Senegalese man in blue shirt sits at laptop
Group of Senegalese tech entrepreneurs pose for photo in front of white screen
Senegalese man and woman sit across a table from each other with a laptop between them

The rise of Senegalese tech start-ups

4 June 2024
ITC News

From incubation to profitability: beneficiaries of the NTF V Senegal Tech serve as a model of success for Senegalese entrepreneurship.

Serial entrepreneurs

In a fast-moving digital ecosystem, bold Senegalese start-ups have made a name for themselves. Driven by an ambition to revolutionize the market through innovative ideas, they have carved valuable space in the market for their business models.

How to explain their success, when most start-ups only survive around four years? While financing is key for entrepreneurial success, it's not the whole story. For Isidore Mbodj, Managing Director of the CTIC incubator in Dakar, a company's development depends less on its financing than on its support.

‘Embarking on the entrepreneurial adventure alone is risky. Young people mistakenly think that creating a start-up is a dazzling adventure. In fact, it's quite the opposite,’ he said. ‘The ICT start-ups we welcome to our digital hub are incubated for the years. Immersed in a business environment, they are coached by our network of mentors. They learn to think in terms of results, taxation, finance and management. They acquire all the tools and methodologies they need to structure their project and understand their market. That's the secret of success!’

When CTIC was founded 13 years ago, it was a pioneering structure in an embryonic digital ecosystem. Today, it is a leading incubator in Senegal and West Africa. Before joining the NTF V project, the big names in Senegalese tech had followed CTIC's support programs.

‘It's a great source of pride, Mbodj said with satisfaction. ‘When we started out, nobody knew what a start-up was. Today, Senegal has a ministry dedicated to the digital economy. This is a strong signal, which encourages us to pursue our commitment to rising digital stars.’

ByFilling: A success story

ByFilling was one of the first start-ups incubated by the CTIC. Specializing in inbound marketing and digital conversion, this Dakar-based agency is shaking up the Senegalese digital landscape with talent. With a staff of 10, Mohamed Diallo wants to lead the the French and Ivorian markets by 2030, while also planning to open branches in central and southern Africa.

When asked about his background, Mohamed speaks of the people who have influenced his career. First, his father, who encouraged him to believe in his dream. Then his uncle, who entrusted him with the first money needed to launch the project. After some initial stumbles, ByFilling joined the CTIC support program. Coached by experts, Mohamed structured his commercial offer.

ByFilling went on to win a succession of innovation awards, as well as being recognized as the best digital agency in West Africa. With the Netherlands Trust Fund project’s phase IV and V, Mohamed took the company to a new level: ISO 9001 certification. That certified ByFilling’s quality management systems, which paved the way for international growth.

With such solid support, the company soon turned a profit. But for its young director, this is no end in itself.

‘My coaching sessions with the ITC expert were decisive. I realized that the success of a start-up is not just a matter of technology or managing performance indicators. Above all, the company's first investment is its leader,’ he said.  ‘What leaders do, and the heart they put into their work, is the foundation of the company. Over time, I've learned to pick my battles, focus my energy, lead my teams and never lose sight of my priorities. When you've just graduated, your main aim is to create wealth. With experience, you put people and the planet back at the heart of your company's concerns. I want ByFilling to prosper, for everyone's benefit. ‘

With this in mind, the start-up has just formalized a new global performance model. Team coaching plays a major part in this, alongside a project to create a school dedicated to digital marketing professions.

‘Through conferences and content production, I also want ByFilling to draw on its expertise to speak out on pressing social issues, such as the dangers of screens for children,’ adds Diallo said. ‘A company's success is also measured by its positive impact on its ecosystem!’

About the project

The Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF) program (July 2021 – June 2025) is based on a partnership between the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Trade Centre. NTF V supports SMEs in the digital technology and agribusiness sectors in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Uganda. Its ambition is to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable transformation of agri-food systems partly through digital solutions, to improve the international competitiveness of local tech start-ups and to support the implementation of the export strategy of IT&BPO companies.