Airbnb has dominated the travel business since its inception in 2008. Sharing a house or renting an apartment has become a popular and frequently less expensive alternative to booking a hotel stay.
After more than a decade, the firm now has 6 million active listings in over 200 countries. However, Africa is still a tough nut to crack.
Despite its tremendous growth over the last decade, Airbnb had about 130,000 listings across the continent in 2018 (the business would not provide more recent data), the majority of which were in South Africa. According to local authorities, there were more than 80,000 homes advertised in London alone in May 2019.
Nghombombong Minuifuong, a Cameroonian startup founder, attributes this to the lack of a single payment mechanism that is particularly popular on the continent, rather than a lack of demand or supply. Guests and hosts on Airbnb are unable to use mobile money, which is a system that allows users to send and receive money using a mobile phone. According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), an industry trade association, this is growing increasingly popular in Africa, where there are over half a billion registered accounts.
That’s why he launched Bongalo, a home rental platform that accepts mobile money and is vying to become Africa’s own Airbnb.
“My vision is to build a platform that … enhances travel across Africa by connecting people to affordable places to stay,” he says.
Minuifuong plans to expand Bongalo’s activities to the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Kenya by 2022. He thinks that it would be available in all African countries in the long run.
Bongalo has received $320,000 from Google’s Black Founders Fund in Africa, a $4 million fund that will invest in 60 Black-founded firms throughout the continent, and it is currently ramping up to a seed phase.