by Jérémy Goillot. May 2022.
I’m sharing here
👉 my insights about Dakar’s startup scene.
👉 my tips to make your stay in Senegal wonderful!
I was in Dakar in May for 1 month. We call it the capital of the Teranga (a Wollof word to describe hospitality).
My goal: I wanted to connect with entrepreneurs and experience first hand the impact of Wave in the mobile money space. Wave is the first unicorn of French speaking Africa!
My experience in Senegal was wonderful, people are extremely friendly. I have to say that the corruption with the police made me uncomfortable on a few occasion during my stay, at the airport to begin with. If you go to Senegal, make sure to explore the southern part of the country.
👉 Check out My Linkedin Post about Senegal
Quick facts about Senegal
👨👩👧👦 Population: 16.7 millions people, 3.8 millions in the Dakar region.
💹 GDP: 27.63 billion USD (ranks 26th/54 GDP per capita)
💰 Currency: Franc CFA (1€ = 650 Franc CFA)
👮♂️ Visa Free Country for European People ✅
🏆 Distinctive fact: Won the Football Africa Cup 2022 for the first time
📲 Mobile phone penetration: 93%, 99.1% use Prepaid plan.
🌐 Internet penetration: 46% of the population.
🏦 Bank Penetration: 19.6% of the population has a bank account.
- Wave is the first Unicorn of French speaking Africa
- Sequoia Heritage, Stripe and others invest $200M in African fintech Wave at $1.7B valuation
- 31% of Mobile Money Penetration (vs. 77% in Kenya)
- 42% of Adult Mobile Money Wallet holds more than 1 wallet in Senegal
- Wave is 70% cheaper than Orange Bank or others solutions
- 1,500 employees and 30 000 agents!
- Wave was founded by 2 Americans. The first market they tried to enter was Sudan.
Distinctive tech initiatives
- The Plan Sénégal Numérique 2025
- Xavier Niel opened a campus of École 42 in Dakar (2020)
- Signature of a “Startup Act” in 2019, a legal regime to build an enabling environment for start-ups, including exemptions from taxes and social security contributions
- La DER, has multiplied incubation/acceleration programs and investments in start-ups based on the Bpifrance model. More than 400 start-ups have been supported in this way.
- Senegalese Station F in the works. Senegal has started a gigantic construction site: a 30,000 m2 place of innovation which should open its doors in 2023. It will be called the "Mohamed Bin Zayed Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation"
Startups Scene in Senegal
- 🏆 #6 Country in Africa in terms of money raised (well without Wave the numbers drop.. 😉)
- Most active VCs: Orange Ventures, Saviu Ventures, Partech Africa.
- Interesting Article about DER
- Safety: 🟢 Not any issue, very safe city and country. Just be smart about it!
- How to move around town: Dakar is famous for having the oldest taxi in Africa, afordable, safe, but forget about comfort. There are ride hailing options: Bolt & Heetch.
- Where to stay?
- Le Plateau, the old town, where most of the headquarter are, very good bars and restaurant
- Les Almadies (Beach + US Embassy) if you are looking for Beach 🏄♂️ vibes
- Mermoz Sacré Coeur (where most of the startups are based), cheaper and very central
- Cost voice & data: 3 Go → 3€
- Cost of airport to city center taxi ride: 20€
- Cost of Airbnb for 1 month: Dakar is one of the most expensive City in Africa, an Airbnb for 1 month costs about 2000$ - 2500$ for a nice 1 bedroom, good location.
- Cost of a meal: €10-€20.
- Cost of a beer: 2€ - Senegal is predominantly a muslim country but you can easily find alcohol
- Favorite restaurants: Phare des Mamelles (best view), COP21 (Almadies), Noflye (Almadies), Mer à Table (Almadies), Kraken (Almadies), Cabane du pêcheur (Ngor), Le Jardin Thai (point e), Sokhamon (Plateau), Union Amicale Corse Dakar (Plateau), Le Bideew inside the French Institute (Plateau), Chez Thio (Gorée)
- Favorite coffee shops: Kotao Coffee (Plateau), Noflaye Beach
Others places to visit in Senegal
- Saly, the most beautiful beach (2 hours from Dakar) - nice beach houses.
- Sine Saloum, giant delta, picture perfect views of the ocean, check Collines de Niassam or Fathalah Lodge
- Casamance, in the southern region, very preserved place. Fun fact: that’s where Sadio Mané grew up.
Senegal has built a robust brand. It is an attractive destination for tourists, and an increasingly appealing country for investors (construction, tourism, agriculture and recently discovered oil and gas reserves and built a new offshore gas terminal to exploit it…). The tech scene is emerging, there is a willingness of the government to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship, and already a tech success story inspiring future founders.
The culture is very strong. It is shining through its Football stars (Sadio Mane), famous social media influencers (Khaby Lame), or artists (Booba). In Dakar I felt such a strong energy and the city is home of many cultural events (e.g. https://biennaledakar.org/). That said, everything remains sort of “work in progress”, there is construction work everywhere, roads are largely dirt roads even in Dakar. A typical African city, with definitely a ton of potential and a good vibe feeling!
😉😉😉 a special thanks to Moussa Traoré who rescued me at the airport (2 times… yeah not easy to navigate customs and their requests…). I was finally able to enter the country, so thank you my friend!