In Senegal, Adapting Business to Support the Fight

March 30, 2020

By Elena Gex

The COVID-19 pandemic has permeated throughout countries around the world. In Africa, the virus has just started to spike, with about 3,200 confirmed cases across the region by March 30, according to the WHO dashboard. Regardless, governments are being proactive and have started to initiate lockdowns.

One example is Senegal. With around 140 confirmed cases by March 30, Senegal has already put measures in place to try and control the spread, including night curfews, the closure of public spaces, and transit restrictions.

As everyday life and businesses come to a halt, founders of three Senegalese tech start-ups share how COVID-19 is impacting their business and what they are doing in response to this global pandemic.

Paps, an e-logistics start-up that provides delivery services across Senegal is adjusting and ramping up its business as the country encourages people to stay home. Co-founder Gaelle Tall explained that with the pandemic directly impacting its core business, the start-up has had to limit and cease some delivery and storage services.

The tech start-up is also tailoring its business to provide solutions to problems that have popped up as Senegal responds to COVID-19. For example, Paps is offering to collect and deliver medical products and lowering prices for food and water delivery. In addition, because there are no online grocery stores in Senegal, Paps is currently working on integrating a new feature on its website: a catalog of food and hygiene products that people can purchase for delivery.

Paps has developed a business continuity plan that is based on health and safety measures to ensure its employees and customers are protected. It is giving trainings to delivery agents on COVID-19 and how to adhere to proper hygiene guidelines to protect themselves and others. The start-up also implemented work from home for some employees and is using more digital tools for easier communication and collaboration. Paps has also changed the way delivery agents collect money. Handling cash could pose a risk and the company is asking customers to pay electronically.

Firefly Media is an advertising start-up agency specialized in public transport—particularly buses. It was the first in Senegal to deploy digital devices on buses that broadcast interactive content with passengers. As the Senegalese government took measures to drastically restrict the movement of buses as a way of limiting the spread of the virus, the company decided to join the fight against COVID-19.

In early March, Firefly reached out to Senegal’s Ministry of Health to provide free-of-charge broadcasting around COVID-19. A week later, the awareness campaign designed by the Ministry of Health together with the Ministry of Transport started to be disseminated across all of Firefly’s devices.

“The most important thing is the fight against the spread of COVID-19,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mafal Lo. Firefly is the exclusive advertising agency for AFTU, Senegal’s largest bus network serving over 300 million travelers per year.

The start-up anticipates a strong decrease in outdoor advertising spending but sees this crisis as an opportunity to deploy its new data collection platform based on their screens and SMS interface. It has already released a survey to measure Senegalese travelers’ understanding and adoption of preventive measures. It’s also assessing the public understanding of what to do in case of suspected contamination. The purpose is to provide new measured information to facilitate support around the fight against the spread of the virus.

Eyone is a health IT start-up that developed two digital solutions to simplify and improve traceability of care records called Eyone Médical and Passeport Médical. Co-founder and CEO Henri Gueye said that being in the medical sector means his company has a responsibility in the fight against COVID-19. The company moved fast to launch solutions for both people and governments.

For the general public and current patients, Eyone has added a new functionality to its Medical Passport program. It provides users with tele-doc services to allow them to consult with health professionals. Additionally, Eyone’s standard offerings such as making appointments online and tele-prescriptions are now being offered free-of-charge to all professionals who sign up.

Eyone has experienced an increase in activity, with the focus on the pandemic, however, regular business and management of the medical sector has been put on hold. Investors who had promised to providing funding have become more cautious and prefer to wait before making a commitment.

But the company expects that the crisis—and the response to it—will show the importance of having a connected health system that provides health professionals with digital tools to connect with patients more consistently and efficiently.

Published in March 2020