MAGAZINE # 11 DECEMBER / JANUARY
THE SERVICE INDUSTRY IN AFRICA
SpeedMailService The solution for fast package delivery in Dakar. Oui Carry : Let’s go and place your order ! Eric Kacou A non-traditional view of entrepreneurship Tontines, First African Banks
THE BOLD AFRICAN WOMAN
EDITORIAL THE SENSE OF THE COMMON GOOD A few years ago, I was in a very interesting debate with my father. Don’t ask me what the debate was about; I forgot. However, I remember one thing: we had different point of views and there was nothing to agree on. At one point, he said: “Sit down in front of me, hold this glace of water and look through it. What do you see?” . Surprised, I answered that I was seeing him and the canvas behind him. He replied “Well; I am seeing you as well as the dining room behind you”. He went on to say: “You see, we are in the same house, sitting here next to each other, and still we don’t see the same thing. This doesn’t mean that one of us is wrong.” The reason I am telling you all this is because only now have I come to understand what he was trying to say. Reality is subjective. There are many ways to draw it, depending on each person’s point of view, influences and environment. It is a common belief that Africa represents solidarity, support, and brotherhood. Which is of course true; but false at the same time.
When looking at the facts, I realise that the African youth still has a long way to go in terms of solidarity and brotherhood. Yet, I am not questioning the numerous initiatives developed in that sense. I simply tend to think that today, those initiatives have to conquer and be more aggressive. We have not completely realized the essence of creating synergies. Welded as corn grains, we need to face Africa’s new challenges. We have to fling aside, together. It is a daily battle. I am convinced that Africa’s future will happen through a youth that has a sense of the common good. So, while you are reading this issue, think and ask yourselves: What project(s) do I want to support? How can I contribute to it? If you can’t find an answer, no problem! You can always reach out to us, we are here to serve you, we will know how to guide you. Enjoy your read. Joan Yombo
CONTENTS P . 6 - INSPIR’ NEWS
P. 9 - COUP DE CŒUR PAKWATHU: The best way to find a house in Malawi P. 11 - INSPIR’ INTERVIEW SPEEDMAILSERVICE, the solution for fast package delivery in dakar P. 17 - INSPIR’ ASSOCIATION IZWI : The home for Afropreneurs P. 19 - DARE TO INSPIRE Connected health in Africa P. 22 - INSPIR’ START-UP OuiCarry, let’s go and place your order ! P. 26 - INSPIR’ CAREER Christal Beeko, the African Bold Woman P. 32 - INSPIR’ ECO Eric Kacou, a non-traditional view of entrepreneurship P. 37 - INSPIR’ THOUGHTS What to do with a new world ? P. 41 - 4 QUESTIONS TO « Les Transports Citadins » P. 43 - FOCULTURE Tontines: financial alternatives in Africa
INSPIRE AFRIKA DECEMBER / JANUARY GENERAL DIRECTOR Chrys Eve Nyetam
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Joan Murielle Yombo
MAGAZINE # 11 DECEMBER / JANUARY
THE SERVICE INDUSTRY IN AFRICA
EDITOR ASSOCIATE Opemipo Akisanya TRANSLATION Anita Bakal
SpeedMailService The solution for fast package delivery in Dakar.
MARKETING DIRECTOR Amma Aburam
Oui Carry : Let’s go and place your order ! Eric Kacou A non-traditional view of entrepreneurship Tontines, First African Banks
THE BOLD AFRICAN WOMAN
PUBLIC RELATIONS Ivan Nyetam PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSITANT Hyacinthe Issombo GRAPHISM AND ILLUSTRATION Raphaël Kalinowski
CONTRIBUTORS : Leyla Ismaily, blogger Julie Wang’ombe, Speech writer Marylène Owona, for OSER L’AFRIQUE Aliou Nia, Photographer All Rights Reserved for All Countries Reproduction Prohibited for all items and articles except with a written agreement of the editorial team 4
Marine Reed Photographe Lieu: Centre commercial confluence Mannequins : Koura, Maeve et Marie Antoinette.
01 / A NEW LOOK FOR TOTEM TV
Itâ€™s been a month now that TOTEM TV has a new website layout. The web-media available since a year and a half now aims to make a link between legacy, modernity and lifestyle. You will find thousands of videos, articles as well as web conferences with Afro-Caribbean world experts. The web TV is going even further by launching the TOTEM BOX, the first box entirely dedicated to the Afro-Caribbean culture.
Discover the African culture through TOTEM on www.totem-world.com
THE AFRICAN BUSINESS CLUB IS ORGANIZING THE AFRICAN INVESTMENT FORUM
On November 29, the African Business Club organizes an Investment Forum, where people will talk about investment in Africa. This forum is aimed at promoting African economies. During the day, some African countries will be given the opportunity to attract investors and entrepreneurs. It is also an opportunity to meet companies and investment funds. If you want to participate to this event, register here
03 / A PURPLE WINTER FOR INESKA CREATIONS Marine Reed Photographe Lieu: Centre commercial confluence Mannequins : Koura, Maeve et Marie Antoinette.
collection go on www.ineskacreations.com
On November 7, Ines Ngono presented her new collection fall/winter 2013-2014 in Lyon. The collection was realized on the theme “art and loincloth”, in which Bazin and purple were in the spotlight. The fashion designer is planning an exposition in Lyon in 2014. The Goal of this exposition is to promote the wax through original pieces of designers coming from different horizons. If you want to see INESKA CREATIONS new
04/ CALL FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS
ESSEC Business School launch the 2014 Competition of Social Entrepreneurship for students. It is a competition on social business plan for students and recent graduates. The goal is to identify and to follow the most innovative projects. The winners of the last year competition were the inventor of the Faso Soap ! Your project can be the next one to get the price. If you have a social/or environmental project that you want to make famous, don’t hesitate and send your candidacy before December 1st 2013 on http://www.gsvc-essec.org Sources photos http://stylinmag.com
For more news follow us on : • Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/inspireafrika • Twitter : https://twitter.com/InspireAfrika • Blog : http://inspireafrika.blogspot.fr 7
COUP DE COEUR
PAKWATHU The best way to find a house in Malawi
Gonjetso is yet to turn 25 but he is already running two companies. This student in Management of Information Systems launched Pakwathu, an online real estate agency dedicated to Malawians. In the following Q&A, we find out his company and his passion for entrepreneurship.
Hello Gonjetso! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers? I am 22, and I am from Blantyre a city in Malawi. I am in my final year studying for a BSc in Management Information Systems at The Polytechnic, University of Malawi. I have a passion for art, photography, poetry and music. So in short, I love anything artistic. I am also a marketing enthusiast and a bookworm. I believe the best leaders are readers. Introduce us to Twenty2 Creative Agency. Twenty2 Creative Agency is a design firm that creates advertising and other communication materials. So our work revolves around creating advertising strategies and campaigns, and creating the actual work whether itâ€™s print, digital, television or radio. What is Pakwathu? What services do you propose? In brief, Pakwathu is the place to go in Malawi if you are looking for property to buy or let, or if you are a property owner and want to sell or rent out your property. There are several things unique about Pakwathu, the first being that it is online. The second unique feature that Pakwathu has is its unique search and property viewing features. The third specificity of our platform is that it has property from all over Malawi so it does not limit its property to major cities in the way other traditional advertising media do.
What made you choose that business model? The Pakwathu model was chosen to provide a quick and stress-free way to find property. We noticed that there were several problems in the way property was advertised. Prior to Pakwathu, there was no media that fully described properties, or listed enough properties to allow people to find what they were looking for. Pakwathu aims to solve those problems. The number of internet users and mobile phone owners is growing in Malawi and that is why we chose to be online. It means that people can now find a property from the comfort of their homes either on their computers or mobile phones; and view the properties without stepping a foot outside their homes. Youâ€™ve been shortlisted for the Anzisha prize1. Tell us a little bit more about that! Being an Anzisha finalist was one of the best experiences in my life. The skills and knowledge that I gained from the team at African Leadership Academy was invaluable. My fellow finalists were some of the most amazing people I have met, with inspiring businesses and visions for their community. I also learnt a lot from them. Their passion was just contagious. I am proud to be an Anzisha fellow! Interviewed by Joan Yombo 1 The Anzisha Prize is the premier award for African entrepreneurs aged 15-22 who have developed and implemented innovative businesses or community projects.
Visit Pakwathu website here www.pakwathu.com
If there is one thing that irritates us back home, it’s our impossibly slow postal service. Delays are to long and the non existent client service to mention a few. Sending a package is like Mission Impossible and quite pricey, especially for companies. Youssou N’Diaye is one of those who have understood that something needs to be done about this. Let’s meet him.
SPEEDMAILSERVICE : THE SOLUTION FOR FAST PACKAGE DELIVERY IN DAKAR.
Hello Youssou ! Can you please introduce yourself to our readers ? My name is Youssou N’diaye and I was born in Dakar, Senegal. I studied there from primary to middle-school. After I obtained my baccalaureate in science in 2002, I traveled to France. I did a preparatory school and then joined an engineering school in Lyon, in which I specialized in applied mathematics. After my studies, I interned at Credit Agricole and was offered to stay on after my internship. However, I refused the offer because I wanted to go back home to Senegal. Admittedly, at that time, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do there, I only knew that I loved entrepreneurship, challenges and strives. While studying I participated in vouloir entreprendre (desiring entrepreneurship), a regional contest for young entrepreneurs. My team won the third place prize for inventing Protexu, a fold-able bike helmet. It was at that moment that my passion for entrepreneurship was confirmed.
You went back to Senegal after many years in France. How was the return, how did you prepare for it and what are some of the difficulties you faced ? I often returned to Dakar, just so I wouldn’t be too disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, it is not by spending a few weeks back home that you understand how the country functions. By settling back there, you learn it all again. It is kind of like a child who learns to walk again. Realities have changed, ways of working are no longer the same. In Europe, things are well-organized, here it is not always the case. You don’t really know who to go to, you don’t necessarily get the right information at the right time. That is why you need to go ahead and conduct researches in order to get a grip of the market. There is a major difficulty in Africa: financial resources. The State offers no support and banks are frivolous. I think they don’t do their job, meaning they do not take risks or finance the economy. I had to auto finance everything which is not necessarily easy. 12
Speaking of that, have you noticed any How did the idea for SpeedMail come about ? improvement since 2009? There are for What does it offer ? example more and more company incubators, it is an alternative to the financial issues. At that time I had a friend interning at a package It depends on the sectors. In the Information transport company in Dakar. He inspired the idea. technology industry progress has been made. The I realized there was a huge potential to exploit in government is putting certain operations into place the sector. Even better, is that there are not a lot such as the priority investment fund or the BNDE1; of people on that market. Before I went back to a bank that will accompany local entrepreneurs Dakar, I had developed the idea with two friends. and will provide financial solutions for small and We applied for the ABC Innovation competition medium companies. This is supposed to happen and won first place. The competition allowed us in January 2014. These solutions however can be to go for it and most importantly finance part of picked apart. These structures are often set up the project. with no real action behind it. They are set up to satisfy only certain political clients. Generally there Since then we have been on the market and strive are a lot of theories, supported by no actions for to give our customers quality services. We are these solutions. in charge of sending express packages across What could actually be interesting is to push a few Dakar, 98% of the time we work with companies. individuals who can afford it to participate in fruitful It is strategic positioning. At the moment B to B projects. It is up to the states to create these is much more profitable. It is also more reliable incentives to get individuals to finance companies. because we can sign contracts with companies I am specifically thinking of tax reductions or giving and get constant revenues. In addition to this, fiscal advantages for financing certain projects. companies have a volume of packages to send What is trending right now and is actually great is that is quite important. However, we also offer that people are no longer waiting for governments. services to individuals: taking checks to banks, They take action. Most of the financial aid that delivering lunches etc. We are partners with occurs is from family or close friends. OuiCarry, a delivery company based in France (see Inspirâ€™Start-Up, page 22) 13
What is SpeedMail’s competitive advantage compared to La Poste, UPS or DHL ? Starting with La Poste ; our advantage here is our trustworthiness and reliability. La Poste works but functions painfully. People have lost trust in this service. Now with services such as UPS or DHL, I must say we don’t exactly do the same thing. They are very internationally focused and don’t offer local service as we do. We have set up a tracking system which never existed even at our direct competitors. It allows clients to track where their package is if they wanted to. Do you plan to expand throughout Senegal or even the entire continent ? We want to have a national coverage and are working on that at the moment but I must admit that it is costly. We have asked for financial help from the government and hope that it will come through, so that we can grow the Speed Mail Service concept. In terms of the entire continent, that will have to wait (laughs). Borderline, countries such as Mali or Guinea are quite behind in this domain, we can imagine settling there. But the instability in these countries is quite discouraging. For central Africa and Anglophone countries, we need solid financial support before going into that because they are very dynamic markets with a lot
of competition. You mentioned Oui Carry, care to share more about them ? Ah yes OuiCarry, very interesting... I met Olabissi, the CEO when I was in Lyon. We participated in certain African associations together and he mentioned OuiCarry to me once. The project involved sending personal packages for Africans living in France. His reasoning was simple : to send packages to families, people usually go through DHL (that’s expensive), or via family and friends. They have to then, wait for someone who is going back home in order to send packages back home. He decided to offer a fast delivery services for these people, at affordable rates of course. The first package was sent on the 26th of July 2012, if I recall correctly. Eventually, we realized people wanted to purchase items on European websites but didn’t have the right payment tools. Also, these sites do not deliver in Dakar. OuiCarry then developed their offer into that direction and was an immediate hit. Today, OuiCarry, gets at least 150 orders every month. Speed Mail Service’s role in the process is to receive the package in Dakar and make the transaction there after OuiCarry has taken care of sending it.
What does Speed Mail Service look like in numbers ? Good question. Our annual revenue is 30 000 euros. Considering we financed it all ourselves and are still paying our debts, the business is just about profitable. Our balance sheet is at 0. We hope to raise our benefit margin during the second semester in 2014. We are a total of ten on staff. 14
there is a lot of potential in the internet business here today.
Anything else to add ? I would like to say that there is a lot of potential in the internet business here today. New jobs such webmasters, developers, community managers are real gold mines on the continent at the moment. The difficulty now is setting up e-commerce jobs, especially in Francophone countries. We need to understand that it not just about existing but also working effectively. E-commerce requires diverse skills: being a good sales-person, because it is important to have a sales discourse that is coherent with what you are selling. To be good at information technology is a minimum requirement to work in the field in order to offer an easy and user friendly website for customers. Finally, you need to be a master of the logistics, and that is where we have a problem. People want to buy cheap stuff and have it delivered at a low cost as well, as fast as possible. So, you have to respond to this double demand. With OuiCarry, people come and find what they are interested in and we know what they buy. Itâ€™s a mini market study. I would say that we need to get into e-commerce by offering services in a way that is adapted to our markets but we are not there yet.
Interviewed by Joan Yombo
Visit SpeedMailService website www.speedmailservice.com
Marine Reed Photographe Lieu: Centre commercial confluence Mannequins : Koura, Maeve et Marie Antoinette.
Founded in 2010 IZWI was born with the goal to equip entrepreneurs
IZWI : THE HOME FOR AFROPRENEURS
Despite leaving home to migrate to Europe at a very young age, Clarah Manuhwa never lost ties with her native country of Zimbabwe. In the light of all the economic problems facing her place of birth, Clarah reveals how she and a few friends decided to start IZWI. It is “a platform for young African entrepreneurs where they can bridge the information gap on how to start a business: licensing, accounting, as well as benefiting from mentorship programs” she said. Founded in 2010 while Manuhwa was back in Zimbabwe after her first year at University, IZWI was born with the goal to equip entrepreneurs. They do this by engaging the youth in conversation through forums, encouraging them to think outside the box and to dream big. A core principle of the organization is ensuring that their client base - the African youth - get what they need. A practical example of this was in the 2012 youth summit that was organized by IZWI in Tanzania. In collaboration with ZAYRAH1 it focused on youth leadership. “It came at a time when the youth felt that leadership and comprehensive policies were lacking in the continent; resulting in the need to come together and discuss what leadership means to them”, said Manuhwa. The next forum is planned to take place in late December or early January. Indeed, 2014 will be a great year for IZWI. Like Manuhwa said herself, “The whole team will be in Zimbabwe since we will open an incubator where young entrepreneurs will be able to work”. Two words attract our attention: “Team” and “incubator”. The IZWI team consists of four native Zimbabweans: Clarah Manuhwa who is the founder and director. Trevor Chomumwe who recently moved back to 17
1 ZAYRAH is a youth led Development Agency that focuses on Peace building and Socio-economic Development in Fragile States (Post - Conflict Reconstruction)
Zimbabwe from South Africa who is the project space co-ordinator. Musimba Gamia the organisation’s graphic designer who has been instrumental in ensuring IZWI knows what’s happening on the ground. And Patience Mushamiri, a colleague of Clarah at university, who completes the set of four. What about the incubator? Clarah want afropreneurs to “feel at home.” Actually, there will be two incubators: one in Harare and another one in Bulawayo. Each will be built on three fundamental pillars namely: Business Incubation Clinic, Innovation Research and Development (R&D) Lab and Skills Academy for Co-creation. The Business Incubator clinic will be a space for afropreneurs to schedule a one-to-one mentorship session with experts to check up or diagnose their businesses. Manuhwa explained to us, “It is really like an hospital for entrepreneurs. You can visit the business incubation clinic when you want to give a brand new shape to your business”. Mentors are experts who will be drawn from a wide range of professors to successful business people willing to share their knowledge. The second pillar of Innovation Research and Development lab is built on the fact that most African businesses don’t spend a lot of time on research and IZWI aims to change that. “We have
found that the smallest team in a company is usually the research team”, report Manuhwa. She goes on saying “We want research to be a great part of how somebody start up their business”. IZWI’s team wants to attract people who wish to test out their products and services before exposing them to the market. They will select projects that have the potential to expand. Additionally, once the product has been launched one can always come back and seek guidance on where and how to improve. The third pillar is a skills academy for co-creation – IZWI will also develop a platform where people can bring and take away skills. So, they will post job offers, but will also show people with specific skills that can help entrepreneurs. It will be a resource for businesses willing to hire specific skilled professionals. For the most part what makes the IZWI incubator model unique is the fact that it’s truly tailored to meet the African needs. In fact, “most incubators are using applications or solutions that do not always meet Afropreneurs needs” specify Manuhwa. Most notably is the online store they plan to set up which will provide a space for their clients’ to sell their products online. Subsequently there is no discrimination in relation to the selection criteria; they are open to even the “craziest” idea imaginable. The long-term goals for the organization in relation to Africa include illustrating to afropreneurs with special attention to SMEs on how to source financing for expansion thus creating employment and a sustainable economy. IZWI will be one of these incubators selling the African experience to Afropreneurs so they can know the specificities of the African market. By Leyla Ismaily
Visit IZWI association website on http://izwionline.org
Dare to INSPIRE CONNECTED HEALTH IN AFRICA As part of the tertiary sector, health is a vital point often overlooked by African governments: 32 out of 53 countries spend less than $ 20 per capita. In addition, staff resources are insufficient. According to the WHO, out of the 4 million doctors, nurses and caregivers needed worldwide, 1 million would be from the African continent alone. Added to this are the remoteness of health facilities, poor quality of care and the lack of infrastructure.
Marylène Owona for Dare To Inspire As the main advantage of an emerging Africa, the continent’s youth have great difficulty in access to care and must turn to a very limited informal sector. Given all this, one of the options for addressing the failures of the system is undoubtedly e-health. Subject to both hopes and fantasies, fusing both old and new, is e-health really the solution? Here are in 5 points all you need to know about the issue.
1. WHAT IS E-HEALTH? According to the WHO, e-health is «the applied use of electronic communications and information technology to the health sector.» It aims to improve the quality of care, train health professionals to make the system efficient and to facilitate access to care. It faces many challenges including disease prevention, data protection and access to medical deserts. 2. IS THIS EXPERIMENTAL? Yes and no. It was 15 years ago that Africa first successfully combined health and ICT. The success in this area stems from the democratization of mobile phones. The turnover of mobile phone operators in Africa alone, accounts for 5% of the continent’s GDP. The rise of mobile telephony allows people to receive a communication platform at low cost. With 650 million phones, the African market is mature. And so much the better, is potentially the number of people that could be affected by health applications. Watching your weight, taking blood tests, taking medication - advances in the field of e-health is dazzling. Yet a major challenge remains: How best to incorporate these practices to potential users. Few subscribe to SMS services and many feed mistrust vis-à-vis the formal health systems, preferring to turn to traditional healers. An important educational work remains to be done, as for many things related to technology in Africa. 19
3. ARE APPLICATIONS LIMITED? No. Today, the main applications focus on improving the treatment of cardiovascular disease or diabetes. For example, Cardiopad tablet developed by Arthur Zang, a young Cameroonian engineer can perform electrocardiograms distance. Nevertheless, the positive results achieved in these areas are valued as Research and Development. The pioneers in this field are successful and will shortly allow other engineers to develop further innovation. One could imagine applications for pregnant women, for schools, or even applications educating workers in factories or plantations with the need to protect themselves. The operating range is wide. 4. LA E-SANTÉ PERMET-ELLE DE REMPLACER LES DÉFAILLANCES DU SYSTÈME DE SANTÉ ? No, but it helps to identify those failures and improve the system where possible. The leverage created by improved access to care for a segment of the population is certain. By developing effective ways to share and store patient information, e-health simplifies the path to widespread health insurance. However, an army of engineers cannot replace the failed health systems. The state remains the main guarantor of the health of its citizens. 5. WHAT’S NEXT? We could move to an e-health system where every stakeholder is involved in the vulgarization process. Although, its utility is not questionable, it remains the case that e-health adoption is complex. End users must be involved. Each user that has been aided by a particular health application should be encouraged to promote it to an acquaintance. Let’s apply the methods that work on the continent, such as the word of mouth method used by traditional doctors. E- recommendation is another channel to explore as well. However, this involves implementing a marketing strategy specific to the domain and led by communication agencies that would both raise the necessary funds and bring together stakeholders.
OUI CARRY : LET’S GO AND PLACE YOUR ORDER !
Originally from Benin, Olabissi Adjovi left his home country after he graduated from high school and went to an engineering school in Lyon, France. Later on, he attend the ESCP Europe Business School, where he obtained a Specialized Master in Entrepreneurship. Convinced that all risks should be taken when we are young, he is today the founder and manager of a start-up which aims to facilitate package delivery from Paris to Dakar. We have met him for you. When did the OuiCarry adventure begin ? I needed to send presents to Benin. I was in Paris and I remember I had so much difficulty sending it at that time. I realized that there had to be a solution to make sending packages to Africa easy. At first we had in mind setting in place a service with which people could send packages from Paris to Senegal. We quickly realized that the demand was also the other way round. People in Senegal wanted to get their hands on European products but could not get them easily. How did you finance the creation of your company ? It was entirely auto-financed. I created a simplified action company with the home office is in Paris. It is an interesting position for start ups. It allows us to attract people to join our capital and also attracts investors. I started it with a 1000 euros in capital. We started with very little but what really helped was the incubator at the school I was in. We had access to working areas for free and being surrounded by other entrepreneurs was also very helpful. We all faced the same problems more or less so we learnt from our collective experiences. It is thanks to these people that I was able to pen my company status, even though I reached out to my lawyer afterwards. A lawyer I got in touch with thanks to the association Oser l’Afrique. 22
Can you explain the concept ? How does the platform work exactly ? Imagine you are in Dakar and you see an item you like on zolando.fr, the problem you face instantly is that zolando does not deliver in Dakar and refuses non-European credit cards. You can then contact OuiCarry and ask for a delivery by filling out a demand form. When we receive the form, we create a bill ; once the bill is accepted, we buy the product for you and we have it delivered at your door in Senegal.
These delays increase costs instantly. OuiCarry is more adapted to French and European e-Commerce websites. How is the merchandise delivered, are you partners with airline companies ? We mainly deliver by air and the delivery time is about one week. Shipment delivery is rare, we use that for sizeable packages. Some clients ask for shipping, especially if they are not in a hurry to receive the package, even though it is quite rare. We do not really have partnerships with airline companies, we work with transport commissions; that is how most freight agencies work. We often work with Corsair as they have a direct flight between Paris and Dakar and are much cheaper than many other companies. We sometimes go through Brussels airlines as well. We pick according to prices, delays and availabilities of the flights. We sometimes use DHL for clients that ask for an urgent delivery. The advantage of OuiCarry is that we don’t charge border fees, we take care of that. We are also very committed to client service and assistance during an order. Being an internet service is of course also a great advantage. What makes us different is that we enable people who do not have European bank cards or no bank cards at all to order items on their favorite shopping websites. When does SpeedMailService1 intervene in the delivery process ?
What are the restrictions in delivering some of these products ? Some of our restrictions include not being able to deliver weapon replicas such as paintball guns, airsoft or explosives (such as fireworks) simply because it is not allowed in airline transport. There are products that we can deliver but simply do not because it is not ethical to us, such as skin bleaching products and live animals. We also have high status websites such as Amazon, tati.fr or “rue de commerce”. Some clients ask for products on American websites; at that level the procedure gets complicated because we have to pay extra taxes and some delays are quite long. 23
As soon as the order is made, clients have to pay a reservation fee at the point of sale for the SpeedMail service. For safety, we do not purchase online in advance. When the package is bought and arrives in Senegal SpeedMailService takes care of receiving it. They also take care of border fees and home delivery. SpeedMailService takes care of the full payment of our service by our clients. Except when clients have credit cards and simply want to send their package from Paris to Dakar.
1 See Inspir’Interview : SpeedMailService, the solution for fast package delivery in Dakar.
How about the limited access to internet in Dakar, does that pose a threat and do you see it as a problem for your service? Before we began we knew this would be a structural problem and that it would limit the number of clients we could have. However, the market still exists. In Senegal, there are 800 000 people on Facebook, which suggests that many people can access the internet. Why did you target Senegal specifically ? Because SpeedMailService was there. It was an opportunity I grabbed. How does one get organized when getting into a business such as OuiCarry, what are some of the roadblocks? What you need to pay attention to are borders. It is the most complicated aspect of the process. You need to understand how it works, prices etc. There is a huge difference between what you learn and what actually happens on the ground . We are concerned with issues such as, do I deliver regularly? How many packages do I send? Is my transition smooth? All these aspects need to be determined or at least carefully considered. What is OuiCarry’s most successful product ? Without being too cliched, men order a lot of electronic gadgets whereas women order clothes, shoes and perfumes. We even created a page specifically for perfumes because we realized there was a real demand for it. Interviewed by Joan Yombo
There is a huge difference between what you learn and what actually happens on the ground.
Visit OuiCarry website on http://ouicarry.com
Meet Christal Jeanne Beeko, The African Bold Woman
Inspir’CAREER She is one of the first Africans of our generation who realized very early that the time has come for Africa. After obtaining her bachelor degree in Economics in Canada, Christal Jeanne Beeko decided to go back to Ghana, her home country. Few years later, she is now the Producer of her own show – the BE BOLD Show – where she aims to reverse the brain drain faced by Africa. She shares with us the path to her success in both, professional and personal life.
On taking the Bold Step It was difficult to decide to take the bold Step. Literally, I had to close my eyes, take the jump, and see where my feet will land. When I lived in Canada, my Ghanaians colleagues and I were always complaining about the situation back home and mostly about things that are not working out. One day I realized how easy it is to complain when far from the problem and I asked myself: are we really doing something to fix all those problems? This is when I decided to move back to Ghana. I was always telling people that we needed to go back home, but I was still living overseas. So, as soon as I graduated, I just decided to go back home. I only had one interview and I didnâ€™t have a job. Once I got the job I really needed to re-adapt with my family since I lived alone for 4 years. It is always beautiful when you just land, but after few months you start to feel the frustrations. I started to experience the problems Ghanaians workers face and I started a blog about that. Despite all those difficulties, I was sure back then that moving back to Ghana was the best decision of my life. I knew it was the right thing to do because all my life I believed I have been brought to this earth for a purpose; which is leaving through the examples that I am able to share with people, showing them what the challenges are and telling them how to overcome them. Just by listening to the people I interview, I learn so much from them and I get inspired myself.
An Economics Major who became a TV Anchor. I landed in the media industry by chance. Even though I had studied Economics, I came back to Ghana to work for an event company which also owns a TV Station, a radio station, and a PR Company. So it was a perfect fit for me because at that point I wasnâ€™t really sure of what I wanted to do with my life. I had the chance to try out all the different departments, and I became the business news anchor for E-TV Ghana. I needed my economics knowledge because you have a lot of constant business and economics terms to deal with; and it came natural to me, thanks to my background. However, I really had to work on how to present on live television. University is only about getting the knowledge, and you might or might not need that knowledge depending on the career you perform. My knowledge in economics gave me the confidence, the skills and the implication I needed to perform my first job. For instance I had to constantly work hard to meet the deadlines no matter what it took. My implication and my motivation were the only way to take my life to the next step. The BE BOLD SHOW: The Beginnings It was first an event bringing together Ghanaians from the diaspora who came for the holidays with employers here in Ghana. The first part of the event was dedicated to networking with people bringing their business cards and sharing their backgrounds. The second part was a talk combined with entertaining activities. So before or after a Fashion show for instance, we would invite entrepreneurs who would talk to the audience about the difficulties to start a business in Ghana, or a young worker who would explain the different steps he has to go through when moving back to
Ghana and why it was important to come back. It was also a platform where people could find a job and send a resume and get interviewed here in Ghana. We didnâ€™t have an office and we were operating from home and from different countries. The BE BOLD SHOW: The Difficulties Sponsorship is a real problem for entrepreneurs. I am not only talking about the show; I figured out that a lot of young entrepreneurs have difficulties to get the capital to start their business and make it into something that can be internationally competitive. Now concerning the show, we realized that people prefer to sponsor entertainment event such as concerts over an edutainment program maybe because it is not a celebrity you are interviewing. However, we had to compromise with what we stand for to get the sponsorship that we need and introduce some entertainment. Now we can get people to pay for advertisement during our airtime. It is also interesting to see how entrepreneurs that come into the show are supporting each other and are also supporting us. It is incredible to see that those who do not have much are those who give to the show. A strategy to attract sponsors The only strategy we have is working hard on the concept of the show. If the show is very successful, we will not need to go to sponsors, they will come to us. Just like when we started, we used to go to people to have them on the show. Now, a lot of people are contacting us because they see the potential of the show. Similarly, we want to work on our show by getting a good time on TV. When meeting a sponsor, we show the pitch of the show, the number of viewers, how we are
able to reach people all over the world. These are things sponsors need to see: numbers. So, when you are doing your presentation it is basically about convincing them on how it’s going to benefit them. When approaching a sponsor, you need to bear in mind that no company wants to give you money if it does not benefit them in any way. The numbers are key. On choosing a name for the show Choosing the name of a business or a company is the most difficult step an entrepreneur has to complete. For the show for instance, we wanted a name that tells a story before a person hears it from us. However, these days, you have companies such as apple or blackberry that are successful. If you get a name that can capture your audience and use your advertising to explain to people what it is, you are good to go.
The meaning of “BE BOLD” We wanted a name that really represented everything we were doing. “BE BOLD” is a powerful phrase and it can mean so many different things. But the acronym itself stands for Bringing Education and Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development. This definition really captures what we are doing at the BE BOLD show. We wanted our audience to understand that the people we are interviewing are being bold in specific areas such as leadership or entrepreneurship. It is important to mention that the show is not only about people who started their companies; but it’s also about people who are working for a company and find how they can be bold as well. For us, education is the key to reduce brain drain and increase brain gain. The only way to foster the brain gain is by educating people. We also highlights opportunities that entrepreneurs are creating because when they are starting the business they are giving jobs to people that were previously unemployed and they are helping economic growth. Because of what we do, a lot of companies are coming to us and are asking us for skilled people that can understand the concept of efficiency, and innovation. We truly believe that Africa will develop through education and entrepreneurship. The First Step to have a successful venture The first step is really about defining what you have to do and what you are trying to convey to people. It is important because if you don’t know what you want to do, how do you want to accomplish it? How do you want your program to be successful if you don’t have a direction? You need to have specific 29
goals and ask yourself important questions such as where do I want to be in 5 years? What do I want to accomplish? What do you want people to feel when looking at your program or looking at your product? Once you have that you are ready to go. For example, at The BE BOLD show we want people to feel like they can help and we would like them to understand that they are in charge of their future.
On the people she works with If you want to be successful, you have to surround yourself with positive - very positive - people. This is not only for your business, but it also works for people in your life. You will always reach a point in your life where keeping up positivity around you is very important. You need to be with people who are hard workers, people with goals and dreams. These are the kind of people we work with at the show. If you don’t have a dream it will be hard to work with us because this is all the show is about: Having a dream and realizing it; it’s about finding a way to help. You also need people who are creative and innovative. Most importantly, you need people who have the skills that you need to be successful and competitive. On Being a Woman of Worth1 It was a really interesting experience and I was humbled to be chosen as a Woman of Worth. The WolfPack team made me realize that the work I am doing is being noticed and most importantly that it has an impact. It’s always a pride to see how many of us women are doing great things out there. I love the fact that we were able to go to different platforms to also talk to young women 1 Organized by the WolfPack Group, the WolfPack Women Of Worth campaign is a motivational ad-campaign which aims to inspire young girls to be leaders and to take an active role in their life
about what it takes to be a woman of worth. I am convinced that it is important for young people to hear these inspirational stories so they can realize that they have the potential to make a difference. I think that one of the biggest problems is that sometimes people get lost in their personal issues and come up with many excuses. However, I always say that at the end of the day, your real success is overcoming the challenges and making a difference in any way despite your issues. We can all be thinking about these issues we are facing individually, but we need to remember that there is a bigger picture. If all these women of worth were able to be role models in their different industries, it means that anyone can do it. It is a mindset. It’s been a great experience and I’ve loved every step of the way.
Advices for those willing to take the BOLD Step I would say, considering how I started my bold step coming from Canada, you need to have a plan stating exactly what you want to accomplish in your life. When you move back to Africa there will be a lot of challenges that you will face when starting your business or even when looking for a job. Transportation is not always cheap. You need to think about how you will pay for your apartment etc. You need to consider cultural differences and see how it will affect you as a person, and how it will affect your career goals. You need to realize that finding a job is not easy in 30
Africa. You don’t have a site where you have a wonderful job waiting for you. You have to be aggressive and prove yourself to the company you want to work for. Salaries are completely different from overseas and you have to accept that. However, you will always have great opportunities to grow and to be happy. At the end, we all want to be happy; so have a plan for your happiness. Interviewed by Chrys Nyetam
At the end, we all want to be happy; so have a plan for your happiness.
Watch the program run ! http://thebeboldshow.com
A NON-TRADITIONAL VIEW OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Introducing someone like Eric Kacou is not the easiest thing to do. He studied at some of the world’s greatest universities – MBA from The Wharton School and MPA from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government – and also advised over a dozen African and Caribbean nations as an expert in post-conflict economic reconstruction. He leads the Rwanda National Innovation and Competitiveness program, which is credited with helping to revitalize Rwanda’s economy and fuel the growth of entrepreneurship and exports. Passionate about Entrepreneurship, he is the Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners (ESP), which helps “small and medium businesses to expand their scope and their capacities to deliver strategies”. Operating in Haiti, as well as in East and West Africa, Eric Kacou is indeed an expert on entrepreneurship. In this in-depth interview, he talks about entrepreneurship with passion and wisdom. Inspire Afrika: Tell us more about the ESP Fellowship Program. What profiles are you looking for? The ESP Fellowship is a program where aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals interested gain a firsthand experience and consultation on how business is conducted in Africa. The goal of the ESP Fellowship Program is to expose young entrepreneurs and professionals to what we do. During the program, they can see what is happening in the companies and countries where we work. We are looking for people who see themselves as entrepreneurs. The 2014 Fellowship program applications are already open and we are looking for people interested in Haiti and Africa. The perfect candidate is someone who is innovative, hard worker, self-starter, and who is willing to make a difference. This program is as an excellent opportunity for the candidates to really push forward their plans.onner une grande impulsion à ses projets personnels. 32
I.A: Let’s talk about entrepreneurship in Africa, a continent where banks do not lend money to entrepreneurs. How can an entrepreneur who does not have a network, but has a good business idea find funding? E.K : Let me answer this question by pointing out three facts. The issue of banks not lending money to young entrepreneurs is not an African problem. This is a worldwide problem about entrepreneurship. Commercial Banks goal is not to do venture funding. Venture funding is either done by venture capital funds and/or business Angels. It is a very important distinction that people should understand. The solution is not to blame banks for not lending money to young entrepreneurs; we rather need to create alternative source of financing which are more adjusted and adapted to the financial help entrepreneurs are looking for. I will introduce my second point by saying that the best way to fund your business, is by getting customers. What a customer does is covering your costs by paying you for a product or a service. No amount of money that you will get from a bank or from a venture capital can replace a lack of customers. This is the reason why entrepreneurs should get customers as soon as possible because this is the only way for them to get funding, to grow, and to have a successful business. The last but not the less useful tool to get funding is skill; you need skills to execute successfully the business model. Sometimes, we take the lack of funding as an excuse, and we forget that they are things we can do. African entrepreneurs need to realize that being an entrepreneur is hard everywhere in the world, not only in Africa. However, if you can get customers, and have the right skills to execute your strategy, it’s easier to convince Business Angels or venture funds to support you. I.A: You point out business Angels and Venture Capital. How and where can one find a venture capital willing to fund an entrepreneur coming out of nowhere? E.K: I actually have a problem with the mindset you bring to the question. I have seen this so many times with young people like you and me. We focus a lot on what we don’t have. If I want to help you, I have to tell you that people will never give an entrepreneur money unless he can prove 33
his business model is applicable. Even if you go to a venture fund, they will not give you money just because you are a young entrepreneur with an idea. Young people have idea all the time. I don’t know about you, but I have 20 ideas per day. Out of these hundreds idea I have each year, only one is exploitable. The only way to prove that an idea can be turn into a successful venture is by convincing someone else. Period. Young entrepreneurs should not focus on money to start their businesses. To find a solution we need to ask the right question: how to make sure that your business idea is viable? The only way to know it, is to make someone to buy from you. It breaks my heart to see young entrepreneurs spending time going to one bank after the other and getting the whole bunch of no. On the opposite, if they go to the customers, they might see the value of what you are trying to sell and are ready to give you money for your product whenever it is ready. It is a better way to see the problems. I.A: I agree. But the thing is even if you have customers, you need to have enough money to manufacture your product or to set up the service that you want to provide. E.K: I am not sure I agree on that. It is difficult to convince people to give you money for your project. People do not fund projects, people funds businesses. If you come to a bank and say “I have an order for 10,000 tons of something.” That order alone set a different tone to the conversation. I know some people will tell you yes. Talk to banks and give them some guarantees. I know projects with guarantees that amount two or three times what we want the bank to give us but which are not receiving money. I wish I can tell you something different. I think the proof of somebody being a successful entrepreneur is the ability to convince somebody else. So the entrepreneur needs to come up with something to convince the person in front of him that the product he wants to sell or the service he wants to provide has some value and get an order. It will lead you to a point where you can get funding in a sustainable way. Maybe you will get some friends and family to give you money, but they will never give you enough to start the business and scale before selling to customers. The quicker you engage with customers, the more you are able to actually make your business work.
I.A: You also point out skills. However, it is well spread that there is a skills problem in our continent? E.K: I need to say something here. Sometimes we Africans present the continent like we have the monopoly of problems. I do not believe that Africa has the monopoly of problem. Why? Because the number of problem that we are facing in Africa have been faced by people in other parts of the word. I am not trying to negate the challenges but I’m just saying that we Africans need to know that even an entrepreneur in America encounters problems too. Having said that, the point you are making on skills is a very important one. For me, being an entrepreneur is embarking on a lifelong learning journey. Each day, an entrepreneur deals with things that are new and sometimes challenging. He needs to embrace change to overcome them. Therefore, you don’t have all the resources and skills to know everything you are supposed to know. The thing to keep in mind is that they are a lot of resources out there: Blogs, websites, other entrepreneurs, friends and family, books. We are in the Information age. I.A: Do you really think the information is out there in Africa? Is it that easy for an entrepreneur to find the right information for his company? E.K: I think so yes. I think you have a number of resources. Is the information out there? Yes. Is it easy to get? No. Why? Because people don’t know where to start looking for the accurate information. Therefore, since information is hard to find, they assume that the information is not available. However, in a number of cases, you can go to people with similar businesses, and find out how they are doing things. Maybe you will ask to ten people. Nine will say no, and the tenth will take you in pity and tell you. You can go to a chamber of commerce. You can go to development partners. Africa is one of the most over studied continent in the world. Every single issue you have in Africa, they are at least 5 consultant reports that have been written about it. Go to the UNDP and say, “hey I’m trying to do something in cassava. Chances are they have already done a studied on the varieties of cassava. You ask them and they will give it to you. So, we entrepreneurs need to realize that it’s is not because we don’t know something that the information is not out there. And it is not easy to get. People should forget that doing something that is worthwhile is easy. It is not. However, if you demonstrate discipline and if you are innovating, you should find a solution. I.A: Almost a year ago you stated “it is critical that the focus goes from poverty reduction to prosperity creation”. Have we already solved the poverty problem itself? E.K: No. Think about how people define poverty. Let’s say I take 5$ dollars, I multiply it by 30 it is 150. If I multiply it by 12 it will be 1,800 a year. If you are making 1,800$ a year, in 2012, and in 2013 you earn 1850 $, are you rich? Why do we want 600 million Africans to go from extremely poor, to a little bit less poor? Maybe it is a step toward a direction, but it cannot be the goal. We need to talk about how people can transform their lives. We need to respect ourselves as Africans. It is not fair for me to wish something that I don’t want for myself for someone only because he is African. We should look for the minimum level that guarantees dignity. As long as we have a conversation about reducing poverty going from 2$ a day to 3$ a day, we will not solve the problem. We need to change the conversation and look for what can make people fulfill and foster. And not only looking for a way to fulfill their basic need. I.A: Maybe they need to fulfill that basic needs to get to the prosperity stage. E.K: The issue I have is that this way of seeing things has not really helped us for the past 50 years. We are still doing back steps. How far have we get? Now that we really have the resources that we need such as entrepreneurs, let’s be bold. Let’s think about how we will change the game. Put yourself in a shoes of those people living with less than 3$ a day. Go and tell them, well, next year you will have to live with 3.5$, and in 20years you will live with 10$. Well, in 20 years, some of them might be died. I just want a qualitative change in the development conversation. And the second we have that change; 34
it will become clearer that we will have no choice but to foster entrepreneurship. I.A: Is entrepreneurship the solution? E.K: I think it is a key component of the solution. Without entrepreneurship, the kind of transformation I’m talking about is really difficult to achieve. I.A: What is the solution for Africa? E.K: We need to make sure that we increase the productivity for average citizens in Africa. For that to happen, we need to have ventures able to create products and services for the global market and sell it to customers who are ready to pay more than what they are paying today. The quality of the product we will sell, will actually drive the quality of life we will have.
I.A: Everyone is saying that Africa is changing. Is Africa changing for everyone, or is it only changing for the upper social class? E.K: I believe it is changing for everyone; However, Africa is not changing fast enough maybe because we do not dare enough. However the most important thing to keep in mind is that those of us who are entrepreneurs and interested in entrepreneurship need to look for a way to bring a serious change in Africa. We are always talking about politics, governments, and infrastructure. They are important. If we add to that a way to
support entrepreneurship, we will create all the necessary conditions that will lead us to a faster development. I.A: Let’s close this conversation by talking about your home country. Ivory Coast is willing to be an emerging economy in 7 years. Is it possible? E.K: I do not want to engage in any prediction because it is difficult for anyone to make that kind of projection; not because I don’t think we don’t have the potential for it, but because in 7 years the definition of what an emerging country is will be different from what it is today. The question we have to ask ourselves is what is going to be the outlook for young Ivoirians in 7 years. Are they going to have a better life than the one of their parents? If the answer to that question is yes, then we are fine. If the answer is no, then we need to work harder. As I look at the country, the government is making sure that the world knows that we now have peace and that Ivory Coast are open again to business. As we do all of this, we also need to help young entrepreneurs to be agents of growth. After a crisis a lot of the investments are made by the governments. But in 3 to 4 years, there is going to be a need for the private sector and investors to take the relay. What is important is that we need to be able to make this happen. Being an emerging country is not important, what is important is to make sure that in 7 years, we will have a private sector that will create jobs and to resolve some issues that the country has. Interviewed by Chrys Nyetam
I believe it is changing for everyone; However, Africa is not changing fast enough maybe because we do not dare enough.
WHAT TO DO WITH A NEW WORLD ? In this edition, words of wisdom come from Julie Wangombe. A spoken word artiste, poet and speechwriter. She wrote President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory speech in the last elections. So if the president is happy to listen and use her words, then it is advisable that we all listen to this young and inspirational writer. Ms Wangombe addresses education and the choices young people make. While acknowledging that formal education isn’t the only route to success, she points out the need to temper the entrepreneurial optimism with some commonsensical pragmatism. Wise words indeed.
Yes, the world has changed.
Globalization. Inter-connectedness. Innovation. These are some of the most familiar buzzwords in our world today. But all these words communicate one simple reality: the world is changing. Advancement in technology and the implication of those inventions on the political, social and economic realities of the world continue to be documented. Unlike any other before, we are the generation of young self-made billionaires, unprecedented political and growing global consciousness, promise and change. In the midst of all this, the prevailing rhetoric that we as (privileged) young people receive or believe has equally changed. By contrast, our parents were pragmatic in their considerations of choosing a career path - many of them simply did what they were called to university to do. Many of our parents saw a job as simply that, a job – a means to an end to pay bills and take care of their families. On the other hand, we appear to be increasingly infatuated with the idea of following our dreams and pursuing our passions.. We increasingly see employment as about more than this – as about leaving a legacy and gaining personal satisfaction and being true to ourselves. Where our parents thought local, we think global. They were more inclined to think about keeping a job; we are encouraged to create jobs by starting up our own enterprises. Where our parents saw education as a non-negotiable (and saw business, law, engineering, medicine as the pan-ultimate degrees), the success of many a college dropouts is causing lots of young people to see education as a nicety but not a necessity. And those who accept education as being of value find themselves bombarded by choice. Unlike our parents, we are more autonomous. Free to choose what to study and to follow previously unconventional paths: music; fashion design; art; literature; filmmaking; and photojournalism. Questions like ‘is this degree marketable’ are slowly giving way to questions like ‘is this what I really want to do? Is it what I love?” The trendy rhetoric of the time and who or what the media celebrates increasingly influences the answer to those last two questions. We probably change majors and drop out more than the generation before us. Yes, the world has changed. There are strong arguments that we should be careful to consider things such as gifts, talents, natural abilities and passions. But I find - and I stand to be corrected - that this kind of thinking also tends to romanticize reality. This is something we cannot afford when we are dealing with a country, a continent and a world where the majority of youth are unemployed. The brilliant and overwhelming successes of the Jobs, the Gates, and the Zuckerbergs are inspiring but they also tend to over-shadow reality. We often forget a few key facts about these successes: they
did not make it overnight and some of them actually didn’t want to drop out of school but were compelled by circumstances to do so. I recently attended StoryMoja’s hay festival in Nairobi1. And after listening to Chief N, a trained lawyer turned comic-book creator, whose work is widely acclaimed speak at one of the sessions, my boyfriend asked him about what he would advise young people who are looking up to him given that his professional training appears to have had no bearing on his career path of choice and that so many young people would see that fact as a cue to abandon their educational pursuits and seek success. Chief noted that he would urge people to remember that successful college dropouts generally dropped out because they had more information and skill than they could acquire within an institution of higher learning. Which of course is not true for most of us. But he also noted that his studies have been of benefit to him despite the unconventional career change. Which points to something else we seem to forget in this generation: the inter-connectedness of knowledge and information. That regardless of what happens in our lives or what we study or what job we take, there are no wasted experiences and there is no wasted knowledge if we are willing to grow. Earlier this year, I received international recognition for writing the victory speech for the President of Kenya. Two years prior to that, I returned home from Duke University – one of the most prestigious universities in the world – on a medical leave of absence. Today, I am back in school in Nairobi and for some it is difficult to wonder. Their thought is that when you write the President’s speech, there must be other things you can do, better ways to spend your time than being in school. The answer is because I have seen firsthand the relevance of what I study in the class room and because I have seen, by being exposed to a working environment, the importance of quality university education and how what I was learning in the class room prior to my leave of absence had real life application and implications. For me, this has been a powerful realization one that has made me yearn to learn and understand rather than simply churn out information. But in truth, I’m also back in school because even though the world has changed, it hasn’t changed that much – especially in Africa where the docu1 It is a four day celebration of Kenyan stories and contemporary culture through storytelling, books, live discussion forums, workshops, debates, live performances, competitions and music
mented paper (a degree) is proof of your abilities and is below the bare-minimum requirement for
starting your career in most fields. So in a world where it seems formal education is becoming increasingly marginalized by media, and where there is more pressure to succeed at a younger age. And where every young person would like to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, (and indeed there are lots of young people from Africa who will be brilliant and blazing successes), I would like to send encouragement that balances out a possible single story of success that may be emerging in the world. I leave you with this simple thought: Life is not linear. Pursuing your dreams is important but pursuing your dreams must be in line with reality. Just remember that doing what you have to do doesn’t mean you’ll never do what you want to do and also, that you just may find yourself wanting to do, what you have to do, eventually. Everything you learn and do will go towards making you who you will be so embrace your life, and have a plan, and keep growing in character and keep learning and meet your needs and don’t compare yourself to anyone else because your running your own race: stay in it! Julie Wangeci Wang’Ombe
4 QUESTIONS TO : Les Transports Citadins
We maximize ON THE QUALITY OF OUR SERVICES
Willy Asseko is part of the wave of young Africans who decided to return to Africa after pursuing graduate studies abroad. In four questions, the telecommunications engineer who admits to arriving in entrepreneurship quite by chance explains how a young and small structure such as LES TRANSPORTS CITADINS is attracting a large swathe of customers. And also why it is the first transport company campaigning for road safety.
Inspire Afrika : How does a telecommunications engineer become Director of Les Transports Citadins (LTC)? Willy ASSEKO : I arrived in entrepreneurship by accident. While I was looking for a job, an elder asked me to work in his consulting company in order not to lose the habit of getting up every morning. I dealt with the accommodation of investors: I managed all that was related to the reception of these investors in the country, ticket confirmation, hotel reservation, airport assistance etc. I finally realized that investors had more than enough funds to pay for all the aforementioned services. I decided to make something lucrative. So I restructured a company that already existed for 3 years and I am now the head of the company. Les Transports Citadins is a ground transportation company specializing in the rental of vehicles. We are often defined as janitors for businessmen. We optimize the customer experience. With us, there is no waiting line at the airport or at a restaurant, etc. We try to think of everything they need during their stay in Gabon so they can work in the best conditions and focus on their business. I.A : Given that large groups often dominate the car rental business, what is your competitive advantage? W.A : It is not easy to answer this question, but I would say that we are trying to focus on customization and quality of our services. Unlike the large group, we provide individualized services adapted to each client. Because we do not have the same financial strength as large groups, we have to stand by customizing the service quality. Our customers know they will have the best quality of service possible: Today, we have customers who prefer to cancel their trip to Gabon if we are not able to provide the 41
services we usually offer them. They are more acquainted with us. With large companies, customers have all rights to the same services, and there is no personal shopping service. This is the only way for us young business to compete in the market. I.A : Who are your customers and how do you attract them? W.A : First it is important to note that we offer several services. In addition to car rental for short and long term, we offer transport business and aircrew personnel, and the provision of drivers. Because of the diversity of our services we also have several types of clients. 80% of our clients are businessmen and customers of the hotel where our offices are located. Sometimes our clients are lodged in other hotels. Our customers include both Gabon-based and foreign companies. For example, we have been working for more than three years with South African Airways. We take care of their crew. And if we have been in business with them for this long, it is because of the quality of our services. The most important for us is to build customer loyalty. We try to maximize the quality of our services because if we treat our customers well, they will talk to other potential customers about us. We also try to forge partnerships with professional car rentals. I.A : What are your ambitions for long and short term? W.A : We are a young company. My personal ambition as a young entrepreneur is to keep learning every day. The aim of our company is to grow, but not grow too fast. We would also serve as an example for our generation while helping the youth of Gabon and Africa. It is important for us to tell young people that a vehicle is something useful that can be dangerous. This is why we work closely with the Ministry of Transport on the topic of road safety. We hope that LTC is a good corporate citizen as it helps in our country’s development. In the context of road safety, young people are a very sensitive group. Often young people use their parents’ vehicles without permission while the latter are asleep. They go out at night, drink and get behind the wheel. Some young people do not wear their seat belt, they make phone calls while driving, and they go way over the speed limit. So that’s why LTC signed a charter with the Department of Transportation in which we specify that renting with LTC means respecting the rules of road safety which includes not drinking when you have to take the wheel, driving with your safety belt fastened, slowing down when approaching a school, driving within the speed limit etc. This is why we naturally think about the youth . By Anita Bakal
Visit LTC website on www.transports-citadins.com
FOCULTURE Tontines: financial alternatives in Africa Some African financial institutions are far from having a good reputation. We often hear of young entrepreneurs complaining about banks who never give them credit. But we will not dwell on the reasons for this lack of trust between banks and entrepreneurs. It’s a whole different story. But it is interesting to note that alternative methods are developed on the continent to save and invest, the most common being the Tontine.
What is Tontine? The word “tontine” comes from the name of a Neapolitan banker, Lorenz Tonti, who was at the origin of the first tontine system in the 17th century. The tontine is considered the ancestor of micro –finance. The concept of tontine is based on a simple idea: a group of people who decided to save jointly. Many authors such as Bruno Bekolo-Ebe identified very specific classifications of the types of tontines. But generally, we can identify three: The mutual tontines or «revolving «, the financial, and the commercial tontines. The former are the most common. Each member must pay a regular fee. All funding is made available to a member, each in turn. No interest is charged and the savings do not generate any financial interest for those who contribute. When the order is lifted up for auction (the auction to decide who would raise funds in the same turn), it is referred to as a financial tontine. Interest rates are applied at that time, paid by one whose bid was the highest, and who would benefit from the exercise. These rates will then be received by all the other members. Among these tontines at auction, we often find tontine businesses launched by businessmen or manufacturers who need to finance their businesses. Finally, there are the commercial tontines where the organizer, often called «tontinier» is paid for his work. He holds the first payment made by members or keeps a percentage of the funds raised. 43
A social and cultural dimension These classifications show that the tontine are not just «giant piggy banks « where everyone fills an application in the hope of hitting the « jackpot « at the end of each session. They are carefully organized and structured. It is important to emphasize that in the minds of some, the tontine is the bank of the poor. I want to say: Error. Prejudice. Cliché. Tontines are probably one of the soundest financial systems combining both savings and very low interest rates. Certainly, the tontine promotes access to savings for those less fortunate, but in my humble opinion the success of tontines in Africa is mainly the result of their perfect consistency with a set of specific African cultural values: solidarity, mutual assistance and sharing. Indeed, despite the fact that tontines are practiced around the world, Africa is the continent where they are encountered the most. They are an integral part of social and cultural life and are rooted in the morals. Tontines can survive entire generations of families. For the most part, once you incorporate these groups you remain in them. They are based on a relationship of trust: each member is responsible to pay the amount of the debt at each meeting. If they are unable to do so, they are granted an extension, but still, it is based on good faith. If a member does not fulfill its commitments, he or she risks being excluded from the group. In some cases, this leads to social exclusion as well. This happens more frequently in villages or tribes of small sizes.
Place of cohesion, place of entrepreneurship. Tontines also help promote unity. They are an ideal place to exchange ideas and experiences, which in turn can be very favorable to entrepreneurship. The dream of every entrepreneur who starts is to quickly find funding with the least possible amount of constraints. This is made possible in the tontine’s system. The money gained from a tontine is not limited to personal use. It also contributes to the improvement of living conditions in the community. In many areas, tontines have helped finance environmental projects, build bridges, install electricity, finance trips, etc. We all remember the story of Kakenya Ntaiya, a Kenyan activist for women’s rights, whose trip to the USA was funded by her village so that she could receive an education. Countless projects and many companies have been and continue to be funded by tontines in Africa. But due because of their «informal» practice, tontine’s benefits are difficult to measure on the macroeconomic level. In an environment where banks are becoming more cautious and reluctant to lend, should we then modify tontines to give them as much credibility as banks? While waiting on an answer to this question, it would be no exaggeration to say that these informal institutions helped to formalize a number of initiatives. By Amma Aburam
Sources : http://microfinancement.cirad.fr http://www.agoravox.fr Google Images
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