Co-founder and CEO of Chari
He is one of the most talked-about Moroccan players lately in the field of e-commerce on the continental scene, between acquisitions, distinctions and African ambitions. Ismael Belkhayat, co-founder and CEO of Chari looks back here on Chari’s development projects on the continent, with the objective of settling in all of French-speaking Africa. Interview.
Your startup “Chari” has been making a lot of noise on the continent lately. Can you present it to us?
Founded in January 2020, Chari is a digital distributor of consumer products and financial services for local businesses in French-speaking Africa. It started its activities in Morocco before extending them to Tunisia in early 2022. After a successful proof of concept in the Kingdom, Chari’s ambition is to become the leader of its model in French-speaking Africa.
What are your ambitions on the continent after the acquisition of the Ivorian startup “Diago”?
Our objective is to continue to make acquisitions in various countries of French-speaking Africa. We aim to go into these countries by acquiring existing local players there, in order to expand our activities there. As I said, the secret to successful expansion lies in building a local team that is dynamic in its market.
Succeeding in convincing local entrepreneurs to unite with Chari, to grow even faster, is the real challenge of our expansion. We will continue to unite around us, young and ambitious French-speaking African entrepreneurs in order to create together a pan-African group in the distribution of consumer products and financial services.
What exactly are the particularities of this acquisition?
Diago is an Ivorian application for connecting local shops and producers/importers of consumer goods. Founded in 2021 by Amidou Diarra and Ali Ouattara, two former managers of Glovo and PepsiCo, diagoapp.net operates exclusively in Abidjan.
Ali and Amidou will remain, respectively, CEO and COO of Diago and will take care of the national expansion of their activity before extending it to other sub-Saharan countries. The transaction took place mainly in exchange for shares and was accompanied by the firms AF Legal, RBB international, on the Moroccan side, and by Houda law firm, on the Ivorian side.
You were named “best African startup” at the last Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan. What was your strength?
Our secret and our particularity is to have a great impact on people. We help small businesses to buy better, to be more competitive, and therefore to survive competition from large and medium-sized stores. Our ambition is to bring e-commerce to life in the face of supermarkets and large areas.
We do a lot of financial inclusion by working with people who don’t have accounts, so who are not included in the banking system. And yet, we trust them, by giving them payment terms, financial tools… This is what makes us a company that has a strong impact. This year, the Africa CEO forum highlighted the best African startups by creating the “Disruptor of the Year” category.
This new category selects the most innovative and disruptive startups. The focus is on the impact of these companies on their communities in terms of financial inclusion, access to education, health and energy. I remind you that the nominees for this edition are Chari, Vezeeta, Yassir, Paps and Releaf.
How does digital allow you to better reach your targets on the continent?
Digital allows us to do communication and marketing, to reach our targets, which are small traders. Then, they benefit from our services, which allows us to recover data. This data allows us to carry out financial inclusion with “credit-scoring”, to analyze the repayment capacities of each client and thus to decide to whom we can give credit.
Do you face real competition in your industry on the continent?
We have many competitors, but who are in English-speaking Africa. These are actors who have raised, like us, a lot of money and who are growing very quickly. But they are currently limited to Anglophone Africa. On the French-speaking countries, for the moment, there is nobody.
What difficulties are you encountering in your sector? the continent ?
These difficulties are related to the fact that customers are not always comfortable with technology. They don’t always have smartphones. It is therefore up to us to study them and qualify them on the tools we use.
Abdellah Benahmed / ECO Inspirations