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Aywajieune, developing online fish trading in Senegal

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Blog

Aywajieune, winner of the Suguba Award for the best Senegalese start-up at Pitch AgriHack West Africa 2017, is the first platform in Senegal to connect fish sellers and buyers. Thanks to the CTA, the startup will receive support from Ernst & Young to help it develop plans for growth.

“In Senegal, eating good fresh fish and seafood is now possible in just one click, without leaving your home or office.” Malick Birame smiles broadly when he talks about Aywajieune – “I sell fish” in the Wolof language. Three years ago, the 27 year old entrepreneur created the platform, the first of its kind in Senegal.

“Aywajieune is a space that allows sellers to develop their activity and find more customers. At the same time, this platform allows consumers to save time and to have easy access to fish and seafood products,” he explains.

On the platform, Malick Birame and his team of five people offer seafood, processed products and both fresh and frozen fish. Around 60 sellers (fishermen, wholesalers, resellers) are registered on the platform. Their customers include both individuals and institutional consumers, like restaurants.

Registration is free, but each seller goes through a strict inspection: the platform’s team will meet them to ensure the quality of the products sold. Only after seven days of successful testing can the seller start offering his products to customers online.

“As soon as we receive the order, we collect the merchandise from the seller. For customers in Dakar, we deliver within three hours for 1,500 CFA Francs,” explains the startup founder.

25% increase in sales for sellers

The team receives an average of six orders a day. “Some days, we get up to 12,” he adds, his eyes fixed on his mobile phone. “Our platform has enabled a 25% increase in sales for sellers. Today, Aywajieune has an impact on the daily lives of all the actors in the chain.” In only three years of existence, the team has “significantly improved on its original goal”.

However, things were not so easy at the beginning. If we go back to 2015: the year that Malick Birame was finishing his degree in finance at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. He was struggling to find work and so decided to start his own business. Very quickly, he found himself looking at the fishing industry, as 90% of the population of Senegal eats fish. Over three months, he and the two other co-founders of Aywajieune intensively studied the processes of commercialisation, supply and consumption of fisheries products in Senegal, interviewing more than 500 consumers, wholesalers and fishermen.

“We realised that some sellers had stocks but were having trouble reaching their customers, and ,at the same time, consumers often had problems buying the products, as they didn’t know where to find them,” Malick Birame recalls.

Back in their ‘laboratory’, the team set up an initial platform on which sellers could have their own space and manage the sale of their products. “We didn’t want to get involved in deliveries. But when we went to propose it to them, we got our first lesson in enterprise. The sellers told us they couldn’t use the system as they had neither Internet nor smartphones or simply didn’t know how to use the platform. After several months of work, we were back to the drawing board,” says Birame.

“CTA and Suguba Africa are supporting the growth of our business”

The first version of Aywajieune finally went online in September 2015, and the second, “softer”, version arrived in February 2016. The project soon captured the imagination, and its young founders started sweeping up awards, including the Suguba prize for the best Senegalese start-up at Pitch AgriHack West Africa 2017, an initiative run by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA).

“The Suguba Prize, offered by Suguba Africa, a partner of the CTA, was worth €2,000. On top of this prize, the coaching we’ve received from these two institutions has allowed us better to define our financial model. This allowed us to redirect, to consolidate and to adjust our approach. Currently, we get margins that vary from 100 to 500 CFA Francs per item delivered,” says Malick Birame.

Aywajieune is among the start-ups to which the CTA is offering support provided by the international company Ernst & Young (EY) for the development of their future growth plans. This support begins in Senegal this month, July 2018, and complements the mentoring provided by Suguba. The start-up still lacks the financial and logistical means to deliver products all over Senegal. It also needs to implement a “real communications campaign” in order to win over other sellers and consumers who may “still” be sceptical. To help them meet this challenge, the CTA is offering the young enterprise the opportunity to meet new partners by helping it to take part in various regional and international events, such as the AgriStartup Summit in France in November 2017.        

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