Startup, Safiri Salama, has ushered in an entirely new tech sector for Africa with an end-of-life e-services platform offering digital death notices, memorials, and a directory of funeral service providers.
Safiri Salama, Kiswahili word for “Go in peace” or “Travel well,” is a familiar farewell term used during East African funerals.
The startup is taking a new route in Africa, striving to fill a space between the burgeoning funeral industry and a lack of linking threads for grief-stricken families.
“African communities typically avoid death and end-of-life discussions, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation as they are unaware and emotionally susceptible when a loved one passes on,” notes Safiri Salama founder, John Nyongesa.
Nyongesa explains that the funeral industry in Africa has undergone a significant evolution, with demographic shifts, urbanisation, the growth of free-market economies and mobile phones bringing considerable changes to the traditional image of roadside coffin and hearse providers, with a new and evolving industry.
The end-of-life platform was conceived in 2018 as a personal memorial website in response to a query from Nyongesa’s son regarding his late grandfather.
Since its inception, the platform has been refined through research, testing, and contributions from bereaved families and funeral service providers. In 2021, Nyongesa welcomed actuarial scientist Steve Lelei and project manager Edith Orwako as co-founders of the platform.
The deathcare startup received US$100,000 from an American investor to facilitate the platform’s development. The company has been designing, developing, and testing its product in the real world for the past four years.
The beta version of SafiriSalama.com rolled out in Kenya in August 2022, with an ecosystem already making a significant impact.
The prohibitive cost of mainstream media obituaries, which less than 15% of Kenyans currently use, is one of the issues SafiriSalama.com tackles head-on. With its easy-to-create digital notifications, the platform provides funeral details and arrangements that can be shared across multiple social media platforms.
The absence of a local repository platform for memorials, which can include pictures, tributes, and stories, is another issue that SafiriSalama.com addresses. Its Online Memorials product is a one-stop-shop for managing a loved one’s funeral process, providing a noticeboard, gallery, wiki-style repository, tributes, and anniversary notifications.
The desperate need for an efficient, easy-to-navigate directory focused on death care is the third issue that SafiriSalama.com is tackling with The Redbook. The guide connects thousands of users and service providers, making it easy to plan a funeral and ensure that everything is taken care of.
A B2B and B2C product and services directory, The Redbook includes over 50 categories of direct, indirect, and accessory providers. It’s a space where vendors can subscribe to showcase products, pricing, and stock availability and be discoverable by search engines.
Nyongesa emphasises that bereaved families face difficulties conducting proper research and often “pressure buy” due to a lack of published prices in the funeral industry, particularly when grief and urgent decision-making are combined.
As a result, grieving families are significantly disadvantaged during this time of “flux,” with no clear and user-friendly system for bereaved families, leading to issues like inconsistent pricing, unclear industry standards, and difficulties distinguishing between competitors.
Despite Kenya’s many levels of internet penetration, smartphone access and e-commerce growth, the end-of-life industry had, until recently, remained largely unaffected by technological advancements.
With its focus on innovation, technology, and customer needs, SafiriSalama.com is poised to revolutionise how we think about end-of-life planning in Africa.
bird story agency