Born in Dakar, 39-year-old media advisor Sibeth Ndiaye will replace Benjamin Griveaux as the French government’s spokesperson. Ndiaye, who moved to Paris to study at university and became a left-wing student activist before joining the Socialist Party in 2002, is a rarity in French government.
She joins other ceiling breakers on the short list, such as Senegalese Rama Yade, who held several ministry positions in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, and French Guianaen Christiane Taubira, who was Minister of Justice under former President Francois Hollande.
“My professional career was mainly built around beautiful encounters, with people who knew to trust me, and I always tried to be worthy of this trust,” Ndiaye told the news magazine Jeune Afrique.
BBC reported that she first met Macron when he was deputy secretary general at the Élysée, and she was working for the Minister for the Economy – a job that Macron would take over in 2014. When Macron declared his presidential ambitions, she joined his campaign team. That decision led to her becoming the media advisor to the president of the Republic.
At a handover ceremony in Paris, Ndiaye said, “I take this step with pride in serving France, the country I chose for myself. Even before I was French, I was one of the people involved in this country, especially in [Paris suburb] Seine-Saint-Denis, where nothing is simple, but where everything is possible… France has given me a lot, today it is my turn to give something back.”
She went on to praise her parents for helping her and her sisters “break through glass ceilings”.
According to AFP Ndiaye gained notoriety after a documentary about Macron’s grassroots campaign was released shortly after his sweeping win of the presidency in May 2017.
The film, Behind the Scenes of a Victory, showed an outspoken Ndiaye who did not hesitate to harangue reporters over what she considered to be unfavourable coverage.
One of Macron’s top advisers, Philippe Grangeon, told the French daily Le Monde, “Her nomination is a strong endorsement of diversity in a high-profile job, a promotion and a sign of the president’s trust.”
It is also said that her time as a media advisor to Macron saw journalists being ejected from the Élysée, and a hardening of policy about staff members speaking to journalists. This is an indication of what is ahead in her new appointment.