The city of Bukavu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with a population of around 800,000, has been overrun by conflict for the last 25 years.
In the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, Hutu refugees and much of the former Rwandan government fled into refugee camps around the city, with war ensuing in 1996 as Rwandan troops entered DRC to overthrow the Kinshasa government. Bukavu has been at the heart of events ever since.
As relative calm returns to the region, however, there are hopes that tech can play a part in the area’s emergence from post-war conflict. Founded earlier this year, incubator and accelerator KivuHub plans to be at the heart of this.
Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Eliud Aganze told Disrupt Africa the hub was launched to offer hope to people who have suffered more than 20 years of war by providing them with a space within which to be creative and build businesses.
“Our prime mission is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the DRC. Our vision is to have the next Silicon Valley in the DRC,” he said.
“We accompany startups in their technological and business transformations as they try to launch and penetrate the market.”
KivuHub offers incubation services for new startups and acceleration for existing ones, as well as offering training and advice in the field of technology and organising various events. The idea came about when Aganze returned from studying in Nairobi in 2016 and realised the lack of IT skills locally.
“We had to share our experiences in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology as a way of enhancing our daily lives. We decided to come up with a technology hub, like the iHub in Kenya, so that we can actively support the development of our country and the eastern region of the DRC, which was the epicentre of conflict for decades,” he said.
There are already three startups being incubated at KiviHub, and Aganze plans to build out its services over time while engaging with the local community to encourage interest in tech and entrepreneurship. At present, it is sustained by its co-founders.
“However, as we gain traction and help launch successful businesses into the eastern DRC market and neighbouring countries, we have agreements that KivuHub as the enabling partner will have a five per cent return on investment for a period of five years after tax,” said Aganze.
The hub will also earn revenues through consultancy for local and international businesses, as well as educational training for local IT students.
“In the next five years, we want to expand into two other cities, Goma and Kisangani, which have tremendous entrepreneurial potential,” Aganze said. “Our current forecast is to have an innovation space of our own that can accommodate between 10 and 20 startups at the same time.”