SENEGAL’S JOKOCLUB GOES FOR PROFIT, FRANCHISE ROUTE

18 May 2001

Top Story

If Africa’s digital divide projects were movies, Senegal’s JokoClub would be a blockbuster. It has got "big name" support from Youssou N’Dour and the financial clout of Hewlett Packard’s e-Inclusion programme behind it. It has chosen to go the for-profit franchise route and a lot of arguments about sustainability will rest upon its success. For Hewlett Packard it will be a key moment in testing whether the assumptions behind its e-Inclusion programme hold water. Youssou N’Dour will be chatting live with web users from 16.00 GMT, Saturday 11 August (URL at end of article).

 

Youssou N’Dour and Hewlett-Packard Company will announce tomorrow the formation of Joko, S.A. and launched two pilot JokoClubs in Senegal. Opening ceremonies will take place in N’Goundiane, a rural village 30 km from the Senegalese city of Thiès, and in the Medina neighbourhood of Dakar, the inner-Urban district in which N’Dour was raised. Simultaneously, an editorial and community site for the Senegalese Diaspora, www.joko.sn, will come online. Finally, the pilot Joko Training Center will launch in the Medina JokoClub building.

 

"Joko shows what we can offer to the world through the popularisation of new technologies. Through this initiative, we are trying to project another image of Africa, dynamic and enterprising", said Youssou N’Dour prior to the launch of the two JokoClubs.

 

Pioneering a New Business Model to Bridge the Digital Divide With HP’s support, Joko is aiming to create a model for the world’s least-developed communities to participate in and benefit from the global digital economy. The Joko Pilot launch marks the transition from Joko’s incubation stage into its real-world testing of information technology services and solutions, adapted to the needs and realities of the rural and urban pilot communities.

 

In its pilot stage, the Joko Network will provide:

 

   Internet access at minimal cost to local community members

   Training—ranging from basic courses for the illiterate to advanced web development courses

   Local Content—a website and repository for community participation, emphasizing relevant local culture, events, and music.

 

HP and Joko have the goal of creating hundreds of Joko centers through-out Senegal and internationally, to allow Senegalese expatriates to easily communicate with their families, and to build a vibrant online Senegalese community. The expanding and sustainable Joko Network will provide a platform to introduce applications such as e-jobs, e-government, and e-commerce and Internet-based services in the fields of health, finance and agriculture.

 

"Joko embodies our commitment to work directly with the grass-root communities in Africa to develop their capacities and their entrepreneurial skills," said Lyle Hurst, Director of HP World e-Inclusion, adding that "the aim is to set up a replicable process that can stimulate development of an information economy in all developing countries."

 

The JokoClub pilots are based on a business model that will permit each local community to independently manage, sustain and own their JokoClub. Joko was initiated as a non-profit project under the auspices of N’Dour’s YND Foundation in October 2000.In January 2001, Joko restructured as Joko S.A., a Senegalese company with the mission of creating a sustainable network of community-owned computer clubs and supporting Internet services. Joko S.A. is modifying a classic franchise business model in its quest to provide technology solutions which are relevant and accessible to the most disadvantaged communities.

 

"Joko was founded with the social mission of using the internet to create opportunities for African youth," said Lisa Goldman Carney, Joko co-director. "We switched to a for-profit business model because we believe this is the way to engage the entrepreneurial energy of the communities themselves toward sustainability."

 

"Joko, Hewlett-Packard and the pilot communities of the Medina and N’Goundiane intend to demonstrate that the JokoClubs can succeed as businesses at the local level," added Adama Sow, Joko’s general director. "Since January, we have worked very closely with the pilot JokoClub communities to make sure the JokoClubs are designed to allow any motivated individual in these communities to share the access to computing resources, training and job opportunities."

 

Joko relies on Sonatel’s telecommunications infrastructure for connectivity. Sonatel, Senegal’s principal telecommunications service provider, has developed one of Africa’s most extensive telecommunications infrastructures, second only to South Africa. Sonatel ensured that N’Goundiane had a suitable wireless connection to the Internet, and has been an advisor to Joko since our inception," added Sow.

 

So how does the Joko structure work? Joko, S.A., a "Société anonyme," is a Senegalese limited liability company, established and headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Joko International, S.A.R.L., one of the shareholders in Joko, S.A., is a holding company established to explore Joko opportunities on an international basis. The pilot Joko communities are organized as G.I.E.s, "Groupement d’interet economique," a form of doing business in Senegal which is one of the simplest and least expensive to set up and administer. The G.I.E. structure can be used to foster the inclusiveness that is essential to Joko. The contractual relationship between Joko, S.A. and each of the growing number of G.I.E.s is modeled on franchise-type principles but with added flexibility. This will permit the relationship between Joko, S.A. and any particular JokoClub to evolve as that JokoClub reaches economic stability and management maturity. The combination of Joko S.A. in contract with the G.I.E.s will enable Joko to accomplish economies of scale to benefit the participating G.I.E.s and to expand the Joko Network to additional rural and urban communities.

 

Access to http://www.joko.sn opens on Saturday 11th August 2001 15h00 GMT and Youssou N’Dour will be chatting live with web users from 16H00 GMT.