Tech for Social Change in Senegal

The tech for social change scene in Senegal was a vibrant surprise. As Indigo has never really funded in Francophone West Africa before, we were unsure what to expect, but were very pleasantly surprised by what we found.

Jokkolabs – one of Dakar’s leading tech and innovation spaces – is supporting a number of initiatives. Start Up Weekend, for example, is trying to build a start-up/entrepreneurship community by organising start-up weekends to highlight the work of entrepreneurs working in fields as diverse as agriculture, the creative industries and events. Another Jokkolabs’ project, LinkedAfrica, has built an online platform for African professionals. Dubbed ‘Africa’s LinkedIn’, LinkedAfrica wants to help African workers build a solid, reputable online presence for themselves where they can network with others and get access to job opportunities. They have some 450,000 members in 32 countries. Similarly concerned with reputation, Xaima allows consumers to provide feedback on goods and services and rate providers. In countries like the US and UK, consumers are accustomed to going online to compare prices, read product reviews and get hints and tips from websites, blogs and social networks. Xaima aims to bring that model of consumer empowerment to Senegal. Niokobok – another start-up – are reaching customers via a different route. They recognise the importance of remittances to the country’s economy, although all too often money transfer companies take a sizeable chunk in commission. Niokobok targets the Senegalse diaspora and provides them with an online marketplace where they can buy bundles of goods for their families in Senegal. The goods and prepared and delivered locally, keeping the money in the country. Also using an online platform, NENA is a digital African bookstore for African content. Established since 2008, NENA currently has some 70 titles, including law collections that weigh in at 27,000 pages.

Away from Jokkolabs, other organisations are working on different aspects of tech for social change. Senegal is the regional headquarter for Panos West Africa whose main aim is to empower citizens to stimulate social change, justice and equality. All their programmes focus on stimulating public debate, connecting media and civil society, monitoring and scrutinising government and strengthening local and national media. They also have a multi-media editorial unit for production, training of journalists and dissemination of content and they produce an online and paper news publication called Flamme D’Afrique.

Working on very different issues, the Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) is a large public-private organisation specialising in ecology and environmental protection. They use satellites and remote sensing to monitor and track issues of environmental concern, including wildfires, climate change and land degradation.

A lot of interesting organisations working on some fascinating problems and issues. If there’s anybody else in Senegal that we should be speaking to, let us know.