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Noel K. Tshiani: «entrepreneurs will be at the forefront of Congo’s economic emergence»



Noel K. Tshiani: «entrepreneurs will be at the forefront of Congo's economic emergence»

Entrepreneurs are the creators of solutions. Throughout history, going as far back as many thousands of years ago, humans have always sought to improve their lives in different areas regardless of where they lived around the world.

In 2019, people still create products and services to sell in the marketplace whether online or in a physical store. And consumers buy goods from businesses with the main goal to satisfy priority needs. As a result, entrepreneurship is not a new thing, but is rather a means through which a marketplace brings buyers and sellers to transact by exchanging money for goods that can improve the living conditions of people.

The creation of the Internet and social media platforms, and the adoption of the formal economy has made entrepreneurship a global phenomenon, especially in Africa where the start-up ecosystem is rapidly developing and gaining a huge momentum while getting a lot of media coverage whether in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, or Ethiopia.

Entrepreneurs need training to succeed

As the founder of Congo Business Network, I work with Congolese entrepreneurs from around the world, including those who are based in Canada, in the United States, in Europe, or in other African countries outside of Congo. Congo Business Network is an international network of Congolese professionals and entrepreneurs.

Its mission is to connect Congolese entrepreneurs in the diaspora in order to take action and contribute to the economic development of Congo. The objective of the network is to put the expertise of its members into initiatives that contribute to the advancement of their professional lives.

The network accordingly took 5 leading Congolese tech start-ups (MaxiCash, Tinda, MEDpay, Eteyelo and Moko) to Paris to participate in the Afrobytes event on May 15, 2019 at Station F to pitch before investors, find business partners, and gain visibility for their solutions and expertise in international media ranging from Radio France Internationale, TV5Monde to Congo Digital.

These three news media interviewed entrepreneurs in our delegation and broadcast the interviews on radio, television and on social media, including videos that were posted on YouTube.

Similarly, Congo Business Network has partnered with the Africa Fintech Summit for the event that will be held on November 21, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Through this partnership, the network will take leading Congolese start-ups in the FinTech sector to go meet investors and find business partners that can help them to take their entrepreneurial endeavors to the next level.

Based on my experience working with many Congolese entrepreneurs living in Kinshasa, Goma, and Lubumbashi, I have concluded that the majority of young entrepreneurs need entrepreneurship training in these key areas : business strategy with the goal to develop a business model that produces revenues; professional communication aimed at developing writing skills to effectively communicate with business partners, clients, investors, the media, and the public; marketing expertise (both traditional and digital competence focused on social media channels where existing and target clients can be reached effectively based on a niche).

Another key skill for young entrepreneurs to master this year and beyond is knowing how to present oneself professionally on LinkedIn. It is extremely important to have a professional picture on the platform; use this social media channel that is ranked the 23rd most visited website in the world (based on the Alexa Traffic Rank) to develop a brand in a sector; find new clients and partners; and connect with other entrepreneurs by reading articles and posting comments on a regular basis.

Further, in today’s extremely competitive business world, young entrepreneurs in Congo and in other French-speaking countries in Africa need to learn English if they want to go far in business and be able to work with partners from English-speaking countries.

For entrepreneurs who want to raise capital through business angels, investment banks, or corporations in Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, or Germany, fluency in English will be a tremendous advantage in business.

In addition, the majority of information on the Internet today is in English, not in French. English is the language of choice at top tech companies in the United States ranging from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon to Microsoft.

Congolese entrepreneurs who develop skills in the key areas mentioned above and make a sustained effort to learn English will be able to do business at a global level and, in the process, create products and services that meet the needs of consumers not only in Kinshasa or Brazzaville, but also in other international markets where they can find clients. Entrepreneurs are indeed the creators of solutions that improve the lives of people around the world.

The government must promote entrepreneurship

Congo is at a defining moment in its history given the ascension of President Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency on January 24, 2019, a date on which the first democratic transfer of power occurred in the country since its independence nearly 59 years ago on June 30, 1960 from Belgium.

This year and going forward during his mandate, President Tshisekedi has the opportunity of a lifetime, through his executive authority, to position the country on a series of strategic and timely actions intended to go in a better direction that will lead to economic and social progress.

And the President’s work will be seen as results-oriented leadership manifests itself in the improvement of the standard of living of people as many Congolese continue to have their needs met for basic and necessary things such as clean water, electricity, affordable Internet, healthy food, quality education, safe neighborhoods, and employment that pays a living wage, giving workers the chance to get ahead in the future.

In this way, President Felix Tshisekedi needs to focus on creating, encouraging, and promoting an environment that promotes entrepreneurship, mostly through the rule of law and regulations that encourage entrepreneurial initiatives across the country, in which nearly 60 percent of the population, or about 54 million are 25 years old or younger.

Based on the most recent statistics from McKinsey & Company, the population of Congo is about 87 million people, of which over 80 percent of these young people need appropriate training in entrepreneurship so that they can equip themselves with the knowledge and expertise to start a thriving business, in the formal sector.

Ensuring that these young entrepreneurs have access to co-working spaces at affordable costs will help to alleviate the financial difficulties of starting a business.

In fact, there are limited number of jobs in the government (even in the most developed countries in America and in Europe), especially at the national level. Many young Congolese will need to find employment in the private sector in industries ranging from agriculture; technical services such as graphics design, mobile applications development, web design and database administration; to consulting work in digital marketing and business strategy advisory.

The United States of America where I have lived for 23 years is an economic superpower because the role of the government at the city, state, and national levels focuses on ensuring that entrepreneurs have an environment in which they can succeed–if they start a business and work hard to make their dreams a reality, not with oversight success, but through perseverance and patience over time using the resources they have in order to create products or services that clients need and can afford in a competitive marketplace.

Entrepreneurship and development are intertwined

In conclusion, President Tshisekedi has made entrepreneurship for young Congolese and the development of the digital sector that results in the efficiency of performance for government ministries and agencies and the innovation of existing technology infrastructure in Congo a priority during his presidency.

This is a good intent that merits applause and support from all Congolese and also from the international community, especially from organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union.

Now is the time for the Congolese government to get to work by collaborating with the private sector in order to achieve President Tshisekedi’s ambitious vision for economic development during his mandate.

Noel K. Tshiani is president of Agere Global an investment advisory and business strategy firm headquartered in New York.

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