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Gambia: Swimming Against the Tide

by Geoff Poulton

With TiGA, Ndey Fatou Njie has established The Gambia’s first-ever swimwear company. Far more than just a brand, she now wants to use her platform to inspire and help females of all ages

Golden beaches, relaxed fishing villages and a rich variety of wildlife—it’s easy to see why tourists come to The Gambia, Africa’s “Smiling Coast”.

“But when I looked around, I noticed something was missing,” says Ndey Fatou Njie.

A frequent swimmer herself, Ndey realised there was a gap in the market for locally made swimwear—something to celebrate the beautiful vibrancy of African wax fabric and indigenous art. So, she began to make her own.

After some initial success, Ndey launched TiGA in January 2016–The Gambia’s first ever swimwear brand. She has since expanded the company’s focus to include leisurewear, accessories, and household items made of recycled car tires and old furniture.

Rapid journey to success
TiGA products are now available at various locations throughout the country and Ndey’s young company has become a household name. Encouraged by this success, she is now taking TiGA online to expand its reach internationally. “My aim is to be a global ‘Made in The Gambia’ brand that will thrive for years to come,” she says.

For Ndey, TiGA is about much more than ‘just’ selling products, however. “I want to inspire other young people, especially girls,” says the 31-year-old. “I believe that when young people see that I’ve achieved success right here in The Gambia, despite starting my business with less than $50, it will give them courage.”

Breaking down barriers
To promote this ideal, TiGA offers mentorship programs for young girls interested in learning how to work with African fabrics and discover more about art and design. In the future, Ndey aims to introduce outreach initiatives to help girls have confidence in themselves and their bodies.

“This is very important to me because I believe that there are certain cultural barriers that hold women and girls back in our society,” she says. “To break those barriers we must support, encourage, and stand up for each other.”

Reactions to her efforts so far have been positive, with the girls always enthusiastic to learn more—not just about art and design, but about Ndey’s journey.

Inspiring others
“Running your own business is really tough, but exciting. When I share my challenges and failures, it shows them that not everything in my life is perfect, even if it might seem that way to some. This helps them to see that they can achieve what I have, or even surpass that. Your past, present, and where you come from don’t–and shouldn’t–determine your future.”

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