We just completed the first week of our long three weeks of travel that goes from Dakar in Senegal, to Tamale in Ghana. This trip is split in two parts:
- The first week was dedicated to the EU-funded VOICES project in Senegal (mostly Dakar, but also St Louis), and involved Max, Aman, Franco, Shivali and myself.
- The second and third week will be dedicated, as Aman announced recently, to the W4RA project, involving Aman and myself (for a part) plus our colleagues from the W4RA project.
This post is about the first part. The week started on Sunday with a trip to Saint-Louis with my colleague Etienne Barnard from NWU. Saint-Louis is about 4 hours drive to the north of Dakar. The trip was very good, and it was nice to discover the country-side of Senegal. St Louis is also a very special town: beautiful buildings, lots of activities around the River Senegal. As it was Sunday, people were playing music, football, etc. We walked around for a couple of hours and it was really wonderful. The aim of this trip to St Louis was to meet with University Gaston Berger. For a long time, I’ve wanted to visit UGB and Moussa Lo, the deputy director who I met at INRIA when he was spending times in the same lab (Edelweiss) where I worked in 1995. It was a great opportunity, as a team at UGB is working on a text-to-speech in Wolof (the national language of Senegal), and this is also something we have to work on in our VOICES project. It was also a chance to investigate other potential synergies with UGB. All in one, this was a very effective meeting, and there are clear similarities between their work and our plan, and we will surely follow-up with them, and work together on some of the items.
The latter part of the week (11, 12 and 13 January) was dedicated to the kick-off meeting of VOICES. About 30 people in total came from Mali, Senegal,and Europe, representing the 12 partners in the project. We defines a joint strategy for reaching the goals of the project (see the dedicated post of the goals of the project). This meeting was hosted by ESMT in Dakar. I want to thank them again for the wonderful work they did, particularly Tahirou Ouattara. I also want to send a big thank to Ralph Ankri from Orange, who also did a huge work in the organization of this meeting. Everything went very smoothly, and I’m now even more convinced than before that we are all sharing the same vision, and we have a complementary set of expertise that will lead us to success. We just have now a lot of work ahead !!
Aside this meeting, we also had good meetings with Mobile Senegal, an initiative that teach mobile technologies to students and organize bootcamp, and with Dakar CTIC, the futur incubator dedicated to ICT. This is all very promising for the extension of our Mobile Entrepreneur in Africa project in Senegal.
From the personal point of view, this was the first visit in Senegal for me, and I very much enjoyed it. Despite a very minor health problem, I really liked the life, and particularly the people for who the Terenga (welcoming) is not a void concept. I’m looking forward to come back in a near future.
To conclude, this first part was very productive and positive. This project is starting pretty well. We are now moving to the second part of this big trip, flying to Bamako and then on the road to meet farmers, community radios, IT companies, etc from Mali till Ghana. I’m looking forward to this road trip too. The first test will be tomorrow morning and the first presentation of the few demos we prepared (voice demo, radio demo, GIS demo, etc). We will share these demos here when we return.
P.S.: I will illustrate this post with pictures when I return, bandwidth does not allow any transfer of this size