NIMA Codes, a digital mapping service for locations without formal addresses, has upgraded its app and plans to launch in 15 African countries by 2020.
The pre-seed stage startup launched in 2018 around an API that uses mobile-phone numbers to catalogue coordinates for unregistered homes and businesses in Senegal.
NIMA Codes, which is based in Senegal, is adding a chat tool to its platform, to help users locate and comment on service providers, and is integrating a photo-based location identifier, NIMA Snap, in the application.
NIMA Codes co-founder and CEO, Mouhamadou Sall explained, “What we offer right now is a reliable street-addressing product, because it’s very difficult for people to communicate locations in Africa and a lot of services utilize location rendering, so we need a service that can communicate reliable locations effectively.
According to Sall, NIMA Codes has become a top-three downloaded navigation app in Senegal (for Android and iOS) by several rankings. The platform has 16,000 subscribed users and recorded over 100,000 searches.
Since the high mobile-phone penetration in Senegal and broader Africa, mobile numbers serve as a useful reference point to attach location-based information tagged for both homes and businesses, Sall explained. mobile-phones can also serve as an entry point for people to input location coordinates to NIMA Codes’ database.
There are also advantages to assigning coordinates to digits, vs. letters, in Sub-Saharan Africa with its 1000s of language groupings, Sall explained. “Nima Codes is a cross-border and language-agnostic solution,” he stated.
Sall assures that will work to the startup’s advantage when it expands services and data-base building to all 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States by the end of 2020.
The startup plans to generate revenue through partnerships and API usage fees.
Sall believes NIMA Codes’ new image-based location and chat-based business search functions could assemble, similar to Google Maps and find nearby places, to create commercial revenue opportunities across merchants in West Africa’s large, informal economies.
One more evident plug-in for NIMA Codes’ service is Africa’s fast-growing ride-hail and delivery markets. Sall shows 2019 data that Uber paid $58 million over three-years for map and search services. The US ride-hail company has also tested an image-based directions app called OKHi in Kenya. There are also reports of Uber’s imminent expansion into Senegal.
“The use-case is so big, you need to start with something and eventually expand,” he said. “but everything wraps around having a reliable location service for people and small businesses in Africa.