“I think the whole thing is about a woman challenging a big shot,” says Aminata Toure. “This man needs to be challenged.” Toure makes no secrets about her plans to confront Senegalese President Macky Sall, whose government she once led, and of her goal to succeed him one day. The 60-year-old former prime minister has surged to prominence in Senegal, staking a claim on becoming the West African country’s first female president. Toure’s decision to sit as an independent MP has put an end to the presidential coalition’s single-seat majority, throwing Senegalese politics into flux. She fell out with Sall last month after he passed her over for the role of parliamentary speaker, even though she led his party list in legislative elections in July. In an interview with AFP at her seafront villa in Dakar, Toure accused Sall of snubbing her, alleging he planned to run for a third term in 2024 and knew she would oppose the bid. Sall has for months remained vague on whether he will seek to extend his tenure beyond the constitutional limit of two terms — an issue that in Guinea and Ivory Coast has led to explosive violence. A bid by Sall for a third term “may bring chaos to the country,” Toure warned. In 2012, when former president Abdoulaye Wade sought an unconstitutional third term, as many as 15 people are thought to have died in protests. After education in France, Toure took up work with Senegal’s branch of Planned Parenthood. “That’s when I was closest to the people,” the daughter of a doctor and a midwife said. Leyla Sharafi, a senior gender advisor at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) who worked for Toure, described her as an eager mentor to young professional women. “Aminata was a visionary and transformational leader”, Sharafi said. “She was very bold and fearless in standing up for what she believed in”. Toure first met Sall when they were teenagers attending communist meetings. They began working together closely in 2012 when Toure left a senior role with the UNFPA in New York to run Sall’s first presidential campaign. He appointed her justice minister — a job where in 2013 she introduced a landmark law allowing Senegalese women married to foreigners to pass their nationality onto their children, as men could. She also oversaw a campaign investigating former Wade cabinet ministers for corruption. One of them was Wade’s son, Karim, who could be a 2024 presidential contender. Another was Toure’s ex-husband, Oumar Sarr, the father of her first child. (She has two others with another husband and is the legal guardian of a 12-year-old orphan.) Mamadou Bamba Ndiaye, a founder of Senegal’s Workers’ Communist League and a former leader of the Movement for Socialism and Unity, described Toure as “an intellectual” and “very serious about what she does… very courageous and even a pain in the neck”. Toure became prime minister in September 2013, losing her job the following July after losing in municipal elections in Dakar. She became a legislator in last month’s elections. Female presidents in Africa, a continent where politics are conservative and society is patriarchal, are extremely rare. West Africa’s only elected female head of state has been Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia from 2006-2018 and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Others around the continent have been appointed as stand-ins, often after the death of the male president. In Toure’s favour is Senegal’s rising prosperity and democratic stability — and her cosmopolitanism. She is fluent in French and English and as comfortable chatting about Brazilian politics or the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as she is about her strategy for winning local electoral districts. But can she appeal to the average Senegalese voter?