“Chance does things well,” says Saad Jittou, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of collaborative transit app Weego.
The Moroccan entrepreneur headed to Dakar, Senegal, late last year to launch a ready-to-wear brand. A week after his arrival, he read in a magazine that four Senegalese entrepreneurs – Mor Niane, Seynou Sy Ndiaye, Saalihou Ndiaye and Dahaba Sakho – were busy working on an app for the public transit system in the city.
For Jittou, who had co-founded the first self-service bike system back home in Marrakech, Morocco, the synergies were immediate, and he joined the team. Building and testing complete, they launched Weego in March.
Weego is a collaborative transit app that aims to make travel by public transportation easier. It serves three main areas of public transport – buses, tramways and large taxis – and allows users to find all transportation options available to them, keep an eye on arrivals in real-time, and share their position once they are on public transport to assist others.
In Dakar, it now has 74 operational bus lines, with Jittou saying it has built a strong user base via word of mouth.
“We have an exceptional retention rate, and without any paid advertising we have hundreds of downloads every week,” he said.
“We have a collaborative business model where the user can use the app for free if he contributes to tracking the means of transport and helps the community, or pays a subscription of US$2 a month through the purchase of a normal telephone refill.”
Hundreds of people already pay this monthly subscription, with Jittou saying this was due to the fact Weego had launched a concept that does not exist outside of Cape Town or Johannesburg. The lack of such apps in Africa is because they rely on real-time data collected directly from transport agencies.
“Unfortunately, in Africa, very few agencies have a bus park equipped with a geolocation system, and in the majority of cases the service is poor and having connected buses is the last concern of the companies,” said Jittou.
“Google Maps is an alternative in some African capitals, but it is based on theoretical arrival times that are never respected, and that makes it not reliable at all.”
Weego, he said, had understood the African reality, and launched the most suitable solution – one based on crowdsourcing.
“People track buses and share real-time arrivals with all connected users, and we want to provide people with a feature in our app to allow them to map bus lines and stops in any African city by themselves so that they can move better,” Jittou said.
The successful launch in Dakar has led to Jittou taking Weego home to Marrakech, its first pilot city in Morocco.
“It is a Moroccan company. We started in Dakar but the office is now in Morocco. We plan to expand our service to cover all of Morocco and then attack other African markets,” he said.
“For now, we are working with the love money we were able to collect. After the launch of our app in Marrakech we intend to raise funds.”