The Asili business model

Asili is a revolutionary model for people in the world’s most challenging places to build lasting, world-class essential services — for life. 

Asili, powered by Eastern Congo Initiative, reinvents humanitarian aid as startup capital for self-sustaining businesses, operated by and for the people who need them.

Today, Asili water points and health clinics are serving 120,000 customers every day, at prices they can truly afford.

Asili services provide world-class infrastructure and service with dignity — not just during a crisis, but for life. As we expand the Asili platform in Congo and beyond, ECI is transforming the whole idea of humanitarian aid


How Asili changes everything

An enduring commitment

Traditional humanitarian aid perpetuates a vicious cycle of endless aid and painful dependence. The Asili model explodes that cycle. After a single investment of startup capital, Asili businesses are built to operate independently, for life.

This water point in Mudaka has already become a permanent fixture of the bustling market square.

Service with dignity

In an emergency, free aid is necessary and welcome. But in ordinary life, everyone deserves the dignity of choosing to pay for quality, no matter how poor we may be. Asili businesses earn every single customer by providing world-class services at genuinely affordable prices. 

Nurse Pascaline Mbilizi examines a young patient in the exam room at an Asili clinic. Every detail of Asili clinics is designed to make patients feel welcome and safe, so they can heal.

A woman laughs and points behind her to a cement water kiosk in a wooded area of Congo.

Business, not charity

Some parts of civil society depend on the whims of philanthropy to last. Essential services shouldn’t be one of them. In the absence of a strong public sector, Asili services have been designed to operate at a profit so they can last over time. And they do. Five years after they started, the first Asili water kiosks were operating profitably. 

At every Asili water point, like this one in Buhanga, customers get a warm welcome from fontainères, respectfully known in Congo as “water mamas.”

A white building, marked "Asili," with flowers growing in front, and a recessed porch to the right.

Radical quality

People in eastern Congo have less money than most people in the world, and they can’t afford to pay for water that’s not pure or health care that’s not effective. If the quality of Asili services ever slips, our customers will stop paying for them. Asili services operate at world-class quality because we are radically accountable to the people we serve. 

Every Asili facility is painstakingly constructed to be functional, durable, and extremely beautiful. The gardens at the Asili clinic in Mudaka were designed by local artist Delphie Namuto.


How Celestine joined Asili

Celestine and her family, from Kashunguri, used to have to walk three hours each way to fetch dirty water, and healthcare was even farther away. This five-minute film by Congolese videographer Gerry Kahashy shows how Asili businesses earn their customers’ trust. Click the picture to see it.


We’re just getting started

By 2023, ECI is going to expand Asili to serve 500,000 people throughout eastern Congo, helping make dependence on traditional humanitarian aid a thing of the past. If you want to make a lasting difference, we want to hear from you