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Senegal shines in showcase for female tech innovation

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One of the apps allows women to contact three people if they are victims of violence
One of the apps allows women to contact three people if they are victims of violence

Barcode health cards, mobile apps for victims of violence and an online legal platform are just some of the ideas showing the direction of female digital pioneers in Africa, with Senegalese innovators in the spotlight.


The Senegalese capital Dakar this month hosted the first African edition of “Digital Women’s Day”, which for the previous seven years had taken place in Paris.

More than 650 people and 26 corporations attended the event where innovators displayed tech creations, often to tackle daily problems women face and inspired by their own circumstances.

Organisers say Dakar—one of the first African cities to offer free internet access—has ambitions as a budding start-up hub with plans to create 35,000 direct jobs in new technologies by 2025.

“Dakar is among the top 10 digital cities in Africa, with incubators for start-ups and major investors,” said Delphine Remy-Boutang, the event’s founder.

Among the participants was Nafissatou Diouf, who at 22 already heads a start-up with 10 employees.

Her firm, Senvitale, creates QR codes for wristbands, pendants and cards enabling doctors or first responders to instantly access patients’ health data.

Moved by her aunt’s sudden death after a failed treatment of an allergic reaction, Diouf gave up her studies in industrial chemistry and food technology to launch her digital enterprise.

Senvitale, launched in 2017, won best Senegal start-up prize last year for its free platform, which also allows patients to manage their medical appointments.

The concept was to “help doctors and emergency workers… to act quickly”, the young Senegalese businesswoman said.

For now, the project is waiting on authorisation from the Ministry of Health because of the sensitive data that the company handles. But Diouf says she is already considering development of the business internationally.

Victims of violence

Diariata N’diaye, a 36-year-old artist who grew up in France in a Senegalese family, turned her focus on another problem—helping to fight domestic violence and abuse of women.

Through her activism travelling to schools in France to educate young people, she became aware many victims did not realise there was help out there.

In 2015, she launched a mobile application “App-Elles”—a play on words in French that translates into “She-Calls”—that allows victims to alert three contacts in case of danger. It records and transmits the sound of the incident to the recipient and sends the GPS location.

“I began with a very basic observation: everyone has a phone and so if there is going to be a tool for victims, it should go through their phone,” N’diaye said.

An optional wristband, costing 30 euros ($33), can be used to issue the alerts via a Bluetooth link to the mobile, so the victim does not have to draw attention to herself by switching on her phone. The free platform also allows abused women to contact associations or learn about their rights.

The App-Elles creator claims 8,000 downloads of its application and a presence in 10 countries, including France, Canada, Morocco, the United States as well as Senegal.

“We have a lot of people using App-Elles when they go out,” says N’diaye. “Women who start early in the morning, who come back late at night.”

Legal resources

When Nafissatou Tine, a 34-year-old Senegalese-French lawyer left Brussels in 2016 to settle in Dakar, she struggled to find reliable sources of information on Senegalese law.

So with the Sunulex platform, which brings together all of Senegal’s digitised laws as well as decisions of jurisprudence, she sought to fill a gap for law students, lawyers and even citizens.

Sunulex has placed 800 texts on a publicly accessible free platform—a small portion out of the total of 60,000—which gets 1,700 hits a week.

The company, which already has eight employees, hopes to launch a version next month that will pitch to 10 countries in French-speaking Africa.

“It’s an African platform made with African resources, by Africans, for Africans, and for lawyers around the world,” she said.


Senegal launches African ‘cyber-security’ school


© 2019 AFP

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Tech News

Uber Stock Suffers Greatly From Company’s Hazy ‘Vision’

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Every viable business creates a win-win situation. Employees get a sustainable income. Customers get value. Shareholders get profits. Uber (NYSE:) doesn’t do any of that.

Uber Stock Is Barreling Toward Worthlessness Without a Turnaround Plan

Employees aren’t making sustainable income and they’re not treated like employees. Shareholders aren’t seeing any profits, even at scale. Customers have been seeing value only because their rides are subsidized by shareholders.

Uber went public in May 2019 because it had to. Private equity and venture funding had grown tired of the pretense that it would work. They wanted out. Since then, the stock is down almost 33%.

If you bought UBER stock it’s because I couldn’t convince you not to. I warned you in , in August and . You didn’t listen.

Can you believe me now?

Son’s Lack of Vision

Uber is a product of SoftBank Group (OTCMKTS:) CEO Masayoshi Son. The idea behind his Vision Fund was to disrupt huge industries, using software and , and to have a dominant position in the resulting companies.

The fund has . Paytm, the Indian payments company, looks like a winner. Kabbage, another fintech player, may be a winner. Fanatics may do OK.

But most are like Uber. Slack (NYSE:) has been a loser on public markets. WeWork, as I said over the summer, .

Son went too big, too fast on a lot of these deals. He put in more money than many of these companies could use. He convinced founders like WeWork’s Adam Neumann (and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick) they could do no wrong. SoftBank’s CEO became like Jeffrey Cordova in The Band Wagon, producing pretentious versions of Faust when he could have been making nice little musicals.

Son, in short, let founders run when he should have used a short leash, and a quick hook.

What Tech Can’t Do

Technology can disintermediate industries. When there’s a high cost in making something happen, technology can drop that cost to zero. It’s in transaction costs that disruptive technology earns its way.

But there isn’t enough money in taxis to make that work, even when the business scales. Uber lost $1.2 billion during the most recent quarter, on adjusted revenue of . That’s a 30% gain in revenue, but the losses were 18% higher than the previous year, when they came in at $986 million.

In order to achieve those third quarter results CEO Dara Khosrowshahi bypassed normal employment checks to , which put them in danger. It also treated the people doing its work like hot garbage. In other words, it squeezed the people on both sides of every transaction, as hard as it could, and still didn’t make any money.

The promise of Uber was it would eliminate the driver. But that was always a canard. The technology was stolen from Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:, NASDAQ:GOOGL) , by a man named Anthony Levandowski. And it still doesn’t work.

The Bottom Line on Uber Stock

Uber is the perfect business analogy for our time.

It claimed to be profiting from the benefits of technology, but it was always about disintermediating law, not industry. Drivers were told they were qualified to be taxi drivers, and doubtless many were. Passengers were told technology could give them safe rides at a bargain price, and doubtless many got them. Investors were told that Uber stock could create a dominant position quickly, then squeeze all sides of the business for big profits.

Which was the greatest fool? I’d argue it was those who invested in the Vision Fund. Son believed his own rhetoric. The Saudis bought his reality distortion field. Son has a second Vision Fund and .

We shall see.

 is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the historical mystery romance The Reluctant Detective Travels in Time available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at  or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned no shares in companies mentioned in this story.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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