Celebrating the persevering will of Elong
Today, we celebrate the achievements of William Ndja Elong, a young Cameroonian whose dream of producing drones made in Africa has seen remarkable success.
Elong is 27 now; but he was just 18 when he founded Will and Brothers in 2015 – three years after he attaining his first undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Sales Management he worked for at HEC Yaounde, and followed up with an MBA in Strategy and Competitive Intelligence from the Economic Warfare School of Paris, France.
Having gained experience working in Information Technology and defence at organisations that include Thales, Oracle and Nexter, Elong returned home to Douala to found Will & Brothers, a Cameroonian start-up involved in various fields of artificial intelligence, from technology innovation and cybersecurity to competitive intelligence and business strategy.
The founding objective of Will & Brothers was to create a team able to use open source intelligence techniques to provide a critical analysis of reality to improve the lives of people in Africa with a new approach to business where intelligence and technology are a key aspect of the top management decision process.
As the founder himself said about Africa and its approach to technology; “Artificial intelligence is the future of humanity. It knocks me out that so many people here (in Africa) take no interest in technology.”
Well; kudos to the young man for taking the bull by its horns to leading by example.
Especially the part where he and his team launched the first drone to be manufactured in Cameroon.
It was indeed a proud February day in 2019 for Cameroon when Will & Brothers launched the first product of their Drone Africa project; an unmanned aerial vehicle birthed from the long hours and sweat and smart brains housed on the sixth floor of their workshop at Ericsson Building in downtown Douala. Designed for use in agriculture, media coverage and cartography, the drone can fly for up to 20 kilometres away. It was followed by another family of UAVs that are ideal for security surveillance – locating explosives, marking out areas with landmines, and even detecting gas leaks in mines.
Obviously, the drones are not yet at DJI-enterprise levels yet, but as a continent we have to stand up and applaud this breakthrough achievement to make drones locally, which can be affordable to people and organisations who need them. For all the devastation, the pain, anxiety and uncertainty in has left us, the COVID-19 pandemic also showed us the many innovative possibilities that drone technology can help mankind with – delivering emergency COVID-19 supplies and other medical equipment, providing live video footage of mine blasts for executives who cannot be at premises physically, fighting the locust plague in Africa and Asia; among many, many, many other applications that were unthinkable just a few years ago.
The feats at Will & Brothers are the kind of story Africa needs right now; and should inspire graduates from the Africa Drone and Data Academy in Malawi – the first drone institution on the continent – to chart their own innovations in drone technology.
Elong’s achievements should be a wake-up call for African governments to take a staring role in promoting and sponsoring technological innovation among their young citizens. With every reputable researcher out there confidently forecasting the commercial drone market is fast approaching multi-billion dollar proportions in the foreseeable future, one will be forgiven for thinking that Africa cannot afford to miss out on the latest technological disruption to hit the world; neither can it afford to lose its best brains to governments willing to use them. Will & Brothers had to source funding from outside the Africa (which luckily was forthcoming, to the effect that the start-up received funding upwards of €2million to expand their dream) before the government dragged their feet to the table after the Drone Africa project started making rave reviews in the mainstream media.
For their community efforts in providing drone training workshops and internships for local students of all ages, the young organisation was inducted into the Flying Labs franchise, a WeRobotics venture that advocates for local solutions to local technological problems, As Cameroon Flying Labs, Elong’s start-up has provides hands-on drone hardware and software trainings for various drone platforms for social and community good.
“We use drones and robotics as an educative tool to create free workshops for universities, primary schools and trough internships for local engineering students,” the start-up says, adding that they work with local government and non-government institutions to apply their open-source artificial intelligence and robotics systems to analyse drone data.
“We also facilitate and strengthen the local and regional Robotics ecosystem and Robotics as a Service marketplace. We cooperate with farmers looking for drones to map and secure their land.”
According to Elong, Will & Brothers’ drones have since drawn orders from clients in both West and Central Africa. The company is believed to have secured about fifty contracts across the continent, some of which include surveillance work at the Olembe Stadium currently being constructed in Yaoundé, and monitoring of a number of agricultural projects run by the Regional Centre for Initiatives and Training in Agriculture and Innovative Technologies (CRIFAT).
Will & Brothers has a hybrid of mechatronic Brainiacs from Cameroon, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2018, they opened Algo Drone Holding in Essen, Germany. The company makes the Algo, a fixed wing drone that can be sold or leased to clients, to fly for up to a range of 100km on missions that include aerial inspections.
Cameroon’s Minister of Telecommunications, Minette Libom has described Elong’s venture as the pride of the country.
“Will & Brothers’ design demonstrates the innovative capacity of Cameroonian youth,” she beamed.
Any wonder why he was named one of the top 30 most promising young African entrepreneurs by the reputable Forbes magazine in 2016?