Co-Create Dakar: The DER mobility project

In 2021, an initiative by de Rijksdienst voor Ondernemers Netherlands brought Dutch and Senegalese students, together in an innovation Bootcamp to co-develop circular and innovative solutions for concrete circular challenges of the city of Dakar. The project focused on waste management, compost usage, and the development of biogases from animal and water waste. In 7 groups, the students worked on the challenges brought by the 7 corporate project owners. This article introduces one of the innovative solutions that one of the teams brought forward.

The mobility challenge.

For more than a decade, Africa’s youth has been moving away from rural areas to live in cities, Senegal is no exception. The Dakar region hosts almost a quarter of the Senegalese population in an area that only represents 0.3% of the country’s total area. While it is true that Dakar has greatly developed its infrastructure with multiple road-building projects, this impressive population density causes important mobility problems within the city. The daily traffic jams generate important pollution, affecting the health of Dakar’s inhabitants and contributing to the rise in carbon emissions in the country. Aside from social and environmental problems, inefficient mobility systems also directly slow down the economy being an important bottleneck in logistics and workers’ transportation. In this way, rethinking mobility in Dakar is absolutely essential for the city’s sustainable development.

Dakar’s high population density leads to multiple mobility issues

Dakar’s current population

About the project owner.

The DER helps young and female entrepreneurs develop their businesses. Picture from TFA mag.

Enabling projects from all entrepreneurs

The General Delegation for Entrepreneurship or DER is a government structure that empowers Senegal’s female and young entrepreneurs. The organization facilitates access to funds for entrepreneurs who would usually struggle to raise money via traditional financial systems. The DER already has injected more than 54 billion CFA (or 82 million euros) into the Senegalese economy, with one of the most promising programs financing more than 14 thousand programs, creating over 150 thousand jobs, 60% of which are intended for female workers. Considering its focus on youth entrepreneurship, it only made sense for this structure to work with PLTN on the Cocreate Dakar project, and help future sustainable leaders dive into urban and circular project planning.

The DER helps young and female entrepreneurs develop their businesses. Picture from TFA mag.

A Mobility platform.

While most teams tried to solve the problem of waste management by looking for business opportunities in different industries, the students who worked on the DER project looked at it the other way around. They first considered the problem with mobility in Dakar and tried to find circular solutions to fix this problem. The first idea that came to mind was the creation of a drive-sharing platform called “Yobou-Ma”. Car owners would indicate on an app that they would be driving to a specific location and the passengers would then be able to reserve a seat in their car. Following a similar business model as companies like Blablacar, Yobou-Ma would allow car owners to cut costs associated with gas expenses while offering a comfortable and relatively inexpensive transport solution for Dakar’s residents. This business model directly addresses the mobility problems in the city, greatly reducing the number of cars on the road and the pollution that comes with it.

Carsharing in a nutshell

Carsharing in a nutshell

Thinking sustainable and local.

Bamboo is one of the most versatile natural materials, being lightweight, flexible, tough, and relatively cheap.

Short distance solutions

Since mobility issues often occur within neighborhoods, the team didn’t stop at car-sharing and worked on short-distance solutions. They thought of a direct application of circularity to the problem of mobility. Via the same Yobou-Ma app, their idea was to develop a bike-sharing system, where users could locate the Yobou-Ma bikes around the city and rent them for a few hours or a few days. While developing a product-as-a-service business in Dakar is already inventive, the real innovation is the use of bamboo to produce the Yobou-Ma bikes. The team had noticed the many advantages of Bamboo from its low carbon footprint, its flexibility, and its robustness.  This project would thus limit pollution levels within the city while relying on more sustainable production systems.

Bamboo is one of the most versatile natural materials, being lightweight, flexible, tough, and relatively cheap.
Bamboo is one of the most versatile natural materials, being lightweight, flexible, tough, and relatively cheap.

Kicking the project off the ground.

The team’s project is one of the most ambitious ones, relying on a great user base, a solid development team, and the trust of both drivers and passengers. A bike-sharing system would also come with its own challenges. With that said, the team had all these issues in mind, understanding that they could learn from the successes and failures of similar initiatives in Europe. Moreover, the DER and its multiple programs were designed to give momentum to these innovative and ambitious projects. The organization truly believes in the potential of young and female entrepreneurs, the student team proved the DER right.

Learn more about the other Co-Create Dakar projects right here >>