This profile was prepared when Boubacar Doumbia was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Boubacar has overhauled the traditional model of youth apprenticeship in Mali by putting young people in a central, entrepreneurial role from the outset. Rather than simply train students in the methods of textile production, he teaches professional, people and life skills, and encourages his apprentices to become self-sufficient, creative, and innovative. During his pilot project, Boubacar brought the traditional production model for décor and textile dying into the twenty-first century. His two-year trainings cover not only various textile styles and products, such as bogolon (traditional mud cloth), but also job skills, such as, financial management and savings practices, to enable his apprentices to adapt this profession to modern life and successfully earn an income. His programs place them in group and individual work environments to learn both self-reliance and collegiality. Knowledge of business practices and management techniques, coupled with trade skills and a sense of independence, encourages youth to become entrepreneurs and to create new jobs and industries within their communities. Boubacar’s initiative, “Ndomo”, draws on traditional Ndomo work habits of a shared collective as well as individual responsibility, but gives them a modern twist. Once young people successfully enter the business sector using the skills they have learned, they are eager to venture out on their own. Boubacar devises mechanisms to overcome premature resignation from the trainings, and creates incentives to keep young apprentices within his system for further development. Not only does this ensure that the apprentices will mature and achieve greater success, it also fosters a sense of responsibility to other youth; as they develop and become mentors. Boubacar’s system creates communities of young entrepreneurs that are both successful in business and also engaged in their communities, especially with young people. The solidarity among members of the community ensures the sustainability of their profits, and encourages others to join Ndomo. Boubacar’s model is highly sought within villages around his native Segou region and is expanding to other organizations, both within and outside the artisanal industry.