Cameroon has become home to several innovative startups, which take advantage of technological advances to revolutionize the industries in which they operate. Kwiizi is one of them. Founded in 2013, the company seeks to contribute to the improvement of the educational system in Cameroon and Africa, by developing technologies such as the Kwiizi Box.
InsAfrika arranged a Skype interview with Raoul Fotso, co-founder of Kwiizi, to let him tell the story of his masterpiece. (The transcript has been slightly edited)
What is Kwiizi?
Kwiizi is a Cameroonian startup based in Douala. The Kwiizi Box allows educational institutions to obtain millions of articles, books and videos for education while providing a communication platform where students and teachers can interact. It lets users make video calls and share data for free even in rural areas without having an Internet connection. Moreover, the Kwiizi Box does not consume a lot of electricity, is biodegradable, and is manufactured with corn husks. The main key partners are Wikipedia, IP Cortex, Raspberry PI.
“The main social impact is the improvement of the success rate for students and the increase in the literacy rate. “
Kwiizi is currently present in 5 institutions in Douala with 5,000 users. Our startup wants to extend its activities to other parts of Cameroon and to other countries in Africa.
What was the motivation behind starting Kwiizi?
250 million children worldwide cannot read, write or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills. Many of these children, in developing countries, do not have regular access to quality schools or teachers. Moreover, the pressure to achieve universal primary education enrollment has amplified the overcrowding of classrooms and the hiring of unqualified teachers, resulting in sub-standard learning. In fact, UNESCO estimates that the world will need 1.6 million teachers by 2015. And that number is expected to double by 2030. Our mission is to help learners access information by democratizing knowledge and allowing cheap communication, regardless of the environment.
What was your occupation before you created the startup?
After I graduated in 2012, I was working in a company . I am a graduate of ESSEC Business School of Douala and ESSEC Business School of Paris. I founded Kwiizi with my childhood friend, who studied IT at the University.
What did it cost to start Kwiizi, in terms of time and money?
It took us 14 months and 500 000 FCFA. We used our savings and loans from our families.
Has the concept behind the Kwiizi Box evolved since you created it?
We first created a web platform for interaction between teachers and students. It was a digital workplace that allowed students to follow the development of courses and curricula. With the instability of internet connection, only a few students had access to content. More students have expressed the need to access digital books and courses since their physical libraries were not enough furnished. So we have developed a platform that provides offline learning content. We contacted Wikipedia to develop their project for offline content. The work was appreciated and the Wikipedia Foundation has trusted us by providing us with their learning content.
What were the main challenges you faced when starting Kwiizi?
The main challenge was that, in the beginning, we did not have financial support from the government. At that time, we needed money to buy materials. There are many materials we had to buy and we had to test them while improving the technology. Also, we did not have enough funds to employ people that would work on the application. That is why it took more than a year to develop the technology.
Another challenge was that people around us were not understanding what we were doing. Since the project was not very clear in the beginning, people did not trust the technology.
What opportunities do you think Cameroon has to offer in terms of entrepreneurship?
Cameroon is now giving more opportunities for people to start their own businesses. For example, there is a department of the Ministry of Economy called “ Bureau d’Accompagnement à la Creation d’Entreprise” which helps people create their company in three days. So, within three days, you can fill all the documents you need and start. There are some other options. The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, for example, created a center of incubation for young people who have projects they want to develop. When you go there, they will mentor your project. There are many coaches that will help you build a business plan, and then they can help you launch by giving you an allocation or the materials you need.
Where do you see Kwiizi in the future?
Kwiizi Box will be a social network for students, where they can share their experiences and their knowledge. It will be a support for education and training in schools. There are many services that we are working on now to make the Kwiizi Box open to all problems of education.
What advice would you give to young Cameroonians who wish to start their own businesses?
My advice to those who wish to start a business is that if they have an idea, they should go out and start working on it. They should not stay in their bedroom with their computers hoping that everything is going to go well. They need to be in a community, where they can share their visions, they can share their dreams and projects so that others will contribute to improving them. When you are in a community, there are many connections you get. It is said that when we are together we are stronger.