Wasamundi filling Cameroon’s local content gap

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Cameroonian startup Wasamundi, which helps users find and connect with all types of business on cities across the country, is seeing growth after identifying the need for local content.

Wasamundi was formed in 2011, and lists local businesses such as restaurants and electricians. It also allows users to review and rate businesses, with the aim being to create a strong marketplace to amplify word of mouth using digital tools.

Lawrence Nara, chief executive officer (CEO) of Wasamundi, told Disrupt Africa the platform now has over 5,500 businesses across Cameroon and over 11,000 registered accounts, with revenues from subscribing businesses and use of Wasamundi’s digital marketing solutions growing and making the business sustainable.

Nara and co-founder Quincy Kwende conceived of Wasamundi while-at the University of Buea, where they had serious difficulties in finding accommodation.

“There was no place where one could go to and say “hey, am looking for a vacant room that costs this, has this and is found here”, and you’re given the right information,” he said.

“We therefore set out to change this. We started working from our rooms. We came up with the name Wasamundi, which is a joint word in Douala meaning ‘search earth’. After graduating, we started working on it in 2010 and launched the platform in early 2011.”

The pair soon realised they had stumbled across a huge gap in the market, with most small Cameroonian businesses unaware of the benefits an online presence could bring them.

“When we started the platform, we noticed that there was a growing need for local content. Where to find what easily without legwork, has been and is still a huge issue around the country,” Nara said.

“We have seen a spike in the number of internet users since 2010 in the country and this need will keep on rising. We invested lots of our money into getting businesses from offline to online. Most of these businesses have no clue about why they should get online and how the online space can affect them. With over 500,000 local businesses both in formal and informal sectors, less than five per cent understand the value of the web. There is a huge gap to fill.”

This lack of awareness of the power of the internet, however, has also proved a difficulty in getting the project off the ground.

“One of biggest early difficulties was to convince the local businesses about our authenticity and to change their mentality of how they see the web,” Nara said.

“Most of them thought the web was just Facebook. With them embracing the web and us embracing mobile and using mobile as a key to enable them be connected to the web, we are overcoming these difficulties.”

Nara said the increase in competition for Wasamundi since its launch had validated its concept, while it welcomes assistance in building local Cameroonian online content.

“When we started Wasamundi out of fun, the landscape was completed deserted. I believed nobody saw the vision we did. Today we find competitors popping up everywhere and every day. To us it’s a great thing because it validates what we are doing. We believe with the resources we have, we alone can’t fix the problem and competition coming would be a great thing to fix what is broken even faster.”

The company has been bootstrapped thus far, but would welcome the opportunity to work with investors and it looks to expand across Cameroon and into other African countries.

“Currently we are operating in Cameroon only, with businesses in six towns. But we have expansion plans into Central and West Africa,” Nara said.

“Bootstrapping is not easy, as it forces you to think very efficiently, and sometimes make decisions which would not favour everyone in the team. But we are sure there is demand to democratise and make information and content about local businesses more easily accessible in most African countries.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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