We sat in the corridor where there was a little more space and Innocent talked about his dream to expand the work of Liaison Congo and bring the benefits of the web to everyone in Bukavu.
Innocent Misabiro was already running Liaison Congo when we first met. The company installed v-sat internet access into NGO offices and Innocent had built a technically capable team and a good track record. In Kivu this is not easy. People study computing at university without ever using a computer or seeing a router. Hands-on experience let alone expertise is not commonplace.
We sat in the corridor where there was a little more space and Innocent talked about his dream to expand the work of Liaison Congo and bring the benefits of the web to everyone in Bukavu. Piece by piece a plan emerged to adapt his capabilities and start an internet café. Innocent insisted it must solve the twin problems of electricity cuts and slow modems that were crippling other cafes, and that it must offer people useful training in how to use a computer and how to use the internet. Innocent cares a lot.
As sometimes happens when the stars align, the hairdresser in the space below Innocent’s office moved out and Liaison Congo moved in. Innocent took a bus all the way to Kampala to buy equipment and local joiners came in to fit the workbenches. More exciting still, his v-sat supplier invited him to be among the first business in Bukavu to use fibre optic bandwidth and Liaison Congo internet began life by offering the fastest internet access in a town of 1 million people. Innocent installed a generator and also solar batteries to bridge the electricity cuts and Luminosity provided a loan to fund the whole venture. We also provided practical advice and still do.
To be honest it’s a pleasure to walk into Liaison Congo. The place is full of customers for much of the day and the evening courses in how to use the computer and internet are up and running. Innocent will soon be introducing more courses and even faster bandwidth and is already making an operating profit.
A year after opening Liaison Congo internet café-1, Innocent has opened café-2. It is another step to realising a dream.
Café-2 is on Avenue Leopold, which is in the centre of Bukavu where many small businesses are located. It’s already noticeable that the café is especially busy between 10.00am and 4.00pm whereas café-1 in Nyawera is busiest after 4.00pm when students come in to study and use social networking sites.
Innocent is planning to offer training courses at café 2, more so than café-1. There is a good space for training and already he has bought some tables and chairs for up to fifteen people in a class. He’s careful and won’t be expanding too fast – not until café-2 is bedded in and training is up and running.
Two internet cafés is far from enough. We are working with Innocent to build out internet access and training all over Eastern Congo