Alain Ekambi, the man who wanted to conquer Facebook in Africa

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Logpom, Douala: here I am at the Dikalo headquarters. Today, I have a meeting with its CEO and co-founder: Alain Ekambi, 38 years old. I wanted to introduce him today as he is one of the rare entrepreneurs in Cameroon who set their sights on Africa and the world. Too often, we prefer to take a national perspective and forget that the world is our oyster.

How does he plan to go about it? One word: Dikalo, which means the message and/or the news in the Douala language. It is the name of a private messaging platform launched in 2016. To return to its origin story: after earning his Baccalaureate in 2000 from the Alfred Saker school, Alain Ekambi left for Munich, Germany to pursue studies in civil engineering. During an “Open House” day at Munich Technical University, he discovered information technology and fell head over heels.

I was instantly fascinated by algorithms, machines, coding. On that day, I knew that it was what I wanted to learn. Four years later, I earned my Master’s in software development

Alain Ekambi, CEO and co-founder of Dikalo

At the same time, he was playing basketball, and his height (over 1.9 metres) helped him to progress in an amateur club in the city. He started playing the sport in Cameroon where he had already received numerous prizes including the championship of Cameroon. His talent and his mastery of two key positions (shooting guard and small forward) allowed him to advance from amateur to pro basketball in Germany. “I believe that basketball helped me to integrate in Germany. In general, sport brings people together,” he adds. Alain Ekambi finished his basketball career with the Bayern club in Munich before dedicating himself fully to entrepreneurship.

In 2014, he and a Togolese friend opened an IT consulting firm: AHOMÉ Innovation Technologies. The firm is still active in Germany. Two years later, in 2016, he decided to launch DIKALO.

“Africa is the second largest continent in the world with 1.2 billion inhabitants. Over 500 million of them are connected. Although Africa is one of the key actors in the mobile industry, I was surprised to learn that we depend on foreign platforms, more precisely American ones such as Facebook, Snapchat and Telegram, for 99% of service. Dikalo was a response, demonstrating that Africa could also create a platform. The skills and capacities needed are certainly present on the continent.” explains Alain Ekambi.

To date, Dikalo has 100,000 registered users of which 87,000 are active each day; 85 million messages have been sent since the platform was created. Among other things, Dikalo offers: 100% African customised stickers: Camer stickers, Zouzoukwa from the Ivory Coast, Naija stickers from Nigeria, Oju and many others. As with other platforms, you can use it to send text, images and voicemails. It’s currently quite busy in their office - in a few days, Dikalo will launch its version 2. The focus will be on performance, design and above all the customer journey (intuitiveness). Certain users had pointed out the size of the app (40 MB) as an issue since it took a large amount of data to download it and it ran slowly, especially on IOS. According to the DIKALO team, version 2 will exceed our expectations. For that matter, I also have an account set up and ready to be used. I was fascinated to learn that behind this company on a par with those in San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, there were no more than four people: Alain Ekambi (Founder-CEO), Daniel Agnéro (Founder- Head of Design), Bitoa Pendenskil (Head of Communication and Marketing), Farouk Sabiou (Android Developer). I hope that they will meet the various challenges they have given themselves.

They have already received €1 million in investments from 26 people. We may not have the resources of larger companies, but as the saying goes: start where you are, use what you have, do the best you can.