Sooretul, which in wolof means “not too far”, is a project launched in 2014 by a start-up of Senegalese girls with the aim of providing an online space to these women engaged in the transformation of local fruits and cereals and help them sell their products.
The banlieu of Dakar, located a few kilometres from the city center, are dominated by a crumbling and colourful architecture where informal information helps to determine its shape. Food distribution and retailing is the engine that drives the streets of these neighbourhoods every day. Women, with their informal activities, are the real protagonists. Among alleys and stalls, street vendors, expanses of clothes and used items, groups of women have joined forces and created business activities.
Another group of young girls, at the same time, used digital technology to help them.
Awa Caba, co-founder of the start-up, is twenty-seven years old and was born and raised in Dakar. After attending university in the capital, becoming an information technology engineer, he met other girls passionate about technology and development and, together, they founded the “Jjiguène tech hub”, an association that has started several projects in the field of agriculture and training in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for Senegalese women.
“We are convinced that the development of a country”, says Awa, “is not possible without the presence and work of women”. On a global level, in fact, 43% of the workforce in the agricultural sector is represented by women and the primary sector, especially in Africa, is the most developed one.
The Sooretul platform aims to enhance one of the most traditional jobs of Senegalese women: the transformation of local products and the production of juices, jams, cous cous and other specialties of the country.
“Thanks to their work”, explains the co-founder of the project, “these women promote local development and consumption, but they can not fit into a market that is too competitive for them, dominated by the presence of multinational agribusinesses, above all French. ”
For small producers and traders who do not have the necessary infrastructure to support the various stages of production and marketing, in fact, access to large-scale distribution becomes almost inaccessible. Furthermore, the continued growth of urban food needs has led to a greater demand for differentiation of consumer products, which requires costly infrastructure for producers.
Senegalese cereals such as millet, fonio, corn, rice and many local fruits such as hibiscus, mango or bouye (the fruit of baobab) are among the most used raw materials in the country for the creation of products such as cous cous, syrups, fruit juices and jams. But the consequence of this contemporary paradox, as in most countries of the global South, is that consumers find easy access to jams from France or from Europe in general, but they struggle to find the fruits of their land.
Awa Caba periodically visits the banlieu to personally follow the collaboration between the digital platform and these traditional work centers. “We try to sensitize these women and understand, day after day, their problems, so as to better adapt our technology to real needs and help them to increase their business”, says the co-founder of Sooretul. On every financial transaction of sale and purchase of the different products available on the e-commerce platform, the Dakar start-up gets a percentage and that’s how the girls get their profit. “Our goal is to build a platform that encompasses all female businesses of this kind”, explains Awa, “not only in the urban area, but also in the rural areas”. In this way the young informatics have thought of their long-term sustainability and at the same time the idea of a project that guarantees a stable income for these women, providing them access to new markets such as hotels and supermarkets, structures that usually use import products. Digital innovation and tradition: an opportunity for the new African generation The relationship with Sooretul not only allowed the group of women access to an unprecedented target of consumers, but also gave the opportunity to explore forms of collaboration with young people. “The great news of our times”, continues the founder of Fatou, “is due to the fact that today young people have a higher level of education than their parents and are understanding the importance of promoting the primary sector and all those traditional activities that they are progressively losing
“. According to Nafy, the need for sharing traditional knowledge has for young protagonists the young graduates. “Undoubtedly Sooretul can represent an employment opportunity not only for women who already do this job”, insists the woman, “but for young people who want to rediscover their traditions and bring new innovative solutions”. The reality of an urbanized and greedy generation of knowledge in Senegal takes shape in these participated realities, laboratories of curiosity open to the world. And the agri-food sector features a chance of success for a new digitized African youth on a continent that feeds the entire planet.
+ boosted the establishment of public policies of local governance on the environment
+ promote food sovereignty
+ acknowledgement of the local women farmers ́ work
+ improve biodiversity
+ dissemination of traditional activities
– difficult communication strategy
– lack of infrastructure suitable for agricultural development