Inspired by a trip to Uganda, Olivier recognised the impossibility for the local population of DRC to afford imported shoes and made it his mission to bring the industry back to his home town of Bukavu and craft shoes which were affordable to the community.
Despite prejudices, Olivier set about learning his trade through apprenticeships and worked in the mining industry to get enough funds to get Kivu Leather off the ground. He secured several wholesalers who re-sell his products on the local markets and has employed ? staff in his business. Olivier continues to support other local businesses by purchasing all his supplies and leathers through them.
The slum is an un-sanitary, noisy, and un-pleasant environment to live and work and Kivu Leather struggles to bring Client’s through the door which inevitably limits sales. Kadutu does not have a direct electricity supply and is only sporadically serviced by a generator making the use of electronic machines intermittent. With this limited capacity, the production quantity and quality suffers as does the range of sandals and shoes they can produce.
The economic unrest severely effects sales and illegal taxes have been sinking the business. In a city where some state officers pretend to be tax collectors, it is very difficult for a business like Kivu Leather to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent taxes.
For Kivu Leather to achieve their mission, the situation had to change.
Kivu Leather’s Mission
Despite demand for footwear in DRC, most is imported from Dubai and China. Shipping costs, import taxes and illegal taxes are added on top and inevitably mean that they are being sold at 4 or 5 times the original cost to the public. Footwear offers vital protection from injury, animal bites and infection but with the average income $20 a month, the costs for imported shoes are far out of reach for many of DRC’s nationals.
Kivu Leather have made it their mission to meet the needs of their community and provide affordable but high quality leather shoes and sandals.
Ensemble and Liaison Congo
In October 2015 Ensemble provided a loan to Kivu Leather to enable them to move from Kadutu slum to a far nicer workshop in Commune d’banda in Bukavu.
Immediately production and sales increased and the success of the loan lead Ensemble to provide a second loan in September 2016 to enable the purchase of new machinery: 2 sewing machines and a laser cutter which arrived in February 2017. With this loan, Kivu Leather were also able to construct a hangar to improve the working space.
Kivu Leather’s Impact and a Better Future
Production for Kivu leather has increased significantly in their new workshop location in Commune d’Ibanda. The laser cutter enabled them to improve not only the quality of the shoes but also the quantity produced and by March 2017 production increased to 1320 pairs of sandals (mens and women’s) and 7 pairs of men’s shoes. All shoes were sold and 740 pairs of sandals were sold. generating respectively US $ 210 & US $ 2220 that gave them a net profit of US $ 1370.
Kivu Leather have also partnered with Shalom, a local cooperative producing hand dyed women’s clothing, and together develop a new design line of women’s sandals. Demand for the woman’s sandals is increasing and Kivu Leathers products have sparked interest Nationally.
Kivu Leather have successfully repaid their first loan in full and begin repaying the second loan and with more stable income, Kivu Leather have been able to absorb any illegal taxes imposed by fraudulent officials and remain stable as a business.
Kivu leather now employs 15 members of staff who are all able to provide their children with an education and are producing sandals which are accessible to the local market.
Kivu Leather are now looking to open an online shop with the means of freight nationally and support is needed from Ensemble Pour La Difference to develop an online shop and website as well as a shop in town to continue their collaboration with Shalom and other local Design andArts enterprises.