Our moral compass points to an island. The residents there connect to the rest of the world by Facebook and WhatsApp and satellite TV, but when a snake bites a child there, the costs involved in arranging a boat, motor, gas, and driver are so burdensome and time consuming that anti-venom cannot be gotten from the district hospital, 50km away. I spent two hours on this island in July, and while it’s half a day’s drive from Dakar, a thriving capital of 4 million, it might as well be in the middle of the Sahel desert. It’s the reason I founded Vayu, and I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the landing of Vayu’s X5 vehicle in the courtyard of the local clinic. I can’t wait.
Strategically, our work in Senegal is important for our company’s long-term success for a few reasons. For one, this is the first (hopefully of many instances) flying specifically between islands, which is a common theme in rural areas of developing countries. Also, despite our work in Senegal depending on the support of donor aid agencies, it sends a message to the world that our technology is strong, significant, and itself sustainable (even if a donor-based business model is not, long-term). Lastly, our work will gain traction in the local, national, and international media; on social media, in Senegal, elsewhere in Francophone Africa, and in Europe; and most importantly in the homes and communities that our technology benefits. They will be our strongest, most vociferous champions. Our work in this region of Senegal acts as a sort of magnet, or beacon to those other potential (private-sector) partner organizations that want to leverage our platform for the delivery of other goods, ultimately making this technology economically
When I visited in July, everyone was enthusiastic about the technology, with particular excitement around the fat that it is electric, autonomous, easy to use, and can carry things like vaccines (cold storage for vaccines is a major problem here). Some people were disappointed to learn the drone cannot carry a person (more than a couple people thought it could, and I think that really, it should).