unctad.org | Korotoumou – a determined woman supporting equality and entrepreneurial development of African women
Korotoumou – a determined woman supporting equality and entrepreneurial development of African women
03 December 2015
Korotoumou is the last of 16 children in a family made up of eight boys and eight girls.
She was born in a town in the north of Côte d'Ivoire where girls have almost no opportunities to go to school as they are meant to care for the home.

Korotoumou spent her childhood in Bingerville, a suburb close to Abidjan. Her mother is a housewife and her father was a nurse. Having studied himself, her father was one of the few in the community at that time who believed that a young girl could also succeed at school. So he sent all of his children to school, including the children of his brothers who lived with him.

Unfortunately for Korotoumou, her father became ill when she was only 3 years old. It was Amy, her older sister, who then took her in. Amy had become a primary school teacher, and Korotoumou quickly understood that school was the only opportunity in her life, her only way out. She often had no shoes and wore torn clothes, but she was so proud to go to school. It was a privilege, and she knew it.

Korotoumou would look at aeroplanes in the sky, saying to herself: "The only way to board that plane is to do well in class." Since she had studied geography and history, she knew that beyond the borders of Côte d'Ivoire, there were other worlds to discover. Travelling and returning home was what she wanted.

Naturally, she worked hard. She won a scholarship and joined a large secondary school in Abidjan, rubbing shoulders - this time in a uniform - with children from the upper echelons of the country. She got her secondary school diploma, the first girl in her family to get one, allowing her to go to college.

When she returned to her town, she could hear the comments of the elders: "It's to avoid gossip that girls shouldn't be allowed to go to school". Of her childhood friends, many had not had that opportunity. Some had 10 children and were housewives, like her mother; others had died from AIDS. Today, Korotoumou is married and the mother of three children, but for her, studying was and is what really mattered.

Korotoumou awarded certificate after completing UNCTAD's
TrainForTrade course on E-Commerce, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, April 2015

She decided to go to law school. This would give her a solid knowledge base which she could use to defend children and women in need. She knew that ignorance was a serious disease. She wanted to be a lawyer for women. "Where men go, I should also." She became a law lecturer, conveying her strength and knowledge.

Years later, in 2011, she was appointed Deputy Director of the Department of Legal Affairs and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Post, Information and Communications Technology (ICT). She has now been the Acting Director for over a year, at the age of just 42. Her current job does not pay as well as her teaching job, but that does not matter. What matters is how ICTs, technological innovation and e-commerce support African women. Her objective: women's independence. Her motto: "Helping women helps families and society as a whole."

In 2014 and 2015, Fofana Korotoumou Diabaté took two UNCTAD courses on the legal aspects of e-commerce and implementing e-commerce to master and understand the opportunities and challenges of this new form of commerce made possible through increased access to the Internet. She understands its impact on women in general and particularly on women in rural areas in Côte d'Ivoire. She supported the development of e-commerce legislation in her country and participated as a delegate representing Côte d'Ivoire at regional meetings of the Economic Community of West African States on the topic, sharing her country's experience in the adoption of e-commerce legislation, one of the most advanced in this topic in the region.

Under the relevant UNCTAD project, she visited the warehouses of the Jumia e-commerce platform. The Minister of Telecommunications, on whom she depends, was quickly convinced and also visited Jumia himself. Korotoumou now dreams of piloting a large project to help mothers and children in disadvantaged areas with the support of new technologies.

Interview with Fofana Korotoumou Diabaté, 13 November 2015, conducted while she tasted fondue for the first time. It was her third visit to Switzerland and she still cannot believe it. She took that plane.

Korotoumou tasting fondue for the first time during the interview, Geneva, November 2015


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