South Kivu, July 10, 2023
By Josué Musole
South Kivu: It was during the first entrepreneurial fair called “Indépendance Cha Cha” in Bukavu that Mr. Bokoum spoke to an audience of entrepreneurs and media professionals.
According to him, Eastern Congo Initiative fully supports entrepreneurs to make significant progress in their respective business sectors. Of course, this is not without difficulties, he acknowledges.
In a brief conversation during a panel organized during the fair, Ibrahima Bokoum encouraged entrepreneurs to work hard, always and always. Thanks to entrepreneurship, “these women and young people who are committed to creating jobs have the possibility of doing something new, something wonderful”, he underlines. He adds that the journey of an entrepreneur is by no means an easy one. Certainly there will be obstacles, but “there are hardly any insurmountable obstacles when vision and commitment overflow”.
Clearly, Eastern Congo Initiative is eager to see entrepreneurs think outside the box and no longer be mere job seekers. Despite the fiscal constraints they may face, he advises them to keep dreaming to bring about the desired changes in society.
“Things will change from the bottom up, not the other way around,” insists Bokoum, optimistically and in a very evocative style, adding these words:
“I recognize that entrepreneurship is risky here and elsewhere. Yes it is difficult. But nevertheless, the inviolable principle of the human being is to dream, to emancipate, to invent and to move forward”.
This is the fundamental message of ECI to motivate entrepreneurs who, for lack of perseverance or self-confidence, could give up in the face of certain difficulties encountered along the way.
It is well known that Eastern Congo Initiative is a very active organization in the Kivu provinces, supporting a wide variety of projects that are incredibly transforming lives. In this specific case, ECI has been providing grants to micro-enterprises since 2010. Many entrepreneurs in and around Goma started at the lowest rung of the ladder, but with the right support from ECI, they were able to grow their businesses, with positive spinoffs for the entire community.
It is undeniable that many examples illustrate this support for entrepreneurs, even if they are new to the business world, explains Ibrahima Bokoum, during an interview in his office in Bukavu. It is difficult for him to list all the projects financed by the ECI, as there are so many. However, he reveals that three entrepreneurs in Goma particularly stood out.
“ECI has supported several companies, including SATEC, which is transforming the poultry industry, fighting food insecurity and external dependence on the supply of chickens to the Congolese market. Bing Écologie, a dynamic startup, provides eco-charcoal made from organic waste, replacing charcoal, aiming to reach 10% of charcoal users in Goma. Chasumba Safety SARL has also been supported by ECI for the production of Shano porridge, intended for people with specific diets, including children, people suffering from malnutrition and people with diabetes,” Ibrahima lists.
It is obvious that ECI supports a multitude of promising projects in Goma. The wheel spins. In Bukavu, this organization has been involved for some time in receiving projects from other entrepreneurs who aspire to advance society, but are blocked by a lack of financial resources. This is part of the ECI Small Business Grant plan.
Local entrepreneurs in Bukavu should have no illusions that these grants are available without conditions. The criteria required, without exception, is that the company has legal authorization to operate, that it complies with the laws of the Republic, that it is able to respond to a social problem, and that it has a solid business plan.
When these conditions are met, it is very likely that the applying companies will be evaluated to receive a subsidy, based on proving merit, estimates our source. He quickly adds that Eastern Congo Initiative will always have to ensure that these projects align with the two objectives pursued in its approach to subsidizing small businesses, namely: the empowerment of women and the creation of business opportunities.
As a reminder, this first edition of the entrepreneurial fair was organized by the Orheol incubator and the Rikolto NGO. This visibility event for local entrepreneurs and their supporters, including ECI, took place from Tuesday June 27 to Friday June 30, 2023 at the Vamaro stadium, in the municipality of Ibanda.
Photos: Mama Salomé