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Adebayo Adedeji, CEO Wakanow

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By Lamin Cham

One of Africa’s most innovation online travel agency, Wakanow on Thursday launched its Gambian chapter at a glamorous ceremony at the plush Kalimba Hotel. The agency has already made a presence in most countries, including UK and Dubai alongside most West African nations providing a one- stop -shop service for all the needs of travellers.

At the end of the launching, attended by representatives from the ministry of tourism, GTBoard and other stakeholders, the CEO of Wakanow, Adebayo Adededji sat with The Standard ‘s Editor Lamin Cham to explore more about the company and its Gambia operations.

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Mr CEO, what inspired your company to come to The Gambia and what are the potentials for both Wakanow and Gambia?

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Thank you for having me. It is important to first talk about the African customer. The African customer travels for multiple reasons; to visit relations, for vacations, for education, for better livelihood and to visit family and friends. So, what we are seeing in West Africa specifically is that countries outside that have ease of visas, good fares and countries that grant visas have seen patronage from the West African customers. Example, Rwanda has a visa free policy for Nigeria and I think for everybody in West Africa and because of that more people go there. But Rwanda has done a lot of investment to attract these customers. So, our presence in The Gambia allow us to take message about the government’s investment in infrastructure and all other things they are doing to the West African customer. And because of our strength in the region, serving most customers, we have the ability to take that message around. We have had multiple discussions and those discussions will continue and the message we are going to take to the African customer is the ability for them   to travel and visit Gambia. We have  been here for only three days and already we are saying to ourselves why have we not visited before. I know travelling is expensive in Africa and that is what we still need to work on but the reality of it is that we have to attract people and the best way to do that is to tell our own stories. So Wakanow will be in the fore front of telling the story to the African customer.

 Are you worried about concerns as most international investors do, that the Gambia being very small in population may not have much to offer?

Well, it must be understood that we cannot make more population (laugh). But what we do typically and for this market is that we are of course going to support the outbound business but it is the inbound business we will support big time because of the good experience people who visited here will have and tell. The other thing we are doing is to work with the local banks for our ‘Travel today and pay later” product. So, our main goal remains to bring more people to The Gambia and increase the economic activity here.

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You mentioned your intention to bring some 500 to 1000 visitors here this year. Tell us how do you want to go about that?

You see how we sell travel is that we always start selling to our friends first. So, when we got here, we send pictures to our friends and said, hey, you guys need to come to The Gambia and everybody is saying we would love to come to this place. So, through the word of mouth alone the message is gone and of course the experience we have here too is good.  And with the social media now we are seeing interest. So, the goal is to create programmes that will bring people here especially in the low season.

The Gambia is little behind in terms of digital payment platforms. You company seems to focus more on online. How would you fix that especially, your this travel and pay later product?

What we will do is to partner with local banks to understand how they give credits. You know all banks must give credits to survive.  So, the banks have a critical role to play in this.  We have been to the market and have seen that the online payment technology is not as robust as other parts of the world. Most places don’t have online payment method. But again, we would have been in the fore font of pushing that. On our website today in The Gambia you can use your card, you can transfer and move money. When Africell brings mobile money, we will partner them. It is a journey which may take long but as the market gets robust, we would be here to launch these products. But again, it is the local banks that are going to finance these things. 

In which ways do you hope to increase connectivity to Destination Gambia?

The way to increase connectivity is to increase people willing to come to The Gambia. The more people you have in-bound, the easier connectivity would become because every airline would follow a big traffic to any place. More airlines would come and competition will come and prices would come down to The Gambia. And that’s how you increase connectivity. So, for us the first thing is to increase the customer count and that would increase connectivity.

What is the significance in bringing a cross section of government officials and other stakeholders to this launching?

Well first, think about our coming to this market. We brought in money to come. We have to rent an office, pay staff, design our office and pay registration etc. So, the investment authorities in The Gambia was able to attract us to come and that is the first achievement. The second thing is that we are now working on promotions, to help bring more customers here.  So, we are here to work for as long as we can create the economic incentive for all parties, in terms of bringing economic motivations for cash to flow,  hotels to be full, a  busy airport  and get all things working, In that way we will start seeing more engagement because everyone want to continue the positive path to progress. And that is why we are here, to continue that path to progress and make it work.

What is your Wakanow’s message to the Gambian people?

I would say buy from Wakanow now. We are here to take care of you. Our job here is to put you first and make so that we are engaging you. We want the Gambian people to know that we are here to support them in doing more business and for economic stimulation. We are not here to take from you but to give to you. So, find out our service and make use of them. Know that we are here for you. So, come and patronise us and you will not regret it.

Thank you Mr Adedeji

My pleasure, Mr Cham

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