To understand more about what we are doing it's good to understand where it's done. This is Bukavu

Bukavu was established early in the last century by Belgian colonisers who built a lakeside town with public buildings and villas and originally called it Costermansville.  In the 1950’s the population numbered around 35,000 people.

The city was built on five peninsulas reaching out into Lake Kivu, which is backed by high mountains rising to 2000 metres that provide a panorama of beautiful and contrasting landscapes.

Click here to read more about Bukavu 

 

 

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We focus on a few regions at the time. We believe that once development has reached a certain point entrepreneurs and visionaries outside of our projects will find new services to offer and problems to solve. Below you can read more about the projects we have invested in, here in Bukavu  

PROJECT:internet
Innocent

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

 

Project:light
Washikala

 

Without access to electricity the clean and safe light source that the solar lights provides creates more time to study, to work or just time to spend together.

It’s easy to like Washikala and Iongwa. They are young, bright and ambitious and make a good team with Washikala providing the energy and drive and Iongwa the organisation. They grew up together in a refugee camp and went to university together in Dar es Salaam. Now they have a business in Kivu called Altech that sells solar lamps, mainly to teachers.

The kit is basic. There is a wagon-wheel sized lamp with a PV cell on the back to absorb light and charge the battery. Then there is a wire frame to hold and pivot the lamp so you can adjust the angle, plus an on/off button and a socket for charging a Nokia mobile. The lamp is bright enough to light a small room and can be used all night if necessary - assuming it started fully charged. And it costs only $13.

Washikala and Iongwa are targeting teachers for whom a solar lamp is a big help since most have no electricity and find it is difficult to use the evenings to prepare for the following day.

So far they have sold 7000. It’s taken them a while – two years in fact. But in that time they have put down deep roots, found good people to help them, learnt how the market works and developed an effective approach to sales and payment collection.

They put forward a business plan to us that made a lot of sense and now they have the finance to significantly expand the volume and geographic reach. Which means a lot more people will benefit.

Project:malaria treatment
Blaise


Blaise is an entrepreneur.  He uses Congolese agriculture and Congolese processing, to get low-cost malaria treatment to hundreds of thousands of people.

Blaise lives in Bukavu, the capital city of South Kivu, and a border town in the heart of Congo’s conflict region. Blaise uncovers opportunity where others see only despair.

Before Blaise came along, his resource-rich home was needlessly importing food and medicine, specifically a pricy, quinine-based malaria pill. Quinine, a medicinal compound capable of basic malaria treatment, exists naturally in the bark of Congo’s Quina trees.

So Blaise posed a question – if Quinine grows all over Congo, why are we importing it?

This young Congolese entrepreneur devised a solution. It began with a co-op of farmers. Quina trees were growing freely in their fields, but they were simply taking up space. Blaise commissioned them to extract the bark. He identified a supply chain. From the farm to the points of distribution, Blaise built the foundations for a local, self-sustaining business.

But there was one problem.  Transportation.  He needed $14,000 to begin transport of the raw materials to the processing plant.  In a place where systems for credit and loans are nearly non-existent, he needed a business loan.

So FW gave him the $14,000.  He built the transportation system.  And then his business got the malaria treatment to 330,000 people. His business is now profitable.

This is just the beginning. Blaise’s business is growing. He is a whistleblower.

Project:festival
frank

Franck has a timeless quality to him. Every morning he wakes up, puts on an impeccably tailored suit, and goes to his office at 3Tamis. There he leads a team of young, Congolese designers working together to compose graphic stories. Stories written to expose the truths of a warzone.

His hometown of Bukavu shares Congo’s eastern border with Rwanda and Burundi, making it a vibrant cross-section of unique customs and traditions.

Over the centuries, the power-hungry have used this diversity as a weapon to justify genocide, and perpetuate decades of war. Despite UN peace accords, tension hangs heavy in the region.

Franck created FestBuk as a unique solution for his neighbors to begin moving past their differences while having a great time. FestBuk is an annual, multicultural celebration that draws citizens from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo together to eat, dance, and experience the music, fashion, and art born from their different cultures.

Franck is looking longterm with Festbuk. He believes shared experiences permeated with laughter and expression can break down cultural barriers and establish lasting friendships.

Regardless of class or heritage, festival-goers will bump shoulders on the dance floor, tell jokes in the buffet line, and exchange values in sharing art and ideas.

You bought a whistle.  You voted for peace in Congo. You provided the $13,000 that funded FestBuk 2011.

We believe art has the power to shift culture. We stand beside Franck in his vision for a united Great Lakes region and a peaceful Congo.

Franck is a whistleblower. 

 
 

 

 

Click on Congo to view our video from Bukavu

Bukavu was established early in the last century by Belgian colonisers who built a lakeside town with public buildings and villas and originally called it Costermansville.  In the 1950’s the population numbered around 35,000 people.

The city was built on five peninsulas reaching out into Lake Kivu, which is backed by high mountains rising to 2000 metres that provide a panorama of beautiful and contrasting landscapes.

The setting today is as attractive as it was in the 1950’s, but the population is now over 1 million people with most living in poor housing  covering the surrounding hills and everyone making do with an inadequate water and electricity supply.  

Just a few kilomtres from the city is the border with Rwanda at Rusizi near Cyangugu. Bukavu’s strategic location at the north end of the Rusizi valley on the border with Rwanda  is one reason why the city suffered during the Congolese wars between 1996 and 2004, when rapes and massacres took place here in a war of aggression between the Rwandan troops and General Nkunda, their RCD proxy, and Congolese troops who allied (not without political and humanitarian consequences) with the FDLR and Mai-Mai militias.

Bukavu is now relatively peaceful and a pleasant place to live. The people are friendly and resourceful and  mainly survive by means of small businesses found along the major roads. Only a thin layer of the population work in larger trades such as the wholesale of building materials, food, shoes and clothes that for the most part are imported from Dubai and Kampala.

A large majority of the people have barely enough money for domestic needs and something like 60% of the population live on less than 1dollar per day. Daily life in areas like Essence is particularly hard.

In short, Bukavu has a poor but vibrant population who are hospitable and show a disarming kindness!