Tarneem Saeed, a woman at the heart of e-commerce’s revolution in Sudan

By : Aïsha Moyouzame

Date : mardi, 01 février 2022 15:31

Last updated : mardi, 01 février 2022 15:36

In a few years only, this Sudanese lawyer built a flourishing startup, Alsoug, in a country that was under an international embargo for many years. Now, insatiable, she yearns to expand across the rest of Africa.

After staying abroad for some years, for studies and work, Tarneem Saeed probably never imagined returning to her country, Sudan, whose economy was shaken for about 30 years by conflicts and placed under an international embargo. Yet, she is now one of the most powerful businesswomen in the country. The entrepreneur founded Alsoug, Sudan’s largest online marketplace, offering e-payment and logistics services.

Saeed left Sudan for Canada at age 14, to further her education. After graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), she worked as a corporate lawyer at Allen and Overy, a law firm with operations in over 60 countries.

In 2014, while in Sudan on personal business, she noticed how disconnected the country was from the digital economy. "People and businesses weren’t harnessing the full power of the internet. Coming from London, Sudan just felt empty. One of the things that irked me the most was how difficult it was to find out the price of anything. You had to ask someone to get the price of a car, house, or even cattle,” Saeed said.

She launched the Alsoug project in 2015 to tackle the situation. Initially, it was a brokerage platform where consumers could check the prices of goods and services, and where sellers and buyers could chat. In 2016, despite the poor internet access in the country, she expanded the platform by introducing classified ads. Over the years, Alsoug’s business model evolved and the platform came to integrate online sales and other tools including an e-payment solution called Cashi.

In six years only, Tarneem Saeed made Alsoug the country’s leading e-commerce startup, notably by raising a lot of money from venture capitalists. Very recently, in October, the company announced the close of a $5 million fund, raised from Egypt's Fawry and other investment structures – the first operation of this kind after the lifting of economic sanctions against the country in 2020.

Despite the persistent challenges female entrepreneurs face in Sudan, Tarneem Saeed is determined to go much further in developing Alsoug. She is getting ready to break into the fintech market with a national payment system that will allow for quick, easy, and secure transactions for all Sudanese.

Aïsha Moyouzame


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