In partnership with the digital agency ByFillingYUX has recently carried out a Human Centered Design study on street vendors in Senegal. Our designers spent several days getting in touch with the merchants to understand their technological uses, frustrations and aspirations. The aim of this public study is to inspire the design of useful digital solutions adapted to their daily lives.

This study focused itself on coffee, credit and fruit vendors. It confirmed some expectations about the merchants … but more interesting, it revealed a lot of unexpected insights:

  1. Although they also use Whatsapp, Messenger and Viber, the favorite app of merchants is Imo. They like it for its simplicity and reliability. Many of them are illiterate in French and use most of the time voice message functionality and emoticons or stickers.
  2. Most sellers want to learn English! It is surprising given the few English-speaking clients they meet. But all the merchants that have been interviewed told us they were upset of not being able to exchange with American or English tourists, whom apparently they see coming more and more.
  3. RFI (Radio France International) is definitely the favorite radio of the merchants because it is the only radio which provides news of their home country, Guinea.
  4. The merchants are bored! They have extremely intense periods of rush (morning, midday and night) and long slack periods. Thus they desperately seek entertainment and information in their native tongue (Pulaar).
  5. Most sellers use bus as means of transport to their workplace but lose a lot of time when coming or going back in it. If merchants get back home late after having made high profits, many prefer to take a taxi for safety reasons.
  6. Coffee, credit and fruit sellers, even those in the same area, rarely combine to buy wholesale, trade or invest. Enough surprising is that most of them come from the same country and live in the same neighborhoods or houses in Dakar.
  7. All sellers would like to have more regular and recurring customers, but they do not know how to manage it and have no way to communicate with them.
  8. More than 1/3 of the vendors have a smartphone and most are connected everyday day. It is usually in the evening that they use an internet pass of 500 or 1000 FCFA to discuss with the family via Imo or Whatsapp.
  9. Apart from Samsung for its accessibility and strength — no brand draw the attention or the sympathy of the merchants. On the contrary, they seem very disappointed by the relationship they have with telecom operators or coffee suppliers.
  10. The street sellers suffer more than we think from the lack of consideration of the population; when some of them like fruit sellers can generate more than 100,000 FCFA each day!

Do these facts surprise you? Feel free to give us your opinion and to write to us if you want more information about Human Centered Design and informal economies in Africa > https://yux.design/