Today, Tiguidanke Camara, who is the first female from West Africa to proudly own a mine, runs Tigui Mining Group (TMG), an organization involved in most part mining and agribusiness activities in West Africa.
Its backup, Camara Diamond and Gold Trading Network, owns mining licenses in gold, diamond stone and associated minerals traversing 356km² in Guinea.
The Guinean fashion model’s first contact with this male-dominated industry was through jewellery while she modelled.
Camara, who had appeared in well-known magazines such as Marie Claire and GQ, realized that many of the jewels she was displaying were from Africa, particularly, her home country, Guinea.
After speaking to some of the importers, she learnt that one had his own mining licence in Guinea.
“Then I started asking questions,” recalled Camara in an interview.
“I thought, ‘If he could do it, I could do it.’ He is not even from Africa or Guinea, but he has been successful at doing this. Being a native, why can’t I also be successful?”
She subsequently began saving towards opening her own mining company in Guinea but halted her plans to make way for family life after giving birth to a set of twins in 2001.
In 2009, Camara returned to Guinea, and eventually set up Camara Diamond & Gold Trading Network upon further advice from geologists.
But she didn’t find it easy from the start, as one of her major obstacles was with a business partner who embezzled a lot of funds from the company in the first year.
Camara was forced to start everything from scratch, “looking for another investor, more funds, and so forth… But I got lucky and found a partner that came in, believed in me, and he is still my partner today.”
Being a woman, the model turned mining entrepreneur had to work extra to be given any serious attention.
In the early years of her business, she also had to deal with violent protests and unrest that had bedeviled the country at the time. Then came the deadly ebola crisis, which had a serious toll on the economy.
Nevertheless, Camara and her team did not give up, being further encouraged by the coming into force of a democratic government in 2010.
Camara is currently looking to expand her projects across West Africa, and continues to offer hope to many young women in her community who would want to venture into entrepreneurship and other male-dominated industries like hers.
She is further optimistic that the mining sector in West Africa, as well as, electricity and infrastructural developments, would witness much improvements for the above ideals to be fulfilled.