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Lionel Mobi: “Our goal is to revolutionize and modernize urban transport in Africa”

Lionel Mobi: “Our goal is to revolutionize and modernize urban transport in Africa”
Written by Publishing Team

(Worked in Cameroon) – Previously held the position of Operations Manager at Jumia in Cameroon and Ghana. He holds a Master’s degree in Supply Chain Management from Saint Jerome Catholic University in Douala and since June 2021 he is the Country Director of Gozem in Benin. In this interview, Lionel Moby tells us about the ambitions, pitfalls and hopes of Gozem, a startup specializing in financial services, transportation and e-commerce, which will soon officially start operating in Cameroon.

Business in Cameroon: Can you tell us more about Gozem and in what sector of e-commerce you operate?

Lionel Mobi: Gozem is a multifunctional app (Super App) that features a series of different but related services – including urban transportation of people, goods and e-commerce services – based on an on-demand delivery model. Concretely, our app connects three primary stakeholders, on purpose: the drivers we refer to as “champions” (motorcycles, tuk-tuks and cars), merchants (particularly restaurants, grocery stores, and supermarkets), and end customers, who can move around or move goods with the help of First Stakeholder(s) Order a meal or product from any of our merchant partners and have it delivered by one of our brave heroes. You see, heroes are really at the heart of our business. Using their activity statistics and our in-app e-wallet, we were able to develop a third service, FinTech. It allows us to provide the products and equipment they need for the business (phones, insurance, helmets, vehicles, etc.), which they can get on a ‘work and pay’ model.

Ben Cowles: You’re already in Togo, Gabon, Benin, and very soon in Cameroon. What services do you provide in a concrete way that contribute to the development of transportation in these countries?

Latif: As I said earlier, our services are primarily intended to address urban mobility issues. We currently have nearly 4,000 vehicles (bikes, tuk tuks, and cars) in the three countries you listed (Cameroon is not included). With us, getting around has never been easier. All you need is a phone, place your order and one of our heroes will be there within the next five minutes. Our rates are low, pre-made (and therefore hassle-free), and each champ (driver) has been trained and gone through a KYC verification process. So Gozem checks everything and can easily track drivers, which is a guarantee of security.

Next, we are committed to facilitating digital business transactions. It is no secret that in the coming years, e-commerce will occupy an even greater place in the commerce industry. To be a part of this expansion, Gozem leverages three key points (logistical capacity, technology, and marketing). Our partnership with merchants is the fourth point that completes this foundational square and enables us to be a major player in this sector. We want to bring new business opportunities to our merchant partners and offer our customers a new buying experience, an easier and more efficient one.

Finally, we value our heroes. Once recruited, all of our heroes receive training in modules like passcode, digital tools (how to use our app and GPS), customer service, and more. This helps them get real added value compared to drivers in a traditional transportation system. In addition to these basic equipment such as helmets (2), smartphones and insurance, all of which are mandatory for Gozem heroes, their added value increases even more. Therefore, we contribute to the formalization of a sector whose players have long been abandoned to their devices. With the data we collect, we can even generate credits that allow us to fund our heroes’ equipment. In Benin and Togo, this is how we have been able to help more than 1,500 champions change vehicles, using a working and payment financing model.

Ben Cowles: Despite the high rate of Internet and communications penetration, these countries are still struggling with access to digital technologies. How do you overcome this challenge?

Lom: Indeed, the development of the digital economy requires high-quality access to the Internet, as well as the democratization of digital tools (smartphones in particular). In the countries in which we are located, the rate of Internet penetration is growing steadily from year to year. While we expect this growth to accelerate further, we are currently working to close zero-sum partnerships with telecom operators. Simply put, using our services does not require data. We are also working on other, more advanced technologies to overcome this challenge of Internet access.

Ben Cowles: Another problem is the condition of the road and the street address. Electronic transmission mainly depends on these factors. So how do you deal with countries like Cameroon where the size of cities hampers road networks?

For: Bad road conditions make movement difficult and increase operating costs. We can’t control road conditions and while this is a challenge, we see things differently. We believe our services are more convenient as we reduce the operational costs of our heroes, by focusing on other factors such as improving access to our customers without having to roam around town, or taking advantage of financing solutions to purchase equipment. We also make it less stressful for our customers to commute by taking them at their doorstep, providing them with convenience, and charging transparent low prices.

Now, regarding the issue of street address, we mostly use GPS coordinates. Also, we have developed features such as the Landmark function that digitally maps thousands of known places in each city. These two tools allow us to avoid most of the processing problems we face.

Ben Cowles: You are personally involved in this project, although there are no schools offering such training in Cameroon. For young people like you, what skills are needed to be a part of similar projects?

LM: Besides technical courses (web development, etc.) and marketing (digital marketing), digital careers are not entirely different from traditional ones. A seller who works in the retail industry for example can become a seller on Gozem. There are some soft skills that they will need. Therefore, I don’t think they should take a specific course, but rather training modules focused on this new expanding economy, which will help recent graduates to acquire more skills and have more opportunities. I have been working in this sector for seven years. I have had the opportunity to fill relatively important positions in top companies across the continent, and I believe that passion and desire to learn are among the most important factors that determine failure or success in this sector. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn. Enthusiastic people and geek workers who can use their technical knowledge to solve the problems arising here are needed. Those who do not like this job and are not always willing to put in the extra effort will eventually give up when challenges arise. There are many challenges.

Ben Cowles: In Cameroon, a lot of modernity is afraid. In the mobility sector, there are many drivers of traditional taxis, taxis and even some undercover drivers. Is it possible that they take away their jobs in the long run?

LM: No, not at all! We are not their competitors. exactly the contrary. We support these representatives. They are at the heart of the project, not excluded. If you take a look at the ten values ​​of Gozem, you will notice that three of them are about the importance of heroes to Gozem. And while it is true that people are afraid of modernity, things will be different with us. We are working to reduce operational costs and give value to urban drivers. Our goal is to revolutionize and modernize urban transport in Africa, and we intend to do so with those already in the sector now.

Ben Cowles: What do you consider the most important obstacle to your success?

Blame: The biggest enemy of any innovative business like ours is underutilization. The biggest risk is developing a product that is not widely adopted by the market. There is no single challenge or challenge more important than that. Several challenges can affect use. However, we are confident that thousands of people are already using our app and we are setting new records every month. Regardless, we’re humble enough to admit that not everything is perfect. That is why we work, every day, to improve our products and services, to constantly enhance our experience and therefore our number of users.

British Columbia: The business climate is often cited as a major challenge in African countries. Given that you have had many successful projects, what do you think of this visualization?

Lum: Administrative procedures and corruption are the main obstacles to investment. I think digitization is an important answer to that. I have worked in many African countries and what I have noticed is that when management services are digitized, companies often find it easier and more transparent to invest. Many African countries are currently digitizing their administrative procedures, and while I believe there is still much to be done, we are on the right track.

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