like they throw you into a swimming pool and only
the strongest survive!
And I was always interested in fashion. At the Lycée, I took first
prize in art. Art was an escape for me, and for a time the idea of being
constrained within a corporate environment was not attractive to me.
To this day, I love working with creatives. I may give them ideas and
direction, but I always give them an option to think out of the box and
do things differently, and ultimately I think, more successfully.
Tell us about your experience working and living in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a land of possibility with huge potential and a growing
middle class. It’s an exciting time there with industrial sectors that
are beginning to move beyond the country’s basic natural resourc-
es into telecommunications, finance, etc. But it’s still a country
that relies too much on its crude oil, which makes it very vulner-
able to fluctuations in oil prices.
At L’ Oréal, we are working to combat these fluctuations by
solidifying our activity, building on our strong corporate gover-
nance to develop a long-term strategy to accelerate sustainable
growth in 2016 and beyond.
How is living in Lagos?
Lagos to me is like New York without the infrastructure—twenty
million people, so it’s very busy, with a lot of energy. It’s quite
vibrant, and because of all the investment in Nigeria, you have
people from everywhere coming here. Nigeria is a former British
colony, and new generations of Nigerians are returning to take part
in the current development of the country.
Nigeria is also home to many different ethnic groups and three
major religions: Christianity, Islam and
Hinduism. Every time you meet somebody
new or you discover a new neighborhood,
you go, wow, I didn’t know this existed! I was
invited to an event and found out that there
are a lot of Romanians here. There is a big
Greek community and a big Italian commu-
nity. There are Indians who have been here
Culturally as well, Nigeria seems very rich, and some of its
writers are getting a lot of attention in the U.S.
Yes, its writers and musicians. The Nigerian culture in modern
music is incredible: its musicians and artists are some of the
most important in Africa. When I went to Kenya they were play-
ing Nigerian music; in Ghana, in Mali, they were playing Nigerian
music. These are highly respected artists such as Asa and Fela Kuti.
Thanks to one of my friends, I was fortunate to have Asa and Keziah
Jones welcome me to Lagos. They introduced me to the art scene
and quickly made me feel at home.
What is your next move?
My goal is to continue to grow professionally. In my current role,
there is a lot of momentum for Nigeria, and for Africa, so it all
depends. If there is an opportunity to add more value in Nigeria,
I will stay. If I can contribute more by moving back to the Paris
headquarters to continue building the African strategy, I will
do that. But Latin American and Asian markets, cultures, and
consumers have always fascinated me, so who knows...
“Le Lycée m’a permis
la confiance et
à la réalisation de
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