H.E. Aissatou Sophie Gladima did not start out as a politician but has excelled in building a political career. The geology engineer, who holds a doctorate in hydrogeology, geophysics and hydrochemistry, established her reputation as an academic, working as a professor at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, before being called upon by the Sall administration to serve the nation. One week ago, Dr. Gladima was appointed Minister of Petroleum and Energy.
Allying her technical expertise with her passion for the environment, the new Minister has held numerous leadership positions in the field of sustainability, most notably, as the head of the Water and Research Commission of the Global Water Partnership Monitoring Committee and as national coordinator for the Senegal Wetlands Network, a project promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
She served as President of the Geological Society of Senegal, headed the Senegalese office of the African Association of Women in Geosciences, acted as the West Africa advisor for the Geological Society of Africa, and was Director of the National Agency for Applied Scientific Research.
Dr. Gladima’s introduction to political office in Senegal came due to the government’s need for her expertise. She served as Technical Advisor to the Prime Minister’s office and as President of the Board of Directors of the National Institute of Pedology, before she was invited to serve her country at cabinet level.
In 2017, Dr. Gladima was appointed Minister of Mines and Geology during President Macky Sall’s first term in office. The mining ministry is one of Senegal’s most important briefs, as gold alone accounts for over 15 percent of national exports. The choice by President Sall, himself a geologist, was not one left to chance.
It was Dr. Gladima’s success at the helm of the Ministry of Mines and Geology that laid the ground for her appointment as Minister of Petroleum and Energy on 1 November 2020. This is a role that will be even more important in shaping Senegal’s economic fortunes in the years to come.
In the face of the challenges imposed by COVID-19, Dr. Gladima has the mandate to push forward the development of the world-class oil and gas reserves discovered in recent years by the likes of BP, Kosmos Energy and Woodside. Senegal’s oil and gas industry is expected to boost GDP growth by 13.7% by 2023, according to an announcement by President Macky Sall in September 2020.
At the top of her agenda will be the conclusion of Senegal’s first offshore licensing round, launched in January and delayed due to the pandemic. Her environmentalist background certainly indicates that she will strive to ensure that Senegal’s development of its oil and gas resources does not come at the expense of its environment, and add momentum to Senegal’s already ambitious renewable energy plans and projects.