The Future of Tech Startups in DR Congo
April 24, 2020
April 24, 2020
This article seeks to examine the importance of tech start-ups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite the instability, a fraction of DRC’s young population invests their energy in technology. They aim to solve problems in agriculture, finance, human resource, and so on. Regardless, the government does not offer enough support. Foreign investors show interest in assisting them through events and competitions. This article highlights a few challenges they face, and how it affects their future.
Reconstructed Scenario is based on the following judgments:
‘Seedstars is a Swiss-based private group of companies with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship’. They hold a yearly competition for tech start-ups. At one competition that held in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they identified 11 start-ups to pitch. Participants competed for $1million in equity investment. From DRC, Agri-tech solution AfriNTIC, off-grid energy access provider Alternative Energy Technologies, business management software EBUTELO, public safety solution EHE, payments platform Faysal, information platform InjoByte, mobile charging solution Integrity Media, ed-tech Start-up Labes Key, recruitment platform SMS Emploi, and analytics Start-up STATS CONGO. They cover agriculture, power, corporate services, public safety, financial technology (FinTech), Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and human resource management.
Afrobyte is in Paris at Station F. ‘Its mission is to bridge the gap between the African Tech Industry and other international communities.’ It achieves this through hosting tech events to showcase what Africa offers. It also helps to speed up Africa’s tech industry. Major companies such as Facebook, Google, Kaspersky, Sanofi, JCDecaux, Instagram, Alibaba, and others work with them to connect with tech talents in Africa. MaxiCash, maxicashapp.com (FinTech), MEDpay, medpay.io (HealthTech), Tinda, tinda.cd (Logistics), MOKO, themokoapp.com (Music), and Eteyelo, eteyelo.cd (EdTech) took part in the 2019 edition. What would happen if DRC’s economy were to ride on these extra wheels?
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to Grey Dynamics Africa Intelligence Assessment, is a monocultural economy. Over 90% of its wealth comes from the extractive industry. Neglect of other sectors led to massive unemployment and poverty rate. The figures below show the statistics.
Figure 1: Unemployment rate.
Figure 2: Poverty rate.
DRC government abandoned agriculture for oil, only 30% of the population engage agriculture, productivity is low, and agriculture accounts for under 10% of GDP. Even though the country has access suitable land for agriculture, it records a high food importation. Importation includes wheat, rice, poultry meat, palm oil, milk products, among others.
DRC’s GDP in 2015 was $41.44 billion. It has one of the lowest rates of electrification in the world. DRC’s has the potential to install up to 100,000 MW of hydropower capacity, but national electrification access rate was just 9%.
Financial inclusion in DRC is low. Only 7% of the population is employed. Others make a living in the informal sector. Poverty is widespread, with 53% earning less than $3.30 per day. Less than 50% have accounts with financial institutions. Less than 10% of local businesses have a website to promote their commodities. Also, most of them engage in manual record keeping. Digital penetration in the business sector is still very poor. Also, schools in DRC are yet to enjoy ICT in learning processes. Schools and teachers cannot afford computers.
These challenges delay the progress of tech start-ups in DRC. But they need support from the government to make a considerable impact.
Tech Start-Ups require internet access, constant electricity and funds to design and execute projects. DRC government is not willing to diversify the economy. However, these start-ups could serve as extra wheels to move the economy. It would help increase the employment rate, productivity, financial inclusion, digital penetration, access to information, access to an alternative power supply, and education.
Without the necessary support, tech start-ups may become frustrated. Hence the key judgements.
Image: Tech GIST Africa (link)
Jesutimilehin Akamo is Grey Dynamics’ analyst focussing on Central Africa and a Pre-doctoral fellow at STRATFOR. Jesutimilehin is a trained Human Rights Field Officer and was awarded the Tana 2018 continental essay award.