[Interview] Yannick Lefang, Founder, SOKO Insight, Canada
Yannick Lefang has 10 years of experience in Engineering, Business and Risk management in financial institutions of Canada. He is currently Founder of SOKO Insight, a data-collection service for African countries.
His interview with Africa Business Communities:
Would you please introduce SOKO Insight?
SOKO Insight is a web-based data collection platform that provides reliable data and actionable insights from Africa in two weeks. Simply pick a country and ask questions; we get on-the-ground answers and insights for you. All from your PC, anywhere in the world. We do it via a grassroots network of local partners and some of the best data analytics tools available.
In which industries does SOKO Insight operate and who are your clients?
With over 62% of marketers in Africa complaining about the lack of local market data and insights, our first product SOKO Consumer Survey provides marketers/advertisers a new tool to get the data and insights they need. We deploy and report within two weeks using some of the best data visualization tools. Our clients are market research firms, media outlets looking for timely, affordable and reliable consumer data in Africa. We are one of the few research firms with in-house data collection capabilities in 20 countries in Africa.
Why did you start SOKO Insight?
Which continent has 6 of 10 fastest growing economies in the world? Most people will say Asia. In fact, it's Africa. According to McKinsey, Africa will be a 1.2 trillion consumer market by 2020. That's a 40 billion business opportunity for marketing agencies around the world. Unfortunately, in a recent survey by the World Federation of Advertisers, more than 62% of marketers said that the lack of local market data in Africa is hindering their attempts to generate insights. Basic data on media consumption, retail performance or shopping habits is scarce and when available, it's outdated, unreliable, generic and expensive.
What other companies/organizations/activities have you founded?
A while back I founded a photo app company called Beunick that turned photos shared on Facebook into discounts to our favorite brands. I also co-founded a risk management case competition here in Canada in collaboration with the Professional Risk Managers International Association. The competition is now global with teams from UK, USA, Canada and France entering to win a $10,000 prize and the title of Risk Champions.
Back in School, I founded Forum Baobab, an entrepreneurship club to fostering entrepreneurship among African students in Canada. The project received several accolades including by the then President of Senegal, Aboulaye Wade.
What can be done by entrepreneurs and governments of Africa to stimulate its business environment?
Entrepreneurs should not assume that their proximity with a market gives them an advantage. We’ve seen with the case of mobile app developers in Kenya complaining that Kenyans don’t download their apps. We ran a 3-country study that revealed that 43% of Kenyans didn’t even know about local made apps and that the majority found the content, quality and price to be poor to average. In fact, most developers are copying games or other apps made elsewhere for a local market that is looking for something different. I strongly encourage entrepreneurs to get reliable data to vet ideas, test products, and understand the market and consumer habits.
Governments should create an environment that encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. Our governments have blueprints around the world (i.e. Singapore, Canada, the US) to name a few, of how to create an ecosystem. Make it easy to create a business, get tax credit for the first years of operations, select strategic sectors and push innovation to gain leadership. I strongly believe that Africa’s challenges are not corruption, low FDI or low oil price. Africa needs to grow faster than the corruption rate, the FDI rate or the oil price drop rate. It is the only the continent will grow and everyone will benefit.
What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of SOKO Insight in 2016?
2016 is going to be an exciting year for us as we are now in several countries and ready to onboard clients. Are you an entrepreneur looking to validate your business idea? SOKO Insight can help. Are you a marketer looking to generate insights on the African middle class? We can help. Are you a leader looking to make data driven decision? We can help. Gone are the days when getting on-the-ground data, quickly and from your computer was impossible. We aim to be the one-stop shop for all data in the next five years.
How do you predict African economies will perform in 2016?
2016 is going to be challenging year for African countries notably the oil rich ones given the drop in oil price. The diversified economies will fare better; I am thinking Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, or Tanzania and Kenya. Countries with sound infrastructures, policies and leadership can withstand global shocks like oil price drop or currency fluctuation. The good news is that PE has actually increased as opportunities still lie in consumer facing industries. I see the start of the great rotation from FDI to PE and it’s a good sign as far as I am concerned.
If I had to take a shot and which countries would do best, I’d say Rwanda and Ivory Coast. Rwanda because it has a sound government and a small economy that is well managed. Ivory Coast because of the influx of investment in infrastructure, agriculture and the new leadership that is focusing on driving change and progress.