Sitting on a nice day in July in the Radisson hotel Cafe in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, presents the perfect setting to contemplate possibilities. A clear and pleasant day affords a generous view of the majestic Congo River and the city of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Two nations share the distinction of being one of the world’s closest international capitals, just a few kilometers on the Congo separate the two nations.
A simple search on a smartphone will bring up one news item after the other that will document why there are two Congo nations and all the socio-economic barriers that exist which prevent the materialization of the potential for the Congo.
Most certainly, it is difficult to see past the abundant obstacles to building an equitable and prosperous society along the selfless Congo, but the young African entrepreneurs will not be dissuaded by the challenges.
Sipping the enchanting Kivu coffee by the river of opportunity inspires a journalist to dig deeper into the story.
The two Congo Nations have tremendous natural resources. The World Bank documents a wealth of tropical forest lands and unique carbon capturing peat lands that envelopes the Republic of the Congo.
As with many countries in Africa that have petroleum oil reserves, the derivative wealth factor has not created development opportunities for most of the nation’s youthful population. The oil economy dominates the Country’s GNP and exports.
The country’s need for economic diversity is an opportunity for passion- driven entrepreneurs
Across the Congo, there is also a wealth of economic diversification opportunities. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a huge country with a landmass blessed with an abundance of minerals, fertile farmlands, and a lush rain forest that is nurtured by the wet equatorial climate
The capital, Kinshasa, like Brazzaville has an exploding youthful population. Kinshasa is the largest city in Central Africa and the third largest city on the continent.
Although geopolitics have created and maintained the national boundaries across the Continent, Africa’s youth see the limitations of these boundaries and are using their tech skills and entrepreneurial passions to solve long standings issue of neglect and poverty with empowering Startups.
The economic viability of Africa’s youthful unbanked was overlooked by the multinational financial institutions. Safaricom knew the value of the small industrious entrepreneurs, farmers, students, workers, and consumers in Kenya. It launched M-Pesa in 2007. The fintech solution allows the local currency (Shilling in Kenya’s case) to be stored and transferred via SMS text, on the user’s mobile phone.
A Startup in Nairobi could pitch small micro loans from friends and relatives and receive the funds as quick as an SMS. The entrepreneurs could then pay rent, fees, etc. A market trader could deposit the cash into a M-Pesa agent and receive a text confirmation with insurance of up to KSh100,000.00.
The winning model of M-Pesa focused on building out agents within existing small retail consumer businesses. As the rollout developed into the next phase, the M-Pesa independent shop were viable enough to be a standalone business. Complimenting the agent rollout, the model included building out the customers amount, their existing client base, and the ultimate expansion into a new client base.
The innovative software allows for financial transactions to be conducted on older model phones, as smart phones are not in widespread use outside of Nairobi.
By the close of this year, M-Pesa has a customer base of close to fifty million customers. According to the 2021 financial filings, Safaricom earned 765 million USD in revenue.
Although M-Pesa has expanded into other East African countries, it has not been as successful in countries that are outside of Kenya.
The most exciting ramification of the M-Pesa fintech is the empowering tool it provides ordinary Kenyans, who do not meet the requirements or the means to open a bank account much less qualify for any loans, to combat poverty.
Prior to M-Pesa, if a market trader was ill and could not sell in the market and did not have the capability to seek help from family or friends to sell the goods in the marketplace, the illness would result in a devastating fall into the below poverty state.
M-Pesa allows the Market -Trader to network friends, families, and their network to obtain loans via a text message that will allow healing and the funds to purchase the goods needed to return to the Market.
In Kenya, the Boda Boda is a means to earn a living for many youthful entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly many of the young workers are underbanked or unbanked. The Tuk Tuk vehicle offers a higher means to profit, as it can carry more passengers and parcels when operating as a courier. The motorbike is the vehicle of choice for many of the young entering the working world. However even the motor bike is too costly for most of this large generation seeking employment. The average bike cost KSh90,000. The option of a bank loan is not an option. The entry cost forces many to rent the bikes from entrepreneurs who survived the streets of Nairobi and built a fleet of bikes to rent out to the teeming and hungry GenZs looking to earn a living.
Prior to the M-Pesa, the rental option led to unprofitable days, some unscrupulous riders would not pay the fare after reaching the destination. If the daily customer service were low, most of the days labor would be expended on the rent and fuel cost.
The gender diversification opportunities did not offer woman drivers any opportunities, as this is a male dominated trade.
African Fintecpreneurs have changed the path of poverty. A young woman can now rely on an App that a young Kenyan Entrepreneur created with her brother is an example of the next generation of African Entrepreneurs who are not waiting for anti-corruption committees or donor nations, they are mastering the Tech and creating gender diversification and safer working environment for the entrepreneurs and customers that use their Busy Boda App.
A review of the App’s feature underscores the possibilities and the promise of Africa.
“Busy Boda is here to change your courier experience! We offer you an unrivaled user experience straight from ordering the boda-boda, the tracking the parcel to its destination and finally the payment process.
We are passionate about bringing real change in this highly informal sector by not only providing an effective, simple-to-use solution for you but also improve our riders’ welfare. We provide value-added services in the form of loans, insurance, and safety training.
Busy Boda also has a female rider-program me, that provides a unique experience for the customers. We support female entrepreneurship by providing a platform that allows women riders & entrepreneurs to tap into a readily available market of delivery services.”
Now a young woman can float her business goals to a network of friends and family on M-Pesa or join an App like Busy Boda to build that next generation.
One could only imagine the possibilities if some tech savvy entrepreneur can develop an App that could provide a M-Pesa like solution that could rush past borders and politics to bring the Continent’s young talent online. Imagine if the tech could reach micro finance-based NGOs and or businesses entities looking to build networks with Africa’s hard charging generation.
Let us look at the opportunities in the Congo nations. As the Covid pandemic burns its way into a new year, a significant body of data has developed around the effectiveness of vaccines depends on refrigeration. In fact, many of the lifesaving medicines require refrigeration.
Hospitals on both sides of the Congo cannot depend on grid-based electricity to provide basic resources for refrigeration. Seeing the dire need, Entrepreneur Sandy Mbaya Mayetela developed a Startup, Africa Solaire right in Brazzaville. He did not get discouraged by headlines, corruption, national boundaries, and outdated convention. He developed the delivery system of capturing clean renewable energy and storing it for critical use during a grid-based failure or in a distributed generation capacity to obviate the intermittent ratio of renewable resources.
The case studies that Africa Solaire has built in over 10 years on both sides of the Congo is proof of the vast opportunities for investors and NGOs in the Congo.
A Brazzaville medical center received a lifesaving solar generated refrigeration system. Farmers and rural villages in DRC are receiving life supporting water supplies aided with solar generated pumps and purifying technology.
The varied internet browsers will portray huge waste management problems in the Congo nations and in fact in many African nations. Discarded plastics are the most challenging materials in global waste management programs.
Eco Tech is a KinshasabasedStartup that utilizes waste management technology to convert recycled plastic waste into attractive construction pavers for varied utilizations. According to the US based Research University, University of California, Davis study “Globally, cement[production] is responsible for about five percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The CEO of Eco Tech, Steve Matenda, recently accepted the award from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, for the effective use of tech to not only capture and remove the plastic waste but also providing solutions to the greenhouse gas- laden cement production.
The Congo Nations are developing robust Startup Ecosystems. Multinational Financial Institutions ignored the value of the M-Pesa clients because of the challenges, risk, fear, etc. The wild success of M-Pesa presents investors with a case study that proves ignoring the Africa Solaires and the Eco Techs of Young Africa is a mistake.
If you are an Ethical Investor or a Company with a genuine ESG program or an individual that fears the deleterious effects of global warming and would like to support the climate saving work of these young Startup in the Congo or the ESG driven Busy Boda, there is another Startup, now based in Johannesburg, that opens up the payment platform across the continent. The unique API platform allows for wallet to wallet, transactions across the Continent. The Tech solution or P to P and SME to C or Investor to Startup or Ethical Investor to Disrupter, etc is a game changer
MSF Africa, which has drawn the attention of global investors in its recent successfully funding round, is the right Tech Company for the right time. Its borderless offer fits neatly into the goals of the AfCTA. One no longer has to imagine a continent wide mobile fintech solution.
The company’s Founder and CEO, Dare Okoudjou is the epitome of this generation of African Entrepreneurs. They do not waste their time worrying about challenges to Africa’s growth. They are too busy disrupting the old moldy models and creating businesses, jobs and turning possibilities into opportunities.