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The new *468# USSD service from the Government of Sierra Leone

In October 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone launched its first USSD mobile platform. The service is basic for now — find out the names of your nearest 5 health facilities if you want — but it’s a start. It’s opened a new digital communication channel with citizens, and the service could become a useful data collection point for gathering information on how citizens are accessing services. Here’s a couple of ideas I have for expanding features in the the government’s new USSD platform to give and receive better information to and from vaccination service users or mothers on their behalf.

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An example of a current basic feature of GoSL’s new USSD service: A user receives an SMS listing their 5 nearest health facilities for accessing health services

Idea 1: Encourage vaccination users to report each time their young child is turned away from a clinic for a vaccination they were hoping to receive

Vaccinations save lives… when they’re available and administered. A mother and child turned away from a clinic on a scheduled vaccination day because a clinic has run out of a vaccine or because a health worker would prefer not to open a vial to a small group of babies increases the risk that a child might not return to complete a full course of vaccinations and become fully immunised to particular diseases. …

Chicken Town have just planted a giant flag in the middle Freetown and it reads ‘We have arrived. Come and join us, if you’re up to the challenge’.

For a long time, formalising the service sector has been overlooked in Sierra Leone, but it has high potential for the right investor. Working and middle income Sierra Leonean’s are crying out for places to go, socialise, dine, be serviced and entertained in their cities. Chicken Town has landed, and it makes the strongest case yet for investors and government to explore this sector.

In April 2019, Chicken Town opened its doors to the paying public. Its service offering is simple and appealing — thoughtful design and branding coupled with a tasty and simple food menu that’s pitched at a sensible and inclusive price. It’s the first restaurant in Freetown that has meticulously thought about offering a branded experience to its customers and it has set the standard high for the competition in town.

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Thoughtful design, open kitchen: Chicken Town has mostly used local materials, designers and craftsman to implement a modern and global feel in its flagship Freetown restaurant

The first thing you think when you enter Chicken Town is, “Wow, why has no one thought of doing this sooner in Freetown?” It seems so obvious, but the thought is a huge discredit to the design thinking and good management that makes a venture like this succeed in a business environment that is ‘opaque’, to say the least, for external investors. In Sierra Leone, it takes more than just a good idea to start a business. …

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A quick guide to the organisations providing support to entrepreneurs in Freetown’s small but vibrant start-up scene. Inspiring self-starters have led the way in establishing business support services so far, with another INGO due to come onboard in 2019.

Hub #1: Innovation Axis

Services: Acceleration; Incubation; Co-working space
Multimedia; Technology; Fashion; Light Manufacturing
Location: Kingtom
Year Established: 2019
Website | Twitter

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Innovation Axis is the latest entrepreneurial centre to establish itself in Freetown and and it fills a much needed gap by providing Freetown’s start-ups with access to essential services. Incubation under experienced management is the the biggest draw for start-ups; the founders and directors, Francis Stevens George, Sheka Forna, and Walid Bahsoon, have over 75-years of collective commercial and entrepreneurial experience in Sierra Leone and Europe to offer young businesses.

Innovation Axis offers co-working space in its warehouse in Kingtom to those businesses that partner for incubation and support. Start-ups or small businesses in Sierra Leone who do not want to be formally incubated can also choose to rent desk space and get access to the internet for a small monthly fee. The leadership have taken care to incorporate some interior design features that you would expect to see in any global example of a co-working space, using local designers to create. And the centre has the space to expand if its approach proves successful and it can attract investment in the coming years. …


Jon Robertson

City or country? Human or capital? Open or closed? Modern decisions we face. Currently independent in Sierra Leone. Previously Future Cities Catapult and PwC.

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