Contributed by Youma Fall, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow and YALI Network Member
In 2013, I was the general secretary of a student association in Dakar, Senegal, one aimed at helping small businesses reach new markets. At one point, we were working with a group of women who were having trouble with their distribution network. To help them, we decided to make them a website. To our surprise, we could not pay for the site without a credit card or an account with a U.S. bank.
I felt excluded, as if these financial services were reserved for the elite, and I sincerely believe that we are entitled to the same opportunities.
To solve this problem, in 2015 we launched PayDunya, an online payment solution adapted to fit African realities. At present, only 14% of the population in Senegal have bank accounts, and even fewer have credit cards. So we designed a money transfer solution that allows users to send and withdraw cash via SMS code, as well as an electronic wallet that works without internet on all phones, even the most basic.
These two solutions, both mobile-based, were the pillars of our solution.
When I embarked on this venture, I, unfortunately, had neither the expertise nor the experience. I had to be versatile, acting as a lawyer, marketer, and accountant.
The first step was to find users.
Financial technology is a new system in West Africa, and part of our job was educating the population about these tools. The Senegalese market still preferred cash payments, so translating the benefits of these digital resources was key. We explained our business to each customer and made videos discussing how we work, as each contract is a success, one that takes effort to secure.
One challenge we faced was mistrust from some partners. There is always that moment of doubt when you are working with a young entrepreneur.
In order to convince our partners of the value of our work, we had to be patient and prove our skills.
Over the first few months, we collected customer feedback; it’s nice to have a solution that works and it’s better to design a product that meets our customers’ needs. This includes not just updated technology or proper pricing, but also a real added value, changing lives for the better.
Following this, we moved into the commercial phase, creating a replicable model that’s easy to use.
I still believe that a perfect world is one in which financial literacy and access to funding are a reality for everyone.
It’s only by listening to others, learning, and sharing that we can get there.
Interested in Youma’s work? Learn how you can support the rights of women and girls on our #Africa4Her page.
Youma Fall is an IT business development entrepreneur who graduated as a design engineer in telecommunication. She is actively seeking solutions for women and youth through ICTs. A 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, she is currently chief product officer at PayDunya, a startup launched in 2015 to enable unbanked populations to make payments online via mobile money, money transfer systems, and bank cards.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.