“Do you want to come? … I’ll give you my SnooCode so … CJJFNN.” If you have a problem, call me back. For Sesinam Dagadu, a young entrepreneur from Ghana with a growing start-up, if it is a question of discussing SnooCode, you might as well start with proof by example.
Its mobile application should make it possible, by generating a unique code for each location thanks to the geolocation system of smartphones, to replace addresses, which are almost non-existent. Finally, after an hour and a half in the traffic of a rainy end of the day in Accra, we go up a hill in the rather upscale district of McCarthy Hill, a bumpy path to the left and we come to a gate. Test a little forced but successful.
SnooCode? The thirty-something has been working on this project for almost ten years now. It all started when, still a student in England, he had his “midlife crisis, a little early”, and returned to work in Ghana. He is hired at Ecobank and discovers how blocking the lack of formal addresses is.
Because in Ghana, as in many developing countries, addresses with postcode, street name and number remain virtual. The government certainly launched, a few years ago, a vast program to name the streets: in some neighborhoods, we now see signs, but no one knows them. And there is still no number. So everyone gets by and we use benchmarks: you go to the Accra mall, to X University, then you go up the street, first on the right, then fourth house …
Numbers and letters
Sesinam Dagadu came up with the idea for his project after taking a photo of a street vendor, basket on her head and phone in hand.
“If someone who may not be able to read has a powerful tool that can do complicated calculations for them, why not set up a system to generate a unique code for each location, which we can then use as address ? So I decided to create an app for it. “
Back in England to complete his studies, he began to study the project. He absolutely wants this system to be accessible to everyone. Several ways of writing this code have been tested.
“We even thought of colors, but in most African languages there are only three or four colors, for others it is necessary to go through periphrases: green is the color of the leaves, blue the color. gods… Words were also a problem, because many people in Ghana are illiterate. In the end, using the alphabet and the numbers 0-9 turned out to be the easiest: everyone knows the numbers, and most know the letters. In addition, this makes the system flexible: we could use it equally well in English-speaking, French-speaking, Portuguese-speaking countries … And for other alphabets, such as Amharic in Ethiopia, we have developed a translation. “
His main weapon? The implementation of a simplified version of its app for all ambulances in greater Accra and the Ashanti region, funded by the Vodafone Foundation. Today “8.7 million people living in these regions can benefit from it”, announces Sesinam Dagadu, not a little proud. Even though he admits that without an awareness campaign, few actually use it. “It is an important tool, which makes it possible to know where people are, but it is not enough: the ambulance must not be broken down, the road must be passable, there must be gas left. … ”In addition, few know about the existence of SnooCode and all are wary of ambulances, more often used as hearses. We therefore prefer the taxi to go to the hospital …
Nevertheless, people are gradually seizing on this very practical application: there are 15,000 downloads in Ghana, many of which are individuals but also small businesses, NGOs which use it to organize deliveries, churches for visits. parishioners …
The idea is to extend the app to the whole of Africa. When we meet Sesinam Dagadu at the end of June, barely 72 hours before the launch of the Pan-African beta, the young entrepreneur is not at all panicked, and even rather available to tell his story.
“Ses” started on his own in 2013 in Accra, after finishing his studies in England: “Me and my computer, coding all day. His former London employer had just funded him so he could start his project: “Enough money to work two years. Eight people now work in the start-up.
Sesinam Dagadu (center), the founder of SnooCode, in a street in Accra, capital of Ghana, in July 2017. CREDITS: NARCISSUS AKOMATSRI
Since 2011, the project has already accumulated awards. This year, it was selected among the fifteen most promising start-ups in Africa by the Royal Academy of Engineering of the United Kingdom, then, at the end of June, for the Africa Tech Pitch London: “An excellent opportunity to make potential investors known, ”says Sesinam Dagadu.
If the ambulance experience is not yet really conclusive, it has already attracted the attention of other organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), which sees this app as a tool that could prove very useful. useful, for example, to combat the spread of an epidemic. “Ses” is already imagining other developments: drones, restaurants, delivery systems and even certifications. And after that ?
“World domination! No, I’m joking. But we’re ready to show the world what SnooCode is, and we can’t wait to see how the people of African cities get to grips with it. Mountaineers have even contacted me to request an English version. It seemed interesting to them to call for help. Indeed, once the app is loaded, no need for the Internet or the phone network to generate a code, all you need is a phone equipped with a GPS chip. “
But Europe is not the priority, we must first tackle the developing countries. After Africa, the next continent on the list would be Asia.
Lever des fonds
Sesinam Dagadu admet que lancer une start-up au Ghana, « c’est compliqué ».
« Ce qu’on considère normal en Europe, comme pouvoir allumer la lumière tous les matins, avoir une connexion Internet abordable et qui fonctionne, ne pas crouler sous la bureaucratie… c’est loin d’aller de soi ici. Et les jours de pluie comme aujourd’hui, Internet rame vraiment. Finalement, en quatre ans, j’aurais mérité un diplôme d’ingénieur en électricité à force de bidouiller les générateurs et les invertisseurs.
Still, he’s not ready to move.
“You have to live here to understand people and what is important to them. If I had just passed, I would have developed SnooCode from my privileged reality of Ghana. Plus, if in a place like Ghana or Africa there is a lot of growth and you want to participate, you have to be there. “