In this interview for TechCabal, Noel K. Tshiani, founder of Congo Business Network, speaks with Josué Vangu, founder of Jovan Group Technologies, about the startup environment in Lubumbashi, the second most populous city in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Please tell our readers who do not know you a little about your professional background.
I am 32 years old, an operator in the new technologies sector and passionate about agriculture. I’m also a computer engineer and an MBA student in Information Systems Management, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a trainer and I’m passionate about civic engagement and community organisations.
My career path started after I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a focus on Telecommunications and Network Administration. I started my career as a digital infrastructure trainer in a professional training organisation in Kinshasa and as a professional blogger for the HABARI DRC platform, a community of bloggers in the DRC, where I am passionate about telling the stories of Congolese men and women through blog posts and articles, particularly based on the use of new technologies and social facts.
I strongly believe that education is an exceptional weapon to positively change the lives of Congolese women and youth and to also develop businesses by instilling digital culture related to the challenges of technology today. I therefore work with companies in their digital transition for an effective transformation. I develop digital tools and solutions accessible to all segments of the population and our community in order to reduce the rural exodus, develop the hinterland, create jobs and generate wealth, and teach young people how to use digital tools, engage in entrepreneurship, and upgrade their skills with the new market trends to increase their employability.
My career took another turn when I joined a local technology company still in Kinshasa offering electronic security and IT systems integration services to companies from different sectors in the electronic security of goods and people through technology. I joined as IT support, and was later promoted to IT and Project Manager for the same company in its regional office in Katanga in Lubumbashi. There, I discovered the dynamic and active local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Shortly after, I was promoted to Deputy to the Provincial Headquarters (Regional Director) where I led several digital projects in mining, oil companies, banks, logistics, real estate for buildings and residences, SMEs and many other sectors.
With these experiences and my active participation in the development of customer networks for my employer, I took part in several business events in my new city, Lubumbashi, where I was inspired to start my business project called Jovan Group Technologies. A conflict of interest was born between my job and my new business project, so I had to resign from my job to devote myself to my new project.
Thus, in July 2019, I officially co-founded Jovan Group Technologies with my associate. Our company was born from the convergence between the opportunities offered by technology and the growing needs of professionals.
The same year, I incubated my company in a local incubator, the Lubumbashi Innovation Centre, which helped us with mentoring, coaching, training and introductions to potential venture capitalists, as well as business events, which allowed us to expand our business network and contacts. We also benefited from the hosting and domiciliation of our business project until we passed the phase of ideation to the prototyping of our services. Soon, we validated our market with our first clients and it was off to an entrepreneurial adventure!
Jovan Group Technologies is an IT services company specialising in IT training, digital infrastructure installation and electronic security systems integration.
Our ambition and vision is to make life easier through technology! This means we focus on the digital transformation of businesses and upgrading the skills of students and IT professionals.
Our mission is to imagine, design and develop digital solutions that improve the efficiency of organisations in different sectors and strengthen the capacities of young students and IT professionals in continuous and practical training, bringing them up to date with the new skills and trends of the current job market to increase their employability.
I also work in parallel as a volunteer member in several community organisations and currently I am the Coordinator of YPARD DRC/Upper Katanga, which is an international network of young professionals for agricultural development.
In 2021, we were selected as the Laureate of the Business Plan Competition in its SME category by the Congolese government and the World Bank on its financing via its Programme of Support to the Development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
Being a beneficiary of the government’s shared-cost subsidy has given a boost to our project, whose business plan has attracted the attention of the stakeholders in this programme.
What does your startup do and what services do you offer to customers?
According to our vision and mission, Jovan Group has 3 branches, which are:
1. Jovan Group Academia, which is a continuing professional development organisation that offers a practical training programme for students and a full range of information systems training for professionals, even those in retraining, to help them upgrade their skills.
We provide training to around 50 IT specialists every month. We offer seminars, training courses and training to students, IT and security professionals in inter- or intra-company, catalogue or customised.
As part of our wider range of solutions, we have set up a programme of continuing and practical training courses for students and IT infrastructure professionals to upgrade and update their skills. We have also set up a technical and material support programme for universities and colleges with IT courses for students to practise and take international certification exams as part of their curriculum to make them competitive in the job market and their new careers.
Jovan Group Academia aims to transform the lives of students, professionals and communities through the power of technology, education and career opportunities and make digital educational content accessible to everyone, everywhere at competitive prices.
2. Jovan Group Electronic Systems & Services, which is an installer and integrator of security systems., through Through this service, Jovan Group designs and develops electronic security offerings organised around integrated solutions that adapt to all architectures, from the simplest to the most secure, to address the issues of each sector of activity and various customers to facilitate the digital transformation process.
In recent years, there has been an increase in crime in the city of Lubumbashi and its surroundings. Very recently, there was a relative of mine who saw his 20-year-old daughter raped in front of him after armed burglars forced their way into his house, taking some valuable possessions with them.
In fact, in Lubumbashi, between 6 and 10 cases of serial armed robbery are recorded every night, involving theft, rape, murder, etc. According to civil society organisations and local security authorities, it is in vain that families call for help from the police, who do not come in time or simply do not come because of a lack of operational capacity, while the victims lose their property, their dignity and sometimes their lives.
There are many families who are victims of burglaries in this city of 2 million inhabitants where affording security services is a headache and a luxury.
Jovan Group Electronic Systems & Services provides, instals and manages electronic security systems including intrusion and fire alarms, video surveillance, vehicle tracking, access control with perimeter protection solutions, entry, and exit management to businesses, residences and buildings.
In concrete terms, whether the customer is at home or out, all he has to do is to activate his security system (intrusion alarm, video surveillance, vehicle tracking, etc.) connected to our remote surveillance control station.
The latter is then immediately alerted to any events that warrant the removal of doubt and an appropriate response with the intervention of armed private security patrols at the customer’s premises to come to his assistance. In the meantime, the siren sounds on the spot to dissuade the thief.
Our remote monitoring control station receives and processes information from a security system at a distance. This consists of detection tools and a control centre that transmits information via GSM networks and/or the internet.
The customer can also manage his security installation with his phone via a mobile application everywhere. From advice to the definition of the architecture to training, Jovan Group assists its customers in designing the electronic security solution that is best suited to their project in their business environment.
Recognised for our professionalism and technical expertise, Jovan Group is committed to providing 24/7, 365 days/year coverage to ensure the protection of its clients’ sites and their employees locally and/or remotely with its remote monitoring control centre.
3. Jovan Group IT Services & Solutions, whether it’s a question of completing, optimising or building a network infrastructure, Jovan Group is the ideal partner for its customers, providing them with the most optimal hardware solutions. Our all-inclusive solutions ensure that their IT systems are always up and running and provide them with the security they need to keep their IT running smoothly.
We provide installation, configuration, management and maintenance of corporate networks with several solutions including structured network cabling of buildings and datacenters, deployment of various network services from messaging to IP telephony, offers to be tailored to the customer’s needs, so that they do not have to worry about their company’s network and infrastructure problems.
Jovan Group is the specialist in the management of IT assets for companies. We cover all the activities related to it!
Is it more difficult to start an entrepreneurial activity in Lubumbashi than if you were based in Goma or Kinshasa?
I don’t think it’s difficult, but it all depends on how well you can master the ecosystems of Goma or Kinshasa to get started.
Personally, my background is a bit different because at my former employer I had to travel very often within the country as part of my service missions, which allowed me to discover several cities, in this case those mentioned, which made it easier for us to start.
But it is still not easy for an entrepreneur who has never been to these cities to start because it requires mastery of the local market which may be different in the city where you usually evolve.
Companies are called to evolve and expand. It will happen one day or another depending on the vision of the company and its market to establish itself in other cities. That’s why I encourage entrepreneurs to make prospecting trips or to participate in business events organised in other cities to get the idea on the spot, when the time comes to start, it will be much easier.
We are based in Lubumbashi but we often offer our services to companies in Kinshasa and other cities.