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Malian entrepreneur launches language barrier app

(People's Daily)    08:32, May 30, 2018

Johannesburg - Malian entrepreneur Mamadou Gouro Sidibé has provided local merchants and businesses with the social media platform in native tongue Lenali that can be used by anyone regardless of the language they speak.

(Photo: People's Daily/Li Zhiwei)

"If you ask a Malian merchant, he doesn’t want to use up his data to read content elsehwere because he can’t read French. But, if we provide him with a local platform where he can post voice messages in his language about the products he sells and delivers, then potential customers will understand him better," explained Sidibé.

After studying in Russia and France, Sidibé returned home in 2014. He decided to develop an African Viber which would allow users to communicate using less mobile data. But no one was interested.

One day, a local merchant asked Sidibé to translate some messages posted on Viber that he couldn’t read. Sidibé realized that Mali is still one of the few countries in the world with an illiteracy rate just less than 50 percent of the population.

Although 30 percent of the population owns a smartphone, many cannot read the content on the phones.

Sidibé decided to develop an app different from his competitors and focused on the Malians who didn’t know how to read and yet were equipped with cheap smartphones with Internet access.

The app is voice-based, which "sticks" to African oral culture. The entrepreneur first developed voice guides in several languages, such as Bambara, Soninke, Songhay, Moore, Wolof, and French, to help with the app installation.

Once installed, the other features are made accessible by voice, like making phone calls and leaving voice messages in the form of audio tape that can record 59 seconds.

The latest version of Lenali rolled in March 2017. In under one year, it has been downloaded 28,000 times across Africa and Europe. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Xu JiaWei, Liang Jun)

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