Mobile Monday Dakar – Let’s get started!

by Dr. Christelle Scharff

After several months of negotiation via email and a trip to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, we finally signed the contract and launched Mobile Monday Dakar! Mobile Monday Dakar is the first-ever Mobile Monday chapter of French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa. There has been lots of buzz around mobility in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa… but now French-speaking countries are starting to make the news!

Here are some 2010 numbers and facts about Senegal provided by ARTP. Senegal has more than 8 million phone subscribers distributed amongst Orange (61%), Tigo (28%) and Expresso (11%) and a mobile penetration rate of around 68%. It was recently announced that Globalcom, the Nigerian operator, will enter the market. The number of Internet users is increasing rapidly to reach 87,000 at the end of 2010 due to more affordable ADSL (89.2% of Internet users) and the introduction of 3G (9.6% of Internet users) by Expresso and Orange.

The Mobile Monday Dakar team is composed: Mame Goumba Mbow, Alex Grouet, Babacar Ngom, Jean-Marie Preira, Karim Sy and myself. We hope to facilitate interaction between the industry’s key players locally and internationally, increase visibility of participants and projects taking place in Senegal, and shape the future of mobile technology in the region for the mutual benefit of everybody (users and key players). Mobile Monday Dakar will complement the already rich mobile and IT community that is present in Senegal and extend it to reach an audience composed of professionals in mobility. MobileSenegal, a project founded in 2008, is the pioneer in building a mobile community. Other initiatives that organize the mobile community are: Senedroid and the meetups called Mobile Innovations Dakar and Thies; groups embracing a wide range of IT topics include GTUGs, SeneJUG, DakarLUG, and Coders4Africa.

The launch of Mobile Monday Dakar took place on Monday, June 27th with a presentation by Laurent Kiba, head of Mobile Payment at Orange Senegal on the topic “Mobile Money: Challenges and Opportunity for Francophone Africa.” The event took place at Jokkolabs, the first co-working space in West Africa, in a supportive atmosphere with more than 30 participants and was sponsored by Mira Networks. Some of the expected guests were not able to attend due to mass protest against the critical power failure situation that Senegal currently faces. Fortunately, attendees made it home safely.

Mobile Money was the perfect topic for the first Mobile Monday Dakar. Mobile Money is an example of reverse innovation – innovation emerging or first adopted in the developing world and then disseminated globally. Today a large part of the world’s population still has no access to banking services for reasons ranging from proximity to trust. The precursor of Mobile Money in Africa, M-PESA by Safaricon in Kenya and its success for the unbanked, was obviously mentioned in the talk’s introduction. Its success relies on its design that involves numerous agents distributed across the country and enables users to complete basic banking transactions without visiting a bank.

Here are some of the questions tackled in the talk.

Why are operators interested in Mobile Money?

Needs of users are evolving rapidly, from voice to data, and now to transactions (including monetary transactions). In developing countries where clients have several SIM cards, use prepaid plans and buy phone credit when they have money, operators are looking for new ways to create customer loyalty – through services and innovation. Mobile money is one of these that can help subscribers who are banked as well as those who are not banked, which is the majority of the population. In Senegal only 5% of the population has a bank account, but mobile penetration is around 68% (in 2010). Operators, if they initiative services or not, will benefit and profit from every transaction since they own the networks. Orange is currently the only operator offering its own Mobile Money solution in Senegal.

What is the Mobile Money landscape in Senegal?

Mobile Money is particularly suitable in the Senegalese reality (la réalite sénégalaise) where family members support each other. Lots of small amounts of money are sent from person to person. Mobile Money is also used as a relay to send remittance from abroad. Will a direct solution be implemented soon? Street vendors of the famous Sandaga market in Dakar use mobile money as a way to keep their daily earnings safe and to save part of it. The landscape of Mobile Monday in Senegal includes Orange Money, Yob’antel, and @Wari. Orange Money was largely presented in the talk as a solution primarily targetingthe unbanked. It was launched in May 2010 in Senegal and is a partnership between Orange Senegal and BCIS (Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l’Industrie du Sénégal), a bank owned by BNP Paribas. It permits users to transfer money and pay their Orange phone and Internet bills, and Senelec (electricity) utility bills. A fee is deducted from each transaction. Reception and sending money is done through the 1200 Orange distribution points.

How to implement a Mobile Money solution?

Implementing a Mobile Money solution is complex as it involves the telecommunication and banking regulators, operators, a strong distribution channel, and partnerships with merchants and billers. In Senegal, regulators are the Agence de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (ARTP) and the Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). Implementation is also costly in operation, customer based development, pedagogical deployment, and marketing.Orange is not expected a return on their investment before two years of operation. Benefits are immense for users – democratization of credits, saving, access to banking, security–and for the society – creation of jobs andincrease the traceability of money (money laundering).

The talk was very educational as it presented Mobile Money at large and focused on the unbanked. The audience, not very familiar with Mobile Money, was very receptive. Questions of the audience concentrated on the interoperability of Mobile Money solutions, one of the work on the agenda of GIM-UEMOA, and the possibility of paying the 3S (Orange Sonatel for phone and Internet, Senelec for electricity, and Societe des Eaux for water) using mobile money solutions. Senegalese are alwaysspending hours in line to pay their utility bills. This will end their hassle soon!

The web site of Mobile Monday Dakar will be available soon at A call was made for future speakers and venues and our next meetings should be at the end of August. “Inch’allah”, as the Senegalese says.


Orange Money Senegal

Mobile Senegal


Meetup Mobile Innovations Dakar

Meetup Mobile Innovations Thies

GTUG Dakar

GTUG Thies




“Relèvement du taux de bancarisation au Sénégal: La solution du mobile.” Bacary Dabo, Sud Quotidien, 28 juin 2011

“Senegal: Jokkolabs Hosts the First Mobile Monday Dakar.” Isabelle Gross, Balancing Act, 1 July 2011

“Mobile Monday launches in French Africa.” TelecomPaper, 15 June 2011. 16:16 CET

“Mobile Monday for French Sub-Saharan Africa.” BiztechAfrica, June 16, 2011, 12:50 p.m.

“Mira Networks backs inaugural Mobile Monday in Senegal.” Bizcommunity, 17 Jun 2011 09:17

Note: Dr. Christelle Scharff, one of the organizers of MobileSenegal, is one of the organizers of Mobile Monday Dakar.

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