By Oumar Dembele
Already operating in the country, the start-up wants to spread its tentacles and conquer other African countries.
Malika Moumouni-Diene (39) is a housewife like no other. When you find her at her home in Ngor, a district in Dakar, the Nigerien woman juxtaposes her roles as a wife and operations manager.
She runs Samalife, a young and ambitious Senegalese platform for orders and delivery of life products and services, already aiming to expand in several African countries.
The vast apartment of the Diene family is also used as an office for the start-up, which Moumouni-Diene, a marketing graduate “with ten years of management activities,” co-founded with two other partners, including her Senegalese husband, Tomoss Diene (42), a senior executive at PCCI, a multinational company, which is one of the largest call centers on the continent.
On a hot and humid day in June as the young entrepreneurial couple receive APA, the mother of two (2 and 3 years old) demonstrates an uncanny ability to combine her role as a mom and a businesswoman.
“It’s time and energy consuming, because you have to be able to combine several services,” she says softly, then make a quick tour of the children's room to tell them to stop making too much noise.
“But when you believe in what you are doing, you forget about some of the difficulties that come your way. Samalife is like a third baby. A mother does not think of problems, as long as she gets a little smile from her child,” she adds, sitting calmly next to her husband, behind whom a collaborator was busy working on his computer.
The couple has worked together in the past in the Senegalese branch of PCCI.
The idea for Samalife was born “around an expatriate corner” in Dubai, where Malika had followed Tomoss on a mission lasting several months.
In the UAE city, access to transportation was “difficult, especially when you carry luggage and a baby,” she recalls.
The couple took inspiration from their experience to realize, five years later, the Samalife project, which now employs a dozen people, mainly delivery men.
Their particularity is that they are “the first ones to have launched an order and delivery platform” for “any types” of products and services thanks to a “fully geolocated” system.
Commissioned in November 2019, eight months after its creation, the start-up has “reconciled” three players: traders, customers and delivery men, Tomoss Diene, who is also responsible for the development of the brand explains.
In their market research, Malika and her husband discovered that “35 percent of phones in Senegal are smartphones.”
They then observed that many of the populations’ needs relate to food products (meals, water, fruits, vegetables ...), pharmaceuticals, hardware or bookstores.
This is how Samalife “manages the delivery process from start to finish,” its promoters having understood that “we are in a world of immediacy,” Tomoss says, convinced that “the future is in delivery.”
People believe that they “like spending their time more on activities that create value for them. Our goal is to simplify the everyday lives of Senegalese. That's why you see everywhere ‘Life Simplified’ or ‘Yombal Sa Life” (the Wolof translation of the brand's slogan), he adds.
For now, the trend in the product sustainability strategy is “very good,” he says.
An advertising campaign has even been planned on several local radio stations.
However, the profitability of the company is not expected in “two or three years.”
Investments amount to “over CFA 20 million in vehicles, scooters, logistics, etc., using stockholder’s equity.”
Covid-19, a bonanza
The start-up works with suppliers and sometimes lowers the prices of certain items. This formula is adopted to accelerate the revival of restaurants whose activity was stuck for more than two months because of restrictions in the context of a state of health emergency imposed by the authorities to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
The new virus has had no negative economic impact on Samalife’s business, says Tomoss.
Better still, this is the right moment for the young company, which is very much in demand.
The only constraint is related to the hours of the curfew decreed by the head of state and which lasts from 23h to 5h in Senegal.
Today, Samalife delivers from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We saw our transaction factor multiplied by 4.5, which means 300 percent growth in our turnover,” says Tomoss, stressing that delivery times range from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half at the most.
Samalife, which intends to grow “step by step,” is currently circumscribed in the Dakar region “about 40 km around.”
The company's targets are concentrated in large cities.
Its next objective is to extend to other cities in Senegal.
Later, it will be the sub-region, in a country like Cote d’Ivoire that Tomoss Diene knows well.
In the country Mr. Diene had once run the local subsidiary of the PCCI group.
He stayed there until 2009 before jumping on the first plane “the day the war started” following post-electoral tensions between supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo and those of his rival at the time, now the country’s current leader, Alassane Dramane Ouattara.
Trained in French universities, in 2003, Tomoss Diene earned a DESS (Specialized Higher Studies Degree) in e-commerce.
When he returned to Senegal a year later, he established a relationship with the PCCI group, which has now become “a very long story.”
Since 2016, he has been the Director of Customer Experiences for Africa, in charge of the group's eleven subsidiaries.
But he admits that he is stretched thin between his job with PCCI and Samalife, a situation he describes as “painful.”
Before the closing of borders all over the world, due to the Covid-19, Tomoss only stayed two weeks per month with his family in Dakar, since he had to travel the continent to fulfill his first professional obligations.
“Luckily my wife is there. She is able to drive on her own,” Tomoss, whose first name means “the beautiful one”, in his mother tongue, which made his Nigerien-born wife laugh her head off explains.
The couple married six years ago, but she still seems to have just fallen in love with her man.
This son of a teacher, the youngest of a family of several siblings, many of whom are senior managers in various sectors, including the high command of the army, comes from the village of Mont-Rolland, in the region of Thies (70 kilometers from Dakar).
The young dark-skinned ebony entrepreneur, from the Serere ethnic group, also has stories of unsuccessful business ventures to tell.
Before creating Samalife, Tomoss Diene attempted a first enterprise which ended with “the taste of an unfinished business.”
This was three years ago, he explains.
Launched with a childhood friend, his project at the time, called “Kit Connect,” offered repair services in places like Sea Plaza, Dakar’s most exclusive shopping center.
The experiment fizzled out because of its Dubai mission.
"But we learn from our mistakes” he says, adding that with Samalife, the future is bright today, it seems after the application was downloaded “more than 5000” times.
In addition, the start-up is referenced by the Senegalese Ministry of Commerce and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
Samalife has also applied for a job posted by a specialized agency of the United Nations.
It has also established “some contacts” with the Delegation for Quick Entrepreneurship (DER), a major government agency in Senegal, to find out the terms and conditions for probable support.