William Elong. A name to remember. This 22-year-old visionary and self-taught pioneer is behind the first offer of civil drone services in Cameroon, through his start-up, Dronefrica. For this young man, holder of an MBA in strategy and economic intelligence from the Paris School of Economic Warfare obtained at only 20 years old – which makes him one of the youngest graduates in the history of this establishment – he there is everything to do in this area in Africa. Faced with this ongoing socio-technological revolution, EcceAfrica did not resist the pleasure of deepening the subject in the company of its designer.
Ecce Africa: Dronefrica benefits from very interesting media coverage Could you however represent your project to us?
William Elong: The idea is to use drones to improve local living conditions through a full range of services. At the start, I wanted to stop selling drones. Then I thought it would be a shame to stop halfway through. By combining other projects with this one, Dronefrica was born.
There are two types of drones. Military drones used for example in the fight against terrorism and civilian drones which are not equipped with weapons and offer various services. They have several advantages, of which mapping is the most important aspect due to the precision of the images obtained.
This aspect contributes in turn to the promotion of local tourism. Africa is beautiful, but its beauty is hidden from search engines. It presents a biased and archaic face in the name of authenticity. I do not think that Africa should sell off its dignity because our cities and capitals, with noble architecture, deserve to be valued. The journalism drone that I tested and the improvement of the presentation of matches are aspects
EA: Tell us about the future of Dronefrica for you who aspire to become the market leader in drone
WE: We have set up a business model around drones which, in our opinion, corresponds better to our realities. In the coming years, without false pretense, we will be the market leaders, I firmly believe in it. We have a project to build a local drone assembly after Cameroon if the business model proves to be effective.
We are working with the Drone Valley International Consortium to make drones a reality in Africa. For example, drone manufacturing workshops are being deployed in Côte d’Ivoire for young technology enthusiasts. The environment is the real issue of our development in Africa.
The drone is an object of awareness of deforestation and ecotourism. Besides, they have for me an important medical vocation. In remote villages we could deliver medicines to the elderly and children. This would necessarily reduce the death rate in the region. Let’s not forget that in Africa, thousands of children die every year because they didn’t have access to simple pills. Unicef has shown the ravages of malaria, I regard these children as my little brothers and the media hypocrisy makes me sick.
With drones, I can change the game and offer dreams and optimism to children, stateless people abandoned on certain borders because drones are also toys!
EA: We are witnessing a craze for civil drones in Africa. It is a technology whose applications are perfectly suited to the African context. As a specialist, can you tell us about the legal and institutional framework in Cameroon?
There is a real craze all over the continent, it’s impressive! I never imagined receiving so much support when I decided to enter this market. Specialist is a big word, I am a simple autodidact and the internet is my best teacher so far.
Beyond that, in terms of regulation everything is still to be done. I took advantage of a stint on CRTV (the national channel) as part of the Thematik program to make a plea on the need for a drone law in Cameroon.
Today, there is a legal vacuum for non-sensitive areas. Around places where human traffic is high, authorizations to the competent local public authorities can be requested without obligation. For my part, until we legislate, respect for the texts is essential
EA: Since you wish to make a drone service available to the public, do you intend to exploit existing infrastructure or create one? In this regard, what do you think of the various projects in this area, in particular that of the port of cargo drones?
We are thinking of setting up our own facilities where drones could be assembled. We already have on hand various spaces where we can store a complete fleet of drones.
The cargo drone project seems to me to be a great idea, provided that we work with the current players in the distribution chain. Carrying cargo drones will save lives in remote areas, boost the local economy, I see a lot of positive things.
EA: You are raising funds for the completion of the Dronefrica project. Why not take part in one of these challenges, such as Demo Africa, to speed up the financing process for your start-up and increase its visibility?
WE: Indeed, we have just launched the fundraising for our project. The objective is to raise in the coming months 300,000 dollars which will allow us to have our personal fleet of drones capable of being deployed in various countries in Africa. I applied for Demo Africa, I lost. It was edifying, it allowed me to realize the limits of my business model at the time by seeing at what stage were those who were retained. They all deserved it. We have taken part in other challenges but we want to succeed in obtaining money, not just titles.
EA: The drone acts as a panacea in many areas. Should we be content with this aspect? Is there not a downside to fear?
The interest in drones is a trend that brings a lot in terms of innovations. That said, there is indeed a flip side, cybersecurity. Connected devices sometimes suffer from a lack of adequate security. The case of drones is even more particular because they can be inappropriately exploited to commit illegal actions. Hence the interest of legislation to regulate their use and avoid abuse.
EA: To deepen the previous question, is it not to be feared that some of the services offered by drones will slow down structural development in certain African countries? For example, the use of drones could curb the desire to build a track because the drones will have reduced the isolation of the region concerned.
WE: Thank you for this example. I will resume the same. Suppose that from now on between two localities A and B, the drones deliver material, food etc. Inevitably zones A and B develop faster and the need to connect men becomes more and more pressing. Therefore, even if drones initially seemed to be an alternative to the asphalt road, the positive impact they have on the local economy means that men logically end up making even more efforts to make their locality accessible by conventional routes like the road. I don’t think drones can slow a country’s development, quite the contrary.
EA: Could you introduce us to the Dronefrica Challenge? What can we expect?
WE: The Dronefrica Challenge will never be seen in Africa! We have observed the best in the world in terms of drone competitions and concocted an unprecedented competition. Drone users in Africa will be invited to share VALUABLE photos of their country, taken from drones. I can’t tell you more for the moment, I prefer to keep you a nice surprise. If a company is interested in sponsoring the event, now is the time to write to us at email@example.com.
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