CEO Achiri Arnold Nji (Cameroon): “Travelr can make African roads safer”

Road accidents are the number one cause of death in Cameroon. Cameroonian startup Travelr has launched a unique safety app that is designed to ensure speed limits are respected on African roads and guarantee quick response in the event of accidents. Club Africa spoke to founder and CEO Achiri Arnold Nji, who dreams of introducing the app all over Africa. “Travelr can make African roads safer.”

“In Cameroon, reckless driving is killing more than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined”, says the man who started the Travelr company with the intention to save lives by tracking drivers on their journeys. Achiri Arnold Nji, a 28-year-old electrical engineering graduate of Polytechnique Yaoundé, was one of the winners of the Empowering People Award organized by Siemens Stiftung. He also grasped the African Entrepreneurship Award organized by BMCE Bank of Africa.

With his startup partners, Nji developed Travelr as a tool that helps track passengers on their journeys. The app allows them to report problems that may occur, like speeding, bad passing, bad parking and accidents. This information, passed on by motorists will be redirected to the authorities, law enforcement agencies, emergency medical centers, next of kin etc. The app was launched in October and with almost 5,000 downloads and 530 active users it is doing fairly good according to Cameroon standards.

Travelr not only tracks the user's movements. “It automatically alerts a driver when he travels above recommended speed limits, and at the same time alerts authorities. In the event of an emergency, Travelr records the location, speed, name of driver and number of passengers in a bus, and forward this information to road safety teams, emergency teams, hospitals and families of victims.

Technology and information
The Travelr platform works with the same capacity as a speedometer, a speed radar and a black box combined, all using a mobile phone. Travelr uses a sensor and GPS technology to monitor just how well the user’s car is being driven.
It has not been easy to complete the platform and include all necessary information. The Travelr CEO chooses his words carefully when he points the fingers towards the government that has not been very supportive. “It took us a while to include contact information of all hospitals. We did not get the info from the government, so we had to go from one hospital to another all over the country to collect the data.” Internet connectivity has been another issue, as well as attracting the right developers to make the app better and better. “For now, only the android version exists, and we are working on the iOS version already.”

Interest among companies
Individual travellers can access the app for free but companies pay a fee to use the app in managing their transport fleets. Companies or individuals running buses, taxis or trucks have shown a lot of interest in the app which also logs information about speed, location and cases of overcrowding in the bus or taxi as reported by passengers. Achiri Arnold Nji insists that the app offers an ideal way to check a bus or truck drivers’ behaviour, and safe driving. “Keeping track of someone’s safe or unsafe driving is a powerful tool. A manager of a bus company can steer the performance of his employees in a positive way. But even for individual drivers, the platform is very useful. If one of his bus drivers is speeding above 60 kilometres per hour, our application automatically will notify him via the ‘hello driver’ feature, warning him that speeding may cause accidents.”

Fines and insurances
The app developer is considering other, rather unusual ways to make money. “The idea is to take a share from fines obtained from speeding detected through the app. We also intend to sell our data to insurance companies for risk assessment.” There is another spinoff idea - a premium version of the Travelr app that would allow it to cover the medical expenses of victims in the event of an accident.”

The next steps for Travelr seems obvious: getting the app well adopted in Cameroon and proving its purpose by actually improving road safety in Cameroon. And after that: Africa! Nji has every reason to take his product further. According to WHO 1.24 million people die and up to 50 million are injured in road accidents each year. 90% of casualties occur in developing countries. Travelr is seeking funding with the hope of expanding across Africa by the start of 2019. “It’s not just funding we need”, says Nji. “We hope to find the right partners in other African countries.”

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