The inspiration for the ...name came from the Duala language in the Wouri estuary of Cameroon…..Wasamundi basically means ‘find the world’… In the technology age, this translates to "search for help”.... “In less than two years, we have been able to build a series of products that the world has recognized and is using”…“Our enterprise is currently modestly valued at 250 million FCFA (US$ 500,000), and when we finish our expansion plans into the sub-region of Central Africa it will be valued at 2.5 billion FCFA (US$ 1 million),’’ says Laurence the smiley CEO.
By Stephen Njumbe Sako
Urban planners in Africa are in the mothers-of-all-battles to catch up with the evolution of digital technology. In Cameroon, town planners are breathless catching pace with urban settlers. It is more of an awesome task for technology providers, whether cable television or internet service providers, to circumvent tortuous paths to neighborhoods to reach millions of consumers. Even locating enterprises is an uphill task for consumers wanting particular services. Arriving at hotels, restaurants and homes of friends relies on mundane mouth-to-mouth roadside inquiry. In fact, it was easier for the biblical three wise men to rely on the stars to find the baby Jesus born to the house of David in a manger in Bethlehem. In Cameroon, there is no known directory to get information on the geographical coordinates and location of enterprises in towns and cities.
Wasamundi has emerged as Cameroon’s urban star. In their modest offices in Buea, the regional capital of Southwestern Cameroon, Laurence Njie Litumbe and Quincy Kwende reveal their latest product, WasaTexto. Laurence, 25 years old, is the Chief Executive Officer of Wasamundi Enteprise, and Quincy, 24 years old is the Product Engineer. They are both recent graduates from the Faculty of Science of the University of Buea and budding entrepreneurs that have been inspired by the digital experience of their age.
The journey of Wasamundi is tied to the umbilical cord of Nasong Systems, then a mere 50 million FCFA (US$ 100.000) valued online utility created in 2010 to service residents in Buea to locate whatever they are looking for within the town and its environs, such as hotels, restaurants and hostels over the internet.
Wasamundi.com is the mother service. Ancillary clones to this service include WasaHostel - which enables students to get landlords' contacts, location of hostels and other information for free, WasaTexto - which is an SMS service to instantly reach millions of potential clients or community members, WasaMe - which is used to store personal links and to provide businesses with a unique identity and WasaCMS which is used to develop websites for businesses, public organisations and associations.
The growth of mobile telephone users in the country and beyond and the accessibility of internet links in both mobile phones and the WiFi system means that with a single click of the button they provide valuable life supporting information to anyone, whether business proprietors, consumers searching for services or partnering investors.
This infrastructure also allows them to relay live events. Borrowing into other existing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, they command a significant online presence with millions of following and an omni presence in the business information delivery and networking.
The demand for Wasamundi’s services spurned its growth to expand nation wide. With eyes set into the global market square, the young entrepreneurs retooled their technology and registered their enterprise as Wasamundi – a private profit seeking enterprise with ten employees headquartered in Buea and in conformity with the business laws of French West and Central African States – OHADA.
The inspiration for the business name came from the Duala language in the Wouri estuary of the Littoral region of Cameroon. According to Laurence, Wasamundi basically means ‘find the world’ as in the local parlance in the city of Douala. In the technology age, this translates to "search for help”, Laurence quips.
According to Quincy the product engineer, “we started with this platform which was mainly to search for hotels in Buea, Douala and Yaounde.” “And now students are using it to locate hostels and businesses in Cameroon’s university towns and metropolis,” Laurence adds.
Excited with their products and the services they provide, the duo explain that Wasamundi is currently well entrenched in five towns in Cameroon amongst which are Douala, Yaounde, Buea, Limbe and Bamenda, and advanced expansion plans for Garoua, Maroua and Ebolowa. "Our aim is to cover the whole country, then the Central African sub-region and even extend to the whole of Africa", Laurence says.
Doing business in Cameroon has its challenges. Whilst their entrepreneurial gut has allowed them to circumvent bureaucratic red-tape and infrastructural intricacies in the Cameroon landscape, Laurence and Quincy bemoan that so many people are yet to get acquainted online and exploit the potentials of online businesses, their reliability and the social capital they inject into every day living. And more important, financial constraint has limited the boldness of their vision.
Where finance is a limitation, their optimism greases the path to success. “In less than two years, we have been able to build a series of products that the world has recognized and is using”, Quincy says. "WasaMe is used even beyond Africa”, Laurence adds. “Our enterprise is currently modestly valued at 250 million FCFA (US$ 500,000), and when we finish our expansion plans into the sub-region of Central Africa it will be valued at 2.5 billion FCFA (US$ 1 million),’’ says Laurence the smiley CEO.
Another milestone is partnering with institutions such as Universities. Their collaboration with the University of Buea student union allowed them to subscribe over 5.000 students for updates about scholarships, internships, jobs and adverts on social events in town. “We have information and database which we can use to help advertisers reach almost 20.000 students – potential consumers or clients across Cameroon," Quincy explained.
The future plans of Wasamundi include reaching every internet and mobile telephone service user by 2015 in the country and the Central African sub-region. "We hope to be a major player in everything that has to do with the market, providing information and being the biggest search engine and online directory in this sub-region, for investors, business owners and for ordinary consumers wishing to locate service providers,” Laurence says.© The Entrepreneur Newspaper 2012. All Rights Reserved