TAT Gambian Trailblazers: Spotlight on Ismaila Badjie, a Maritime and Logistics Expert Transcending Borders

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Ismaila Badjie

By: Awa Conteh 

Welcome to this week’s episode of Gambian Trailblazers, where we spotlight remarkable individuals who exemplify excellence, leadership, and service. In today’s episode, we have the privilege of unveiling the story of Mr. Ismaila Badjie, a seasoned professional in the maritime and logistics industry. Join us as we uncover the remarkable journey of a leader whose unwavering determination and commitment to excellence have shaped his path from the shores of The Gambia to global prominence. Get inspired by Ismaila’s story of resilience, impactful leadership, and the relentless pursuit of success.

Born in The Gambia, Ismaila Badjie boasts an impressive 24-year career in Shipping, Logistics, and Supply Chain. His journey has taken him across Africa and Europe, gaining invaluable experience in the Middle East, Europe, India, and the USA. Holding dual Master’s degrees—an MBA from the University of Liverpool and an MPhil from Murcia University in Spain—Ismaila is pursuing his PhD in Business Administration, expected to be completed by the end of 2024. He serves as the Commercial Manager of the West Africa Container Terminal in Eastern Nigeria and APM Terminals Apapa in Lagos, Nigeria. His story serves as an example of commitment and knowledge in the international marine sector.

Several defining moments have shaped Ismaila Badjie’s career. It all began in September 2000 when he chose to join Maersk Gambia, opting for a path to multitask education and work. The turning point came when he embraced the challenge of representing Maersk in Guinea Bissau in 2001, establishing Star Shipping Bissau Limitada. He led this office for five years, surpassing operational, commercial, financial, and HR targets. In 2006, he assumed the role of Head of Intermodal in Dakar. In 2008, he returned to Gambia as Operations & Intermodal Manager. A significant leap took him to Cameroon in 2009 as Cluster Operations Manager, overseeing multiple countries. 

Mr. Badjie’s journey continued in Dakar as Chief Operating Officer for West and Central Africa and later as Chief Executive Officer in Tanzania, covering East Africa in 2015. In 2017, he moved to Accra, Ghana, as Chief Commercial Officer, driving transformation. This was followed by a stint in the Hague, Netherlands, as Head of Commercial Workstream, integrating Inland Services and Maersk. Returning to Ghana in 2020, he assumed the Head of Depots for Africa, the Middle East, and India until 2022, when he transitioned to APM Terminals as Head of Commercial for West Africa Container Terminals. Throughout, Ismaila’s commitment to continuous improvement and adaptability has been unwavering. Elite training within the APMM group and a Port and Terminal Management diploma since 2000 have equipped him for the journey ahead.

Finding purpose in life is essential, and for Ismaila Badjie, it’s rooted in core values like hard work, care, honesty, uprightness, integrity, and trusting the process. When facing difficulties, Ismaila views them as temporary, turning to prayer and his best efforts. In moments of success, he remains humble, attributing credit to his teams. Passionate about nurturing and empowering his team, he supports them to surpass his achievements. He embraces humility during challenges, recognizing people’s diversity and perspectives. Ismaila’s dedication to inclusivity is evident in his MBA focus on Diversity and Inclusion in the maritime industry, with Maersk as a case study.

“I have always stayed curious and willing to lead by example. For me, no effort too great or a detail too small – everything and everyone counts”, he told The Alkamba Times.

Ismaila Badjie’s leadership journey has been marked by a commitment to nurturing talent and fostering a culture of success beyond his tenure. Understanding the transient nature of his roles as an expatriate, typically lasting 3-5 years, sometimes even just 18 months, Ismaila’s vision is rooted in ensuring continuity and leaving a lasting legacy. He believes in growing and empowering leaders, creating a ripple effect of impact that transcends borders.

Reflecting on this philosophy, Ismaila emphasizes making people feel valued and empowered. He strives to create an environment where individuals are inspired to become leaders in their own right. As a result, his influence can be seen across various countries, including Bissau, Senegal, Cameroon, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and, of course, his beloved Gambia. Ismaila’s leadership legacy is not defined by titles or accolades. Still, by the countless leaders, he has helped to flourish and succeed. 

Throughout Ismaila Badjie’s extensive career, he has navigated organizational restructuring, business development, and transformative initiatives that come with emotional and professional complexities. However, he viewed them as experiences, teaching him valuable lessons in problem-solving and resilience. He recognizes the importance of maintaining a positive attitude during tough times, believing that attitude, not just aptitude, determines one’s success. His commitment to integrity and perseverance is a guiding principle in overcoming challenges throughout his career. 

Our trailblazer’s journey across various countries and cultures has been a profound learning experience, offering insights into the complexities of global dynamics. Reflecting on his encounters with individuals from diverse backgrounds, Ismaila underscores the importance of avoiding assumptions and embracing openness and accommodation.

“I learned to stay open and accommodate, and once that is done – you see an amazing array of love and respect being given. Imagine going to Costa Rica or Vietnam and people touching your skin to see if you have bleached without feeling discriminated against. I have learned so much, and that has made me a global citizen”, he said. 

His daily habits and practices show Mr. Badjie’s commitment to personal and professional growth. He prioritizes continuous learning, adheres to a structured agenda, and dedicates time to family. He emphasizes the importance of work-life balance, refusing to bring work home and actively participating in domestic chores as a family member rather than solely as a company executive. He remains dedicated to self-improvement, recognizing that what led to success yesterday may not suffice for tomorrow, advocating for ongoing education, training, and reading to build a better future.

In addition to his professional commitments, Ismaila actively engages in board memberships and community involvement to give back. He views these engagements as a natural extension of his purpose in life, finding fulfillment in contributing to causes beyond his immediate scope of work. Ismaila’s ability to balance his professional and personal commitments lies in effective planning, sticking to his schedules, and prioritizing tasks while remaining flexible to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

For aspiring professionals in the maritime and logistics industry, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, Ismaila offers invaluable advice. He underscores the importance of remaining optimistic, having a plan, trusting the process, and believing that something great is always on the horizon.

“Learn more than one international language, get a mentor to teach you the ropes, stay honest, have a high level of integrity, remember your values, and do not take that which doesn’t belong to you. Do not easily give up – the road to success is long, lonely, and sometimes full of setbacks”, Mr Badjie said. 

Reflecting on his life journey, Ismaila hopes to leave behind a legacy of hard work, dedication, purpose, self-belief, integrity, and love for his country. He strives to make a positive impact within the organizations he serves and in the broader community, fostering growth, creating opportunities, and empowering future leaders. Ismaila’s vision extends beyond professional accomplishments to personal relationships and contributions to society, aspiring to be remembered as a loving father, husband, brother, son, neighbor, and a gift to the world, celebrated for his impact and contributions.

As we conclude this episode, we are reminded of the profound impact one individual can have on their community and beyond. Mr. Ismaila Badjie’s journey is inspiring, illustrating the power of perseverance, integrity, and a steadfast commitment to personal and professional growth. Through his leadership, mentorship, and contributions to society, Ismaila has left an indelible mark on the maritime industry and the lives of those he has touched. As we continue on our paths, may we draw inspiration from Ismaila’s story and strive to impact our immediate surroundings and the wider world positively. Join us next week for another enlightening episode of Gambian Trailblazers.

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