Innocent Misabiro was already running Liaison Congo when we first met three years ago. The company installed v-sat internet access into NGO offices and Innocent had built a technically capable team and a good track record.
He talked about his dream to expand the work of Liaison Congo and bring the benefits of the web to everyone in Bukavu and piece by piece a plan emerged to adapt his capabilities and start an internet café. Innocent insisted it must solve the twin problems of electricity cuts and slow modems that were crippling other cafes, and that it must offer people useful training in how to use a computer and how to use the internet.
Innocent took a bus all the way to Kampala to buy equipment and local joiners came in to fit the workbenches. More exciting still, his v-sat supplier invited him to be the first business in Bukavu to use fibre optic bandwidth and Liaison Congo internet began life by offering the fastest internet access in a town of 1 million people. Innocent installed a generator and solar batteries to bridge the electricity cuts.
Luminosity provided a loan in November 2013 to fund the start up of café-1. Then in January 2015, Luminosity combined with Falling Whistles to provide the finance for Innocent to open up café-2 and the three parties are now in talks to open café-3.
PROGRESS SO FAR
The two existing cafés serve approximately 2000 unique customers each month and 10,000 across the year. On average customers visit between three and four times per month: “If we keep coming here, it’s because there is something different. Please do not be like the others” to quote a regular customer.
The fast and reliable internet has enabled several businesses to start up using the cafes as an office, including a business importing vehicles and another exporting minerals. Local business people are frequent customers of both café-1 and café-2 whilst university teachers come to prepare the courses and students use the cafes to do their work.
The revenues from internet use, admin services and training are in excess of $100,000 per year, which is sufficient to run operations, employ fifteen people, repay the loans each month and make a net profit.
Late last year Liaison Congo became the first provider in DRC to offer ICDL (http://icdlafrica.org) accreditation courses and now have many students studying ICDL modules. And during the summer holiday local children can attend low-cost computer introduction courses in both café-1 and café-2.
It’s a richly empowering business in a city that has the potential to help lead Kivu to a much better future.