DocuPerdu – in search of lost documents

DocuPerdu is a new online service to help people search and recover documents lost in Cameroon. Founder Emmanuel Nganyu, aged 26, saw an opportunity for a social enterprise after discovering the high numbers of people who lose their national ID cards. This introduction may seem odd – can one actually build a viable business on the fact that people lose documents? Entrepreneur Nganyu claims he foresees a future for his new business.

“It can take up to four months to get a new ID card in Cameroon. Since this is the basis for all other documents, it’s really inconvenient to be without it for so long. And you have to pay over 10,000 CFA (approx. USD 15) into the bargain. The DocuPerdu service helps people recover lost documents quickly and at a fraction of the cost.”

When finders aren’t keepers


Since launching in August 2016 DocuPerdu has successfully recovered over 200 documents, most of them ID cards. The service runs on a mix of human effort and technology. Agents in the field do the legwork picking up documents dropped on the streets of five cities: Douala, Yaoundé, Maroua, Buea and Bamenda. The agents, like the founder all twenty-somethings, register the documents in the DocuPerdu database by owner name and document type. Then the office staff search for the owners on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. “Unfortunately, we don’t find many people this way and have to keep their documents for quite some time or hand them in to the police,” admits Emmanuel. “As a start-up DocuPerdu has limited marketing funds but we want to become the ‘go to’ place to find a lost document.”

Free registration

There is a free registration module on the DocuPerdu app (Android) and website so that people can enter their contact information even before they lose anything. “When a newly found document is registered in our system, there’s an automatic search for anyone with a similar name. If we find a match, we send an SMS and e-mail to the contact number of the person, telling them how to recover their lost document.” The registration module now has 800 users, including non-Cameroon residents and visitors from outside Africa.


Legitimate business

The service employs 16 agents in the field, 2 business managers and 2 developers. With the potential to earn a monthly commission ten times higher than the local minimum wage, the agents are highly motivated. “Some DocuPerdu agents are people who used to provide similar services on a very local scale. Our technology helps them combine their experience with a much wider reach.’
But life can be hard on the street. “The police may see our agents as suspects if documents were lost in a robbery. But once we explain our concept and show them our app and website, they understand who we are,” says EN. “We’re very clear about working within the law and have applied for official authorization from the governors of the regions we operate in. It’s a delicate area but we’re serving a real need.”

In December 2016 alone DocuPerdu agents found over 1,500 documents in just two cities. Most were ID cards, but they also found 111 bank cards, 202 voter cards and even a birth certificate.

Any time, any place

DocuPerdu has received requests from users in Chad, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal asking if the service was available in their countries. Emmanuel Nganyu: “We believe our model and service could be very popular across Africa and even further. Losing your belongings is something that can happen any time, any place.”

Document Type

Price (F CFA)

National ID Card

3000

Passport

20,000

Drivers License

10,000

School Certificates (All)

15,000

Birth Certificates

10,000

Professional, Students  and Voters Cards

Free

Others

Negociable

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