Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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True Africa

True Africa

Competition Year: 2012

A free mobile directory that connects consumers to bottom-of-the-pyramid professionals using the most basic feature phone

Mobile Devices and Communications

Quick Links

Our Pitch


The informal economy employs 80% of the workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa. Notably, painters, carpenters, hairdressers and many other professionals at the bottom of the pyramid rely only on traditional yet inefficient word-of-mouth to drum up interest in their businesses. As a consequence of these market inefficiencies, the potential of the informal economy remains largely untapped.


As our initial market research in Lomé, Togo confirmed, many service providers in the informal economies lack the means to formally generate interest in their quality services. At the same time, mobile phones are widespread. It is very common for individuals at the bottom of the pyramid to own several SIM cards.


True Africa is a free mobile business directory for bottom of the pyramid professionals in Africa. Drivers, painters, carpenters, hairdressers, auto mechanics will rely on True Africa to establish effective connections with clients using their mobile phones. Our True Africa platform will allow service providers to post their basic contact information, business description and client ratings, providing a trusted venue for connecting, transacting and exchanging quality services.


In January 2012, thanks to an MIT IDI Tech Dissemination Fellowship, we traveled to Togo, Francophone West Africa, to interview 100 bottom of the pyramid professionals and obtain market validation for our idea. Blog from the trip:


We will put 100,000 bottom of the pyramid professionals on the map within 12 months, helping them to advertise their services and attract new customers

Who We Are

Claude Grunitzky is a Togolese/French/American media entrepreneur who founded TRACE Magazine and co-founded TRACE TV (in partnership with Richard Wayner and Goldman Sachs). In 2010, TRACE TV, one of the fastest-growing media companies in Africa, was successfully sold to a European investor group. Currently a Sloan Fellow at MIT, Claude continues to advise several African governments and large corporations through his marketing company TRUE. Claude is overseeing True Africa’s strategy, partnerships, marketing and human resources.

David Ly is a Senegalese 2012 MBA candidate and the co-President of the Africa Business Club. David, a telecom engineer by training, is in charge of the main operational and technical aspects of True Africa, working closely with Claude and Matthieu on the pilot phase and rollout strategy.

Matthieu Monsch is a French Operations Research PhD candidate at MIT. Matthieu’s extensive programming and technical capabilities, coupled with his engineering background from France’s Ecole Polytechnique, make him the perfect lead for True Africa’s web and mobile development efforts, working closely with Claude and David on all technical aspects of the pilot phase.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name




  • Service Location
    Lome, Togo
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Comments and Support

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    Posted by mwUlceleglido on Sun, May 19th 2013, 01:59 Report Abuse

  • I will request RSECE to muster up votes. We have wireless plans in the USA and for Africa with a NSF program awardee at U of Syracuse. I think that a collaboration could enhance both of us.

    Posted by S. Clouston on Mon, Apr 9th 2012, 21:42 Report Abuse

  • hello to the team. We think you have a great idea. Its very similar to a service we offer in Kenya and Nigeria called We would be interested in speaking with you to see if could help you offer your service in Togo using our geosocial software. Through your contacts in Togo we could integrate the Next2 solution quickly and partner with you to market the service to small businesses and others in Togo. If this sounds like something that maybe of interest to you we should talk. Hope to hear from you.

    Posted by Brian Puckett on Mon, Apr 9th 2012, 11:53 Report Abuse

  • hi team true africa! welcome to the IDEAS Global Challenge. great to see you here. Cheers / kate

    Posted by k. mytty on Fri, Mar 16th 2012, 10:21 Report Abuse

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