West Africa Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Libreville
Currency Central African CFA franc
National Day 17 August
HER EXCELLENCY Mrs Aichatou Sanni Aoudou says that London made an immediate impression on her. Commenting favourably on the charm of the capital and the diversity of its inhabitants, she remarks that “London is a warm, vibrant city, with enormous opportunities for all – the empathy and politeness of the British make you feel good and make you want to meet new people too.” Mrs Sanni Aoudou is particularly enthusiastic about the many museums and plentiful green spaces that the metropolis has to offer. She says that since her arrival as Gabon’s Ambassador to the UK, she has spent many weekends “strolling through the beautiful, verdant parks.”
Mrs Sanni Aoudou was the first in her immediate family to become a diplomat, but although the profession does not run in the blood, she says that first her parents and later her husband provided invaluable support in her studies and long-term diplomatic aspirations. From an early age, she was passionate about foreign languages and international relations. “I have always wanted to discover new horizons and rub shoulders with people from other nations,” she says. After completing Spanish-focused studies in Gabon and France, Mrs Sanni Aoudou entered public service, and has since spent her entire career working for Gabon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1995, after two years as a Foreign Affairs advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Sanni Aoudou was appointed head of the Department of Protocol Administration, where she was responsible for ensuring the smooth running of all formal diplomatic occasions, as well as organising the privileges and responsibilities of the foreign diplomatic corps. In 1998, she was promoted to run the division of the Foreign Ministry dealing with Western Europe and the EU. Here, she had the welcome opportunity “to participate in various bilateral and multilateral negotiations and conferences.”
Mrs Sanni Aoudou describes her appointment in 2009 as Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as “a major step forward” in her career. She says that her job was to make sure that all aspects of the Ministry were functioning properly, characterising the high-level position as being akin to “commanding officer.” Her wide-ranging tasks included: “working on questions of human resources, reorganisation of services, preparing for and making decisions, ensuring the wellbeing of employees, the application of ethical and administrative rules, and so on.” She sums up the role as “facilitating the work of the department as a whole.”
The appointment was excellent preparation for her first foreign posting, as Ambassador to South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique. “An ambassadorial post requires the same skills and methods of management,” she remarks. Mrs Sanni Aoudou spent four years as Ambassador based in Pretoria. “During this period, I worked towards the revitalisation of the cooperation with these countries, by promoting opportunities for investment and by strengthening political dialogue,” she says. Her one great regret is that she never got the opportunity to meet former South African President Nelson Mandela, who passed away during her time in the country.
Mrs Sanni Aoudou started her new role as Ambassador to the UK late last year. She is also serving as Gabon’s Permanent Representative to the IMO, and is accredited to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The post of Ambassador has been vacant for the past four years, and Sanni Aoudou says that her priority is “to ensure greater presence and visibility for my country.” She adds that since Gabon and the UK established diplomatic ties at ambassadorial level in 1962, “the two countries have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship in several fields.”
Mrs Sanni Aoudou is excited about her work in London, and describes meeting the Queen as the most memorable day of her career. “It is a unique experience in the life of any diplomat,” she says with evident pride. While here, Mrs Sanni Aoudou will be working towards improving trade relations between the UK and Gabon, as well as attracting more investment and tourism to her country. These aims are intended to form part of a plan to transform Gabon into an emerging country by 2025. “To achieve this, we have charted a course to develop competitive manufacturing and service sector industries while preserving our natural environment,” she says.
When not visiting London’s parks and museums, Mrs Sanni Aoudou enjoys reading and is always looking to “explore new horizons.”