KIVUHUB TEAM: THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO CAN BE THE NEXT SILICON VALLEY!
Building and running a tech start-up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not for the faint-hearted, let alone turning one’s small venture into a mature, profitable enterprise. The 2018 Doing Business report by the World Bank after all ranks the country as 182nd out of 190 countries, a result of poor access to electricity, cumbersome property registration and paying taxes rules, inadequate enforcement of contracts, and other challenges. Afrinection memberKivuHub, the region’s first tech incubation hub, is trying to make things easier for tech start-ups. We spoke to founder and CEO Eliud Aganze.
Q. What is KivuHubin the DRC all about?
A. KivuHub is a technology accelerator hub based in Bukavu. We serve as a space for tech entrepreneurs and startups, and our mission is to create a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem in the DRC for our members. KivuHub helps to facilitate and provide access to capital and business management whilst creating an environment for invention by building capacity. Our vision is to foster a next Silicon Valley in the DRC.
Q. What does the tech incubation space in the DRC look like? How big is it? Who are some of the key players?
A. It is a growing field of entrepreneurship, and it looks promising due to growing social media usage and improved access to the Internet. That said, the sector is facing some difficulties like a lack of ICT infrastructure and a large corruption problem. Amongst key tech hubs in de DRC, besides Kivuhub, include Lumumba Lab and Silicon Bantu.
Q. What are the main obstacles to Congolese innovators and start-ups? How does Kivuhub provide a solution?
A. The biggest challenge we are facing is corruption and the fact that the process of setting up a new business can take up to 1 year. It is costly too and sometimes exceeds USD1000. Access to funding and capital is also very hard as banks and government institutions are not willing to support small businesses with funding. This is making it hard for startups to survive.
KivuHub offers a gateway for businesses who want to register in the DRC, for instance by working directly with a government body in charge of dealing with small businesses: Guichet Unique de Creation d’Entreprise. Finally, we also offer support to new startups by linking them up with venture capitalists, angel investors and others financial institution.
Q. What are some KivuHub’s success stories?
A. So far, we have incubated 3 startups. These are Deedasbl, a network of environmental entrepreneurs who are specialised in renewable energy and other environmental issues, Upasso, a local NGO that provides financial support to marginalized women, and finally Kivumedia. This is a local news platform which reports on and gives citizens a space to express their opinions regarding the way the country is governed.
Q. What is the future of the DRC’s tech, start-up and incubation space?
A. The future of our country’s tech and startup sector is very bright, particularly once we have the right level of ICT infrastructure.
Q. What has been one of the highlights of running KivuHub?
A. Coming up with the idea of creating KivuHub was a highlight, and making it happen: we are the first hub in the region!
Q. Where do you see KivuHub in 5 years?
A. In the next 5 years, we will be big. Our forecast is to have an innovation space, hire more than 50 staff and have a revenue of USD50,000. We expect to have more women involved in technology whilst finding social solutions to the problems we are facing. We believe in change and in that we can make the difference. The DRC can become the next Silicon Valley!