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This newsletter is sent to you by Sendemo. Sendemo is a one year research project across 14 countries in Africa. Each month, a new country is explored and deciphered for you by Abderrahmane Chaoui

Seven sections to know everything about the ecosystem in Ivory Coast:
  1. Context - Macroeconomic insights
  2. Key trends - Ivory Coast's entrepreneurial ecosystem 
  3. No comment - The chart of the month
  4. Deep dive - ecosystem analysis
  5. Spotlight - the entrepreneur of the month
  6. Discovery - One interesting startup in 5 industries
  7. Learning - The strategic lesson of the month
Context - Macroeconomic insights
 
-> Ivory Coast, a doorstep to french-speaking West Africa

Pundits have been enthusiastic about the upcoming of a second 'Ivorian Miracle'. Indeed, with a steady growth rate at 7,5% since 2012, good infrastructure and a favorable business environment with very low interest rates, low taxes and a complete freedom of foreign investments, the country is with no doubt the most dynamic economy in the CEDEAO (economic community of west african countries), becoming a real HUB for the sub-region. This explains the low change of scenery I experienced while walking in Abidjan for the first time, strolling between the signs of the deeply rooted multinationals such as Orange, MTN, Nestlé, or BNP, making room for the recent arrival in town of Wave's little penguin, which is literally blooming everywhere in the streets. Less visible, the expansion of major neighboring startups such as Flutterwave and it’s recent $3Bn valuation, Stripe’s Paystack or even Yassir shows the level of interest in the country and translates its key strategic position to facilitate regional expansion in french-speaking West Africa. Yet, the impact on the country’s GDP and employment rate is still awaited due to a low general level in education with a literacy rate under 50% and major corruption issues that limit the translation of the miracle into optimism for the population.

Key trends - Ivory Coast's entrepreneurial ecosystem
 
💡A comparatively low general level of excellency among the country’s universities causes a true scarcity of talents, making it hard for startups to find and recruit good and reliable talents for their development. Besides, the availability of foreign talents limits the impact of entrepreneurship on unemployment (25%)
💡With major agricultural companies, the country is a great playground for agritech startups to help farmers optimize their production, distribute more efficiently or extend the products’ lifetime. The industry is very dynamic and the stakes are important, particularly in relation to waste
💡The fintech revolution is happening in Ivory Coast. Mobile money solutions, payment aggregators, neobanks for professionals or individuals, the market is getting structured and everyone should soon begin competing frontally with each other.
💡 Facing the demographic urge to train and empower the youth in the country, +100 ESOs were listed by the GIZ in Ivory Coast in 2021. Among the +100, only a handful are operating and delivering real accompanying services today in Ivory Coast.
💡The ease of access to money, especially from DFIs (Development Financial Institutions), is creating a grant economy that attracts a lot of startups and ESOs and ends up distracting them from even building their product or solution.
Hermann Kouassi - Manager, Incub'Ivoire
"At first we used to propose 2 years-long programs in which we took equity in the startups and really helped them build something the market wanted. We realized that most of them couldn’t resist the easy temptation of spending the year competing for grants that they obtain more and more easily, traveling from one place to another. They forgot about their first idea and disappeared. "
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NO COMMENT - THE CHART OF THE MONTH
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Deep Dive - Ecosystem Analysis

Analysis: New cool kids from the hood!

Even if 12 startups managed to raise $100K+ in 2021 - that is twelve times what Algerian startups have achieved - in Ivory Coast, startups are left to themselves. This number must be put into perspective by the flexibility vis-à-vis foreign investment and the tendency of DFIs to flood the market with cash. Very few incubators or accelerators offer real training and accompaniment and an important part of the startups created end up reducing their business models and mission to a deck of slides which often brings more cash in through grants and competitions than fully developing an idea, at least for a while. This is the trap into which a large number of startups fall. To help build a more sustainable ecosystem, a lobbying association made of local successful entrepreneurs, the CI20, have decided to act. These boys from the hood try to be the local role model for startups to look up to (see the importance of role models through the interview of Yassir's CEO Noureddine Tayebi) and put pressure on the government for the implementation of the long-awaited startup act. In the meantime, a good mobile penetration rate (+150%) and a well established mobile money infrastructure (75% of the population) allows internet usage to develop such as e-commerce with the likes of Jumia, Nundi or even Coin Afrique and its brilliant manager Emiliano Martin. These first blocks of infrastructure and usage allow entrepreneurs to build upon and develop digital services, giving birth to the ecosystem in Ivory Coast. 


Fintech - the revolution is happening and it is televised.
As an exception and as predicted in our first article here, the fintech ecosystem is getting structured. Incumbents, mostly telecom operators such as Orange money, MTN or Moove Africa are being threatened by two dynamics. On the one hand, startups who raised money in neighbor countries are consolidating regionally (Wave, Flutterwave, Paystack) and it starts with Ivory Coast for the reasons explained above (macroeconomic context), whereas on the other, local fintech startups are targeting the few sweet spots left behind but will necessarily end up competing straightly with others - Djamo, Julaya, Cinetpay, Panelys Cash, even Anka and soon Coin Afrique… ?

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Spotlight - The Entrepreneur Of The Month
Moulaye Taboure, co-founder of Anka (ex Afrikrea)

Last Thursday, on Feb 17, 2022, I met with Moulaye at his offices in Abidjan. Moulaye arrives wearing armor straight out of the knights of the zodiac with a big smile on his face. For an entrepreneur in fashion, that kind of made sense. But Moulaye is not a fashion entrepreneur. According to him, Anka is building the future of e-commerce. “Moving it from siloted functionalities to a unified SaaS platform to make the trade on the web as easy as using whatsapp”. The vision is settled.

Moulaye started in 2013 by helping African artisans residing in France to take advantage of the wave of interest in clothing, jewelry and accessories from the continent. From that, Moulaye then built a marketplace for artisans from Africa to export their products abroad. And finally from that, he built Anka, a SaaS platform trusted by +10000 vendors across Africa by providing the payment and logistics infrastructure to facilitate their access to foreign markets. How did he do that? Find out more on three “key hacks” that allowed Anka to realize its potential in the strategic lesson of the month section below ⬇️

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DISCOVERY - One startup in 5 industries

🌱 Agritech: Grainothèque 🌱 - creating a circular economy to reduce post harvest losses 

Context
Created in 2017 in the countryside of Man by Daniel Oulai, Grainothèque is now one of the most impactful agritech projects in the country. Indeed, in West Africa, $400Bn+ worth of raw agricultural products are wasted every year, while Ivory Coast is the biggest producer of cocoa, coffee, sugar and Mangoes in the sub-region. 

Solution
“We have an integrated production system, which tries to create a marriage between crop production and animal production. That is to say that unsold cereals and legumes are valued through a community mill, to make food for livestock and livestock waste is valued in compost to be used as a soil amendment in fields of production of cereals and legumes.”

After two years of proving its concept, the startup now offers solutions to preserve varietal seeds of local food plants and integrates solutions for the natural fight against plant pests and diseases. How? A mobile application calles Yiri Drôto, with a trained machine learning algorithm that analyzes pictures and detects patterns for common disease, malnutrition or even pests.

“This solution offers two main services. The first service is the diagnosis using the mobile application and the second service is the connection with the companies which therefore offer treatments for these pathologies that we had identified.”

Why is it interesting?
Grainothèque proposes a low tech approach to agricultural issues in the country. Most agritech startups in the country are developing high tech solutions targeted to large and wealthy exploitations, the “Big Farmer”. Solutions that exclude small producers who represent a considerable part of production and unfortunately waste. Grainothèque’s low tech solutions favor quick user adoption and education of the smallholders.

 



💸 Fintech: Djamo 💸  -  the mobile bank for everyone

Context
Djamo, like many others in the region, is building a financial super App for french speaking countries in West Africa. Unlike many others, Djamo is the first startup in Ivory Coast to get backing from YC.

While traditional banks failed (or never wanted) to address the 80% of unbanked in the region, telco’s operators did, providing people with a mobile money infrastructure that is now viral and helps people and merchants in their daily transactions. Djamo's positioning is to bridge the gap between mobile money operators and traditional banks.

Solution
Djamo partners with banks to offer, under the brand Djamo, a simplified user experience at the international standards of mobile banking. Open a secure bank account in 2 minutes, get a VISA card delivered to you within two days, and manage your operations with ease.

With a very aggressive, but simplified pricing strategy, the user can either pay a monthly subscription (3€) and use the service and all its features for free, or have it all at the unique cost of 5000 FCFA (7.5€) and pay a 1.5% commission on certain transactions. With Djamo, customers can tip in their bank account using mobile money or move to a located partner relay point to charge it using cash.

Why is it interesting?
At the end of the day, Djamo helps traditional banks digitize their operations and enhance their customer experience, while answering a gap in the mobile money services: the inability to use one wallet in different countries or to pay online. It targets specific pain points such as this one, then adds specific layers dedicated to each of these pain points on its simplified UX. . 
 
Regarding the user adoption question we talked about in our last newsletter, Djamo creates thousands of learning content made available for free on its app and website, helping customers understand how to pay for an electricity bill using a credit card, how to pay a netflix subscription or even purchase something on Amazon…
 


🏥 Healthtech: Pass Santé Mousso 🏥 - a digitized medical record you dare wear at all times

Context
If in Western countries, emergency services struggle to get the information they need about a patient's medical record, the problem is way more spread across Africa, and especially in rural areas with illiterate patients and no centralized information systems. This makes it hard for emergency actors to give the right treatment quickly and mostly avoid accidents linked to allergies or unadapted treatments.

Solution
The PASS SANTE MOUSSO is a connected accessory (bracelet or medallion), associated with an online platform. It enables those wearing the accessory to carry their personal and medical data with them wherever they go and to make it available, if necessary, to medical professionals. In addition to these clinical data communication functions, the PASS SANTE MOUSSO compacts communicating medical devices as well as “Health Record” data to effectively capture and share all the information related to the clinical examination.  

Why is it interesting?
The quick, user-friendly and permanent adoption is suitable for men and women of all ages. Once the individual’s profile has been filled in, the encrypted personal data is transmitted to the PASS SANTE MOUSSO and is only accessible by authorized third parties (doctors/ hospitals and data owner and/or family if authorized). No prior configuration is necessary and the real-time transmission of the transmitted values is immediately available to medical staff, effortlessly and without error. 
 

🎓 EDTECH: Chalkboard 🎓 - building an inclusive LMS in Africa, for Africa

Context
In 2050, Africa’s population will be 2.5 billion, half of them being under 25. It represents a major challenge for african countries to manage to educate a growing population that has been under educated for decades. Lack of infrastructure, teachers, materials (ranging from books to chairs and tables) as well as external factors such as diseases and economic condition have been important constraints to the schooling of kids.

Solution
The solution is an online library providing an architecture for self production of engaging learning content, stored on a webapp. It allows low data consumption and offline accessibility to be used by everyone anywhere, anytime. The LMS offers key analytics to be able to track the progress of students/trainees and allows real time optimization.

Why is it interesting?
Many LMS operators failed in delivering their promise of extending the reach of courses from the  best universities internationally to Africans. Why? Unadapted formats with high speed requirements and high volumes of data (video tutorials, etc.) and unadapted content. Chalkboard offers an infrastructure that helps people from Africa (Universities, NGOs, corporates) build their own content and distribute it seamlessly in any condition. 
 



💡 ENERGY: Lifiled 💡 - enlightening and connecting rural communities, one LED at a time

Context
Rural Africa is still undermined by a major lack of infrastructure that undermines every sector of human activity and human development. Solar home systems and off-grid solutions are multiplying across the continent to bring energy and it is a starting point for further service developments, such as connectivity.

Solution
Lifiled is an Ivorian startup that uses solar panels and led lights to bring energy and connectivity to off-grid villages in Africa. The solution is based on Li-fi (light fidelity) which theoretically allows a transmission of data 100x faster than Wifi. The solution enables low flow as well as broadcast transmission of content, through the light of a LED bulb. It comes associated with educational content for farmers, but can also distribute security information if used in remote infrastructure.

Why is it interesting?
One major constraint to the development of further services such as connectivity through standard solar home systems is the late return on investments which refrains companies to propose additional costly services. This all-in-one solution for connectivity, education and access to energy is a good technological response to this business issue. The solution is easy to maintain remotely thanks to trained ambassadors from within the community it addresses.

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When talking about entrepreneurship, one always hears the same mantras: “go out and talk to your customers”, “get to know your users”, “only the customer decides what’s good and what is not”. To be honest, and even if I repeatedly promoted the same mantras myself, it always sounded a bit hollow. Until I spoke with Moulaye Tabouré, CEO and cofounder of Anka (ex Afrikrea).

The story of Afrikrea started back in 2013. At that time, Moulaye and his co-founders decided to build the “etsy” for African artisans while interest in African fashion was raising globally. They firstly faced a lot of constraints refraining their vision: lack of logistical infrastructure that make it unaffordable for a startup, lack of digital education from the craftsmen that needed to learn how to take a picture, write a proper description, etc. They quickly realized that in France, there were a lot of educated craftsmen who had a better product quality and a better understanding of the requirements of selling goods online. Yet, most of their turnover was made physically while attending dedicatde fairs and markets.

Moulaye and his team tried for long to convince them to create shops on Afrikrea and sell their products online but the adoption was complicated. Vendors were strongly relying on fairs and physical markets to sell their products and did not see any reason to change their business as usual. That’s when the first marketing hack happened, in 2014.  

“I went to see my vendors and asked them. If I gave you all the money you wanted right now, how would you use it?” After some explanations about his clear intentions and some thoughts, the vendor would say “I need a stand at Labo Ethnik”. Labo ethnik is a major fair in France that is quite expensive but a crucial moment for the vendors to sell their stocks.

At this moment, Afrikrea went to discuss with Labo Ethnik and negotiated a 100 square meter space with Afrikrea’s logo on it and managed to get a 70% discount. 

“I went back to see the 50 most active vendors and offered them a 2 square meters stand in the Afrikrea space, at 70% discount. The only thing they had to do was to create an account on the Afrikrea marketplace and promote it on social media”.

But that was not all of it. Moulaye realized that most vendors in Labo Ethnik only accepted cash, causing significant customer cancellations. So Moulaye brought a credit card machine to his stand and put together a ticketing system. “Within 2 hours, all the vendors in the Labo Ethnik were making a queue to use my machine. I gave it to them but conditioned the payback on the creation of an account on Afrikrea and a post on social media as well”.

That was Afrikrea’s first marketing hack and allowed them to register hundreds of artisans in a single day. The history of Afrikrea, now Anka, was then made of similar hacks.

Once Afrikrea had enough brand awareness and sufficient vendors on its marketplace, it added a new key feature: the wallet. The wallet allowed the money to be blocked within Afrikrea until the customers receive the product they bought from the platform. This small intuitive feature changed everything in terms of trust from the vendors and from the customers who were not that used to online transactions in 2016. It allowed Afrikrea to gain more traction and raise money for the first time.

Yet one problem remained, the European vendors on the marketplace were vanishing at some point and did not prove sustainable enough. On the other hand, a few vendors from english speaking african countries such as Nigeria or Kenya started to get good traction in America. Afrikrea therefore tried to buy out Zuvaa (today called Ujuumedia), its American competitor, before realizing its state of indebtedness. They saw great opportunity there and instead of acquiring the company, they built a dedicated space on Afrikrea in which Zuvaa’s vendors were allowed to sell for free and get their money back. That was Afrikrea’s second growth hack that allowed it to get a strong footprint on both English speaking customers and vendors. 

We are now in 2018 and back then, there were still two major constraints refraining Afrikrea’s growth: shipping and payment costs. The distrust of DHL at the time was still high and their representatives only considered volume-based price reductions. Afrikrea's traction was not enough to get the desired prices and the prices offered by DHL were still exorbitant: FCFA 25K per kilogram instead of the 10K Moulaye was asking for.

That’s when the final hack happened, allowing Afrikrea to become Anka.

Moulaye subsidized the sending of parcels to offer it all the same at FCFA 10K per kg to its sellers, then opened its delivery service to all. Including sellers who were not on its marketplace. It allowed Afrikrea to get enough volumes to get consideration from DHL and more and more vendors on Afrikrea at the same time, shipping more and more parcels, offering better prices, and getting more and more customers.

It allowed Moulaye and his team to realize there was a real market need beyond Afrikrea’s vendors and that they were able to address it properly. That’s how Anka was born, offering a SaaS platform that capitalizes on the wallet functionality and online payments in partnership with VISA, as well as its new logistical capability in partnership with DHL.

Today, anka is still imbued with this culture of customer knowledge. Learning expeditions are regularly set up to get Anka employees to follow random vendors in different countries for 15 days to fully understand their journeys, their pain points and their deep needs

This Newsletter was sent to you by Sendemo, a one-year research project in Africa. One month, one country / region.

Next month I'll be exploring South Africa's ecosystem. Do not hesitate share this newsletter around you, and to follow us on Linkedin: Sendemo or Abderrahmane Chaoui


Many thanks to our partners: The Mastercard Foundation, Sciences Po Paris, Carneggie Melon Africa, EDF and many others for their support
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