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El Wafeyat

Obituaries and letters of condolence – now online in Egypt.

Because Egypt has the most Facebook users in all of Africa and the Arab world (roughly 16 million), more and more companies are emergingthere that use this form of communication for clever business models that also have a wider societal purpose. One such example is El Wafeyat, an internet startup that changes the way Egyptians deal with death.

“When a death occurs, it is very chaotic”, explains startup founder Yusef el Samaa. According to Islamic custom, the body must be buried within 24 hours and farewelled with an official funeral service several days later. But how are family members, often overcome by grief, supposed to quickly organise the formalities, as well as inform all relatives, friends and business partners?

El Samaa is one of the founders of El Wafeyat, a service that puts obituaries and letters of condolence up on the internet. Until now, Egyptians have placed their obituaries at great costs in the major daily newspaper Al Ahram – which is read by many just to see if someone they know has passed away. On El Wafeyat, family members can now place an obituary for free and share it in real time via Facebook and other platforms. The company also offers a newsletter that aggregates all obituaries from daily newspapers and websites and quickly informs subscribers about current deaths. Condolence messages can also be sent online via the service, and the Facebook map function allows mourners to turn up on time to the right funeral hall.

The company, which is based on a Freemium model, has in the past few months not only received investment from the Arab world, but also from the renowned Californian accelerator 500 Startups. The market is big: in Egypt alone, 500,000 people die per year, and by the end of the year El Samaa would like to have one million users and be present in two more Arab countries.

We discovered this case through our Lab Around the World research trip.

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