A Social Business Incubator In The Eastern Congo
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Liaison congo

Innocent Misabiro is one of only a handful of digital infrastructure experts in Bukavu and was already running Liaison Congo when Ensemble first met him in 2013.

Liaison Congo started when there was a high demand in new Technology, English language training and computer training in the region. Especially when many NGO’s started setting up offices. The company installed v-sat internet access into NGO offices and ran programmes to train people in the technical and practical aspects of internet installation.
In late in 2013, Innocent recognised that the market for satellite provision would diminish and piece by piece a plan emerged for Innocent to adapt his capabilities and start an internet café to bring the benefits of the web to everyone in Bukavu.

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.

 
 

Background

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Internet and computer access in D.R Congo is limited and many areas are off-grid with sporadic use of electricity from generators but still prone to complete blackouts. The whole community is seeking reliable internet access. From secondary school or university teachers and students to jobless people looking for work and those employed looking to access information.

Despite the many internet cafés in Bukavu, there was insufficient internet provision to satisfy demand in a city of one million people and there was a need for a professional and reliable internet café where people will always have clean and secure working space, fast internet browsing, fair pricing, profession technical staff and training opportunities. This was the need that Liaison Congo set out to satisfy.

Ensemble Support

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Ensemble provided a loan in November 2013 to fund the start up of café-1. The internet cafe was the first in Kivu to provide fast accessing fibre optic as Innocent’s v-sat supplier invited him to be the first business in Bukavu to use it. More exciting still, Innocent installed a generator and solar batteries to bridge the electricity cuts.

It was such a success that a second loan was agreed with Ensemble in January 2015 to open café-2 and ensemble continues to provide substantial business advice, mentoring and support to Liaison Congo and has established a sustainable business plan with Innocent to see each internet cafe become profitable and independent of the provided loans.

Late last year Liaison Congo became the first provider in DRC to offer ICDL accreditation courses and now has several 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

 
 

Liason Congo’s Impact and a Better Future

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The two cafés serve approximately 2000 unique customers each month and 10,000 across the year which is a fantastically rich and diverse benefit to the community given the need to accelerate use of digital media in order to increase capacity in the population and catch up with other countries.

Liaison Congo provides the best experience of using the internet and computing throughout Kivu and meets the needs and demand of the local community by offering a reliable internet connection, a permanent electricity power system, a secure working space and professional trainers offering practical and useful training.

The fast and reliable internet connection has enabled several businesses to start up using the cafes as an office and local business people are frequent customers. University teachers come to prepare courses and students use the cafes to study.

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 who's families are able to survive on monthly salaries and repay the loans each month. Though difficult economic times have shown to reduce internet usage significantly during which times profit is low.

Late last year Liaison Congo became the first provider in DRC to offer ICDL accreditation courses and now have many students studying ICDL modules and during the summer holiday local children can attend low-cost computer introduction courses.The potential for further businesses to be created, employment rates to increase and subsequent contribution to economic growth is dramatic.

Innocent has plans to open café-3 in Bagira but the options to offer professional computer training are currently limited by the economic recession in Congo. Instead he is working with Ensemble Pour la Difference to develop a capacity in technology development and consultancy that will bring in additional revenues from local businesses and NGOs.

It’s a richly empowering business in a city that has the potential to help lead Kivu to a much better future.