Internet cafe and equipment repair service in bukavu
sector: digital technology
partner since: 2015
Lack of infrastructure investment by government and internet service providers, means that internet access in Eastern Congo is severely limited. Many areas are off-grid with sporadic electricity supplies from generators, but prone to frequent blackouts. Digital awareness and literacy is low, stifling innovation and opportunity. Despite growing local demand for internet cafes in Bukavu, there was insufficient internet provision to satisfy demand in a city of 2 million people.
Innocent Misabiro founded Liaison Congo to provide professional and reliable internet cafes for people in Bukavu. He is one of only a handful of digital infrastructure experts in Bukavu and having previously run a company installing v-sat internet access for international NGOs, Innocent adapted his offering to provide clean and secure working spaces with fast and reliable internet access, fair pricing, technical staff and digital training opportunities.
Ensemble provided a loan in November 2013 to fund the startup of Café-1. The internet cafe was the first in Kivu to provide fast access fibre optic. 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 in January 2015 to open Café-2.Today, Ensemble continues to provide substantial business advice, mentoring and support to Liaison Congo and has established a sustainable business plan to see each internet café become profitable and independent of the provided loans.
Initially the two cafes served approximately 2,000 customers each month. 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. Liaison Congo also became the first provider to offer International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) accreditation courses and now has several students studying ICDL modules. During the summer holidays children can attend low-cost computer introduction courses in both cafés.
More recently the business has been impacted by the departure of many international businesses and NGOs from Bukavu due to the security situation, as well as the dramatic fall in the cost of mobile phone handsets and airtime. In response, Innocent launched a new equipment repair service in July 2019 to help diversify his business.