Senegal holds MEST Africa Challenge Country Finals, Announces Winner

Written by Brandason, Strategic Communications Firm for the MEST Africa Challenge.

Celebrated for its beautiful architecture and secluded beaches, Senegal is fast becoming a powerhouse in the tech startup scene in Africa as well. Three of its leading tech businesses took to the mic this week in the MEST Africa Challenge, blowing the judges and audience away with their prowess and exciting solutions to real-life problems of the everyday African.

With only four minutes on the clock, Hodi Hodi, Mousso and Insuris, had to tell their story in a compelling and convincing way, convincing a renown panel of Africa’s who is who of investors, ecosystem players and tech executives that they deserve the title of ‘Senegals’s best startup’.

Making the ultimate decision in this week’s country final were Daniel Locko, Co-founder — Yux Designs; Aziz Sy, Founder and Host of Impact Hub Dakar; Mark Ihimoyan, Director of Business Development in the Middle East and Africa for Microsoft and Nicolas Synnott, Investment Officer at Hummingbird Ventures.

As has been the standard throughout the competition, each startup was judged on their value proposition, impact, size of the target market, customer identification, revenue model, competitor analysis, growth strategy, traction-to-date, and expertise of the founding team.

Kicking off the competition was Demba Sow of HoDi HoDi. Hodi Hodi is a startup helping people speak and learn African languages easily. He shared with us the struggle of many African natives when communicating with foreigners and vice versa and this affects the socio-economic wellbeing of the continent as a whole.

Tackling the language barrier issue, HoDi HoDi allows users to learn more than 19 African languages with a single app that offers both self-directed and tutored learning, as well as translation services, with lessons taught in both audio and video.

They also have an added advantage of offering information on the artistic and cultural history of Africa. HoDi HoDi’s projection for the future is to be the number one African language learning app, expanding to provide subtitles for the film industry and the translation of international books into African languages.

At the end of their pitch, Judge Mark wanted to know more about Hodi Hodi’s execution plan and how they intend to expand and acquire more customers? Demba’s response covered their social media marketing plans, the creation of language learning groups, and their partnerships with companies that require translation services.

Insuris pitched next, represented by their chief developer, Cheikh Ahmadou. Insuris is a tech startup that aims to be the intermediary platform for health insurance players by offering a ‘claims declaration processing platform’.

They are making it easier and more convenient for users to claim their insurance policies by removing the need to travel and wait in long queues. Customers simply connect directly to the platform and make a claim, while the insurer verifies the legitimacy of the claim and gives feedback, also through the app, which is built to detect fraudulent claims.

Their target market includes insurance companies and their clients and they are currently partnered with an insurance company in Senegal with other deals in the pipeline.

During the Q&A session, Judge Aziz Sy asked if Insuris has been able to generate revenue so far, to which Cheikh responded that they have generated revenue from their partner insurance company.

Mousso Africa is a technology startup creating digital and financial inclusion platforms to develop the socio-economic lives of Africans.

According to Mohammed Ndaye, founder and CEO, Mousso is reinventing the way microfinance works, by giving businesses working capital and supplying them with goods on credit, with up to a week to pay it off. Business owners can then build credit histories through regular payment schedules which qualifies them to loan higher amounts of money over time. They also work in partnership with supply companies that provide raw materials at affordable prices to their clients.

When asked how they differentiate themselves from their competitors, Mohammed said that Mousso is more focused on financing restaurants owned by women.

Senegal’s country final was a short and sweet but impactful affair, with inspired ideas stemming forth from the three competing teams. After the final pitch, the judges were assigned a private meeting room for deliberations while the audience asked the competitors their questions and interacted for a bit.

On the judges’ return a few minutes later, Judge Aziz was selected to announce the winner. Before that, Judge Daniel commented on how interesting all the projects were and the potential they each presented. Judge Nicholas advised participants to stick to answering the why, what, and how questions when pitching so that the listeners can fully understand their product and Judge Mark thanked the startups for their participation and the effort put into pitching, especially considering that they were pitching in another language.

Finally, Judge Aziz announced Mousso Africa as the country winner for Senegal.

Mousso was very excited and expressed their appreciation to the judges for selecting them as the winners.

They will now go on to join six other country winners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire, Rwanda, Ghana, and Tanzania in the grand finale.

MEST Africa Challenge Partners

For the third time in a row, Microsoft is championing young entrepreneurs in Africa through its partnership with the MEST Africa Challenge. They are joined by Senegal ecosystem partners such as Yux Designs, Briter Bridges, as well as key partners, VC4A, Levers In Heels, Movemeback, Afrilabs.

MEST would like to say a special thank you to all partners who have made the MEST Africa Challenge one of the continent’s biggest pitch competitions.

MEST Africa Challenge: Nigeria

The MEST Africa Challenge goes to Nigeria next week for another exciting country final.

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About the MEST Africa Challenge

Now in its third year, the MEST Africa Challenge is an Africa-wide tech startup pitch competition offering up to $50,000 in equity investment and a chance to join MEST’s incubator and start-up community of talented entrepreneurs as they build and scale successful businesses that add value to African economies. It has become an establishment in the start-up technology industry, giving an unprecedented global platform to hundreds of local tech entrepreneurs in Africa. This year, the Challenge expanded from five markets to nine, embracing early-stage companies in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and providing the opportunity for the Challenge organizers — MEST and lead partner — Microsoft, together with other ecosystem partners the opportunity to support even more startups through funding and resources.

The largest Africa-wide technology entrepreneur training program, internal seed fund, and network of hubs offering incubation for startups: