Young Scientists

Mamadou Gouro Sidibé: "A vocal social network for Africans who can’t read"

Who are you?

My name is Mamadou Gouro Sidibé. I am a doctor in computer science. I am from Mali. I got my PhD in France. I am the creator of Lenali, the first social network in the world that is totally vocal and speaks local African languages.

Tell us about Lenali

There are already several social networks, and they are very successful. But only among the most connected and literate populations. In Mali, only 40% of the population can read and write. And in many African countries, the situation is not much better. And in our countries, there are a multitude of languages. A third factor is that orality is a culture. I think that the current social networks, as they stand, will not be able to reach all African populations because their DNA does not take into account African socio-cultural and economic realities. That's why Lenali was created. It allows you to choose your local language, to get vocal instructions, then create your profile vocally and make voice publications, publications with sound photos, voice comments. In other words, all you can do with the existing social networks, but without ever having to write a single word. The idea is to be able to use these tools, whether you are educated or not. And once the local populations have access to the digital tools, we can bring literacy and all the other development tools.

How was your return to Africa?

In many countries it is not easy to get seed money. Because the most difficult question at the beginning, when you have a good idea is: “how do you pay for the first resources, be it material, be it real estate or whatever it takes?“ How do you pay salaries? It is necessary to have a priming fund. We don't always have them. And not everyone can benefit from existing supports. I simply put family money and friends'money in. So that's how I started. And I went like that because I believed in my idea. And I have been able to gather other young Africans with me. Because my team is not only Malians. There are Senegalese, there are Togolese, there are Rwandans, and there will be others over time. So it was very difficult to get back there. But we persevered and we start now to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Interview by Jean-Bruno Tagne

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