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Meet Saad Jittou, the activist for better mobility in Africa

07.02.2020
Saad-Jittou

Saad Jittou has made it his mission to combat mobility problems in Africa. Through his app, Weego, which is available in Dakar and six cities in Morocco, the young entrepreneur plans to reduce waiting times and improve access to areas without public transportation.

Saad Jittou’s impressive career and successful business Weego stem from his two passions: coffee and magazines. In March 2017, having sold his shares in Pikala Bikes – the first company to commercialize self-service bikes in Morocco – to the city of Marrakesh, the startupper decided to take a vacation in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. He got into the habit of getting coffee at the same café every day where, while flicking through a free local magazine, he came across an article about four young engineers from Dakar who wanted to revolutionize mobility in the city. “Something just clicked in my mind.I realized that was exactly what I was looking for. It turns out reading magazines really can change your life!” says the 25-year-old Moroccan with a laugh.

Improving mass transit with Weego

Just one week after leaving for his vacation, Saad Jittou got back to business to set up Weego alongside the four students from Dakar’s Ecole Polytechnique university. Altogether, they had an average age of just 23. What they had noticed was that “in the Senegalese capital, waiting times for buses were between 40 and 50 minutes, with some areas having no public transportation at all.” Thanks to his previous experience working on self-service bikes, the Casablanca native was able to draw on his skills and network in the mobility sector as well as the business acumen he acquired during his training and degree from the ENCG business school in Marrakesh. A collaborative platform inspired by the Waze model, which exploits data from its users, Weego was launched in August 2017. In April 2018, once the app had reached 10,000 users, Saad decided to go back to Casablanca to develop Weego in Morocco.

No more waiting around with Weego

Weego now has 15,000 users in Dakar and 20,000 in the six Moroccan cities (Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, Tangier, Agadir and Khouribga) where it operates. By measuring traffic in real time and tracking the schedules and regularity of buses and trains in Dakar, as well as trams in Morocco, the app helps users dramatically reduce waiting times. People with Weego receive notifications so they can leave their homes at the right time to hop on public transportation and avoid waiting around. And, since tickets can be bought directly through the app, users can say goodbye to endless lines, too. “Waiting times are the main problem for mobility in Africa.If you miss your bus – which happens all the time, particularly because of having to line up to buy tickets – you could have to wait two or three hours to get the next one, since there aren’t enough vehicles to meet demand.”

Private buses on demand

Weego also helps users optimize their trips by calculating the most efficient routes combining different types of transportation. In Morocco, to get round the “last mile” problem, the app shows the location and availability of taxis, too. And, the icing on the cake, it detects isolated areas with little or no public transportation and stands in for local authorities to offer users its own private bus service. In high-demand neighborhoods, Weego has even set up daily shuttles and provides at least three trips a week in areas with insufficient or non-existent public transportation. With space for 17 people, the private buses take passengers along routes developed according to demand, stopping off at the places most requested by users. A ticket costs €1 rather than the 50 cent fee for public buses, but still remains three to four times less expensive than a taxi ride. Users simply have to book their seat the day before via the platform. “People are prepared to pay more to reduce waiting and travel time. Now, even companies in Morocco are using our buses to pick up their employees,” adds Saad Jittou. “Our service is much better and more efficient than public transportation.”

“Eradicating the mass transportation problems in Africa”

The startupper doesn’t plan on stopping there: “African cities don’t want to invest in mobility, because it’s not very profitable.So the quality of transportation services on the continent is deteriorating.” With his “passion for mobility” and “dream of eradicating the mass transportation problems in Africa”, the young entrepreneur now wants to develop Weego in French-speaking sub-Saharan countries including Gabon, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Mauritania. At just 25 years old, Saad Jittou has all the ambition of someone who wants to change the world.

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