Developing sustainable businesses in eastern Congo is no small feat. A fragile infrastructure, ongoing insecurity, deadly outbreaks such as Ebola, and now the global pandemic makes business and even daily life in Congo hard.
That is why UCBC alum, Butoto Mahinduzi, is not surprised when he is asked “Why did you come back to Congo?” After completing a master’s degree in Europe, no one would have faulted him for taking advantage of the business opportunities there. But for Butoto, the answer is simple: “I believe in Congo.”
Before Butoto moved to Poland for his studies in 2018, he helped launch Wakisha, a business accelerator and impact fund that grew out of Congo Initiative (CI) with the mission of ending poverty by serving entrepreneurs, investors, and partners. Part of the impetus for him and his peers was the belief that the Congolese people had a collective opportunity to build a better future for their country. For him, entrepreneurship through responsible business is key to seeing a poverty-free Congo.
Today, Wakisha has 11 companies in its portfolio, 40% of which are women-owned. These companies have collectively created more than 120 jobs and secured 3.8 million dollars from investors. One company, Nuru Congo, is deploying the largest off-grid hybrid solar mini-network in Africa and will provide sustainable energy for millions of Congolese. Another, Café Kivu, is the first DRC-based coffee roaster that sells directly to consumers in the United States.
Butoto’s own journey began nine years ago at CI’s Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC). There, he was inspired and realized that his training and skills in economics were gifts he could use to help others. It was in this community where the vision of Wakisha first began to blossom and he felt called to train, encourage, and help others to create start-ups and break the cycle of poverty.
The hope and dedication instilled in Butoto from his days at UCBC help him see the rise of COVID-19 not simply as a challenge but as an opportunity. He remembers being a part of a community that faced Congo’s realities. These realities weren’t viewed as defeating or simply requiring international answers, but rather were opportunities for his generation to do something new – to innovate and find solutions that truly serve the common good.
While recognizing the real concerns and effects COVID-19 is having on the world and particularly economies, Butoto remains hopeful.
“Coronavirus is shaking up the already fragile entrepreneurship efforts in Congo. But we still believe this is a great moment for entrepreneurs to continue moving forward. At Wakisha, we continue to make sure our entrepreneurs have access to future funding, the best education, tailored mentorship, and collaborative workspace. This is why we’re crafting the Wakisha Impact Fund (WIF).”
The WIF will be the first impact fund entirely dedicated to Congo. The fund will support 50 entrepreneurs every year, create 200 new jobs, and empower women.
“We are committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed during and beyond COVID so that they can continue to address the most pressing challenges in Congo and help alleviate poverty through increased economic opportunities.”
Butoto is just one UCBC alumni utilizing their skills and transformational mindset to lead change in Congo. Visit our NEXT 500 Future Leaders of Congo campaign site to read more stories about UCBC alumni making an impact in their communities.