A young Malian entrepreneur, made talk about him. And for good reason, his social network “Lenali” is a success in Mali. Less than a year after the free download of the latest version of its mobile application, the platform is starting to make itself known.
More than 28,000 downloads have been registered since March 2017. Active NGOs in Mali and telecom operators say they are under the spell of this particular social network.
Indeed, with Lenali, the Malian entrepreneur puts at the disposal of the illiterate people of his country, a social network which they can fully control by the voice and in their language. No need to write. Whether it’s Bambara, Soninke, Songhay, Mooré, Wolofou, the device favors local languages.
“Ask a Malian trader why he is not going on Facebook. He will tell you that he does not see the value of connecting to it for difficult to understand the content, lack of sufficient control of the French language, especially for the written word. On the other hand, if he is offered a local network where he can post the products he sells and sells in his own language, he will understand his interest much better, “Mamadou Gouro Sidibé told the magazine. Young Africa.
The idea of Lenali, says the young man, came to him one day while he was shopping in a supermarket in Bamako, the capital of Mali. “(…) the merchant who has the habit of selling me his products hands me his smartphone and asks me to translate the message posted on Viber that he could not read … because he could not read,” says the engineer. The latter realizes that Mali is one of the countries in the world with a literacy rate of less than 50% of the population. Mamadou Gouro Sidibé then decided to drop the first versions of Lenali to focus on this majority of illiterate Malians. Until now, no social network has made illiteracy the gateway to its service.
It will take two years since 2015 and many discussions with business leaders to clearly determine how Lenali could be fully Malian and innovative. This will be through the voice, which “sticks” to a certain African oral culture.
The entrepreneur first develops voice guides in several languages (Bambara, Soninke, Songhay, Moore, Wolof, French) to help with the installation of the application. Then it will progressively make all the features accessible by voice: calls, of course, free as elsewhere, but especially voice messages that can take the form of an audio tape up to 59 seconds, publications on a social thread where texts, photos but also sound recordings are promoted.
Despite some success, Mamadou Gouro Sidibé, who says he has invested a hundred million CFA francs in the business and relies on family help to continue, needs investors. He is currently finalizing the file he will present to different prospects from March. Several Malian NGOs have expressed interest in the possibility of using Lenali for awareness campaigns on public health topics for example (AIDS, Ebola …). Telecom operators are also in the viewfinder.