Meet ApiAfrique, the Senegalese startup working to change the rules!
ApiAfrique is a Senegalese social enterprise that promotes innovative, local and environmentally friendly solutions for women and baby care. Founded by Marina and Abdoulaye Gning, the startup began operations in 2016 in Senegal. It contributes through its products, to the emancipation of women, the reduction of waste, the fight against exclusion and the creation of jobs.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Marina Gning, co-founder of the social enterprise Apiafrique. I worked for 10 years in film production and then founded my first company in 2010 called ApiNapi; a specialist in cloth diapers and reusable hygiene products in general.
What is the story behind ApiAfrique?
When i was developing my first company Apinapi in France, we bought the products all over the world and sold them with the advice of the customers. My husband Abdoulaye being Senegalese, we often went to Senegal on vacation. It was during one of these trips that we offered cloth diapers to my sister-in-law who had just given birth. She was immediately intrigued: she was indepeda必利勁 nt and the diapers were beautiful. We thought about importing some brands, but the price would have been too high and some models were not adaptive.
After thinking about it, we finally decided to create a special diaper and manufacture it in Senegal to create local jobs. An idea we started working on by following the online MOOC “becoming an entrepreneur of change”.
Then, when talking with some women we discovered that there was also a great interest in washable menstrual pads. So we took that into consideration and today it is our flagship product.
Who are your target customers, and what problem are you solving?
Our clients are principally women, young girls, retailers and NGOs.
The problems we try to solve are of several kinds and are related to the management of menstruation and baby changing. We also address the health problems related to the chemicals that are in the composition of disposable pads, the high cost of disposable pads and diapers, the economic dependence of women and young girls for their purchase and the waste generated.
What are your challenges?
Our major challenges today are: the supply of raw materials, large-scale distribution in Senegal and human resources.
What is your vision for your startup? What does success look like?
Our vision is a world where every person uses a majority of reusable and healthy products in their daily lives.
Success will be achieved for us when our products are widely available in West Africa and used by at least 50% of girls and women.
Why did you apply for NHA? Why NHA and not another accelerator?
We were introduced to the NHA program last year at the menstrual poverty event organized by Intrepid Entrepreneurs. We met a very knowledgeable team about menstrual poverty and the market for reusable sanitary pads because they had already worked withcompanies in this sector in Africa and ordered a research paper from Noru Capital. As a result, they published the first market research on reusable sanitary pads in Africa.We told ourselves ‘’Great! Here is finally a team that knows our products, reusable sanitary pads, and the African market and wants to help impact companies to evolve’’. So for us, it was perfect.
What were your expectations, and how was your experience with the program so far?
Our expectations from the NHA program were mainly related to the scale change. Today, after five years of activity, we have benefited from several programs that have helped us move forward, but we are at a crossroads. We have a team of about thirty people, and to go much further, we needed high-level help. Today we need bespoke advice and experts who can work with us on each of our problems. This is what we expected from NHA and what we have today. Fully customized support with much professionalism and a lot ofgoodwill.
Have you met someone who inspires you since participating in NHA?
Each member of the NHA team brings something to the table and each one inspires us in their own way. The team is efficient and caring, and everyone is a real pleasure to work with.
What significant progress have you made in your business since joining NHA?
Since we joined NHA, our product distribution strategy has become increasingly clear and we have tools to help us make decisions.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would like every girl and woman to understand her menstrual cycle and to be able to thrive and no longer allow non-recyclable waste.
Do you have any last comment or advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?
The advice I would give to entrepreneurs is don’t be alone. I always say that. If you think you have your idea, you want to keep it to yourself and move forward, but you can reach your limits quickly if you go through it alone, which gets tiring. So, surround yourself with other entrepreneurs, get help, get coaching, and don’t hesitate to participate in incubation and acceleration programs because that’s the key.
When I say that you shouldn’t stay alone and get help and support, it also means that you should share with others. When you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t just take, you have to share with other entrepreneurs, and it’s okay to say that you have problems or to show and explain your issues to others. That’s how you move forward. So also share your findings from your concerns; you will receive a lot in return, and that’s how you will grow.