Willstream has opened offices in Dakar, Senegal, as its first African headquarters, with plans to open other centres across the continent by the end of this year.
The new online portal that enables people in Diaspora discover the best and most affordable hospitals, schools and businesses in addition to supporting their families back home has initially been in operation in Canada, Ireland, Australia and France since its founding last year.
The service has already signed up over 400 businesses in Senegal including Schools, Universities, Hospitals and Tradesmen to the site and the network is also growing strongly here.
Founded, a result of joint efforts by Toffene Kama, a Senegalese, Andrew Considine an Australian, and Shayan Rahnama, a Canadian, the African operation will see the Africans in Diaspora connect directly to professionals at home to pay for services including medical, educational and business in the stead of remitting money to their families, which according to Considine, may be mismanaged.
“We are now looking for top-talent across the continent to join us at Willstream.and will be recruiting talented developers, community managers and program managers in each country we launch in across Africa to be a choice for migrants living abroad wanting to support their family’s back home,” said Considine.
Considine told HumanIPO Willstream is simple to use. Both Immigrants and families need an account on the site.
“The immigrants log in and choose the right business or school or hospital for their family. They then begin to communicate with the teachers, doctors or employees behind the business to work out exactly what their family needs and how much it will cost. Once happy with the decision the customer can send a direct payment to the business,” said Considine.
The user creates the payment, referred as stream, and specifies the amount to be paid. The details are afterwards sent to the family member or friend by SMS after which they can access the medical services, merchandise or education.
Considine said Willstream has a three-party payment model including sender, spender and business. Users are charged 7 percent for each service. Businesses in the emerging markets however trade for free.
Willstream also recently launched its Clubs app (clubs.willstream.com), targeted at Groups within Willstream.
The Clubs enables entrepreneurs, brands, associations in emerging markets to connect with their foreign sponsors (Diaspora) and makes it easy for the Clubs to fundraise and collect fees. It collects its annual fees, promoting their individual projects.
The Africans in Diapora population hit 200 million in 2006.