BAMAKO, May 12, 2016—While African countries are increasingly engaged in the digital revolution, the impact of digital technologies on development still falls short of expectations. This was one of the key takeaways of the World Bank's 2016 World Development Report, which was presented on May 9th during a subregional workshop in Bamako, the Malian capital. In the Sahel region, Mali leads the pack when it comes to mobile phone penetration with a rate of 119% compared to 41% in Niger. Four million Malians now make mobile payments, which are drivers of financial inclusion.
The MaliAppChallenge is the first major applications competition in Mali and was conceived to highlight the important role young entrepreneurs can play in conceptualizing and developing real services that people can access through mobile telecommunication networks. During the presentation of the top eight projects on May 9th, the application "Mini Compta", which was developed by Sany Abdougafarau and Amonce Dembélé, two Malian entrepreneurs, earned the challenge’s top spot.
"Mini Compta" intends to enable tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners to use their smart phone to maintain basic accounting records that comply with the regulations of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA), and to better manage their flow of funds. The winners will receive various forms of support from key players in the Malian digital sector such as internships with Groupe Malien d'Informatique (GMI), access to the Impact Hub shared workspace in Bamako and to the e-learning platform of the Centre d’Etudes et de Formation en Informatique et Business (CEFIB), and tablets provided by Orange Mali—all which will help them grow their project.
"The idea of streamlining the accounting process has been on my mind for some time now," noted Mr. Dembélé. "The MaliAppChallenge organized by the World Bank was a great opportunity for our project to gain greater visibility, build a team, and get support! I am happy that we won first prize. This motivates us to optimize our application and make it available on the best application download sites."
The MaliAppChallenge was launched in mid-March 2016 and 40 applicants organized into 10 teams were invited to participate in the competition. The teams worked for a month on developing their prototypes. They were given a crash course in coding techniques for mobile applications and taught how to develop a business plan and present their projects in front of a jury. This training exercise was carried out with assistance from the Malian partners Impact Hub Bamako and Createam. On May 9th, eight projects addressing development challenges in health, education, agriculture, social services, culture, and microenterprises were officially presented.
Mobile telecommunication networks are playing and will continue to play a significant role in the search for innovative solutions to a number of development issues and can contribute to reducing poverty across the continent. "The digital revolution will only become a reality when it benefits everyone," underlined Paul Noumba Um, Country Director for Mali. "The World Bank Group stands with the countries of the Sahel to help the region reap the benefits of digital technologies."