Noel K. Tshiani is the managing director of Congo Business Summit, a flagship conference and expo organised by Congo Business Network. The network works with startups, corporations, and government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo and abroad. With a profound dedication to innovation, the organisation is passionate about nurturing and advancing the country’s startup and tech ecosystems, recognising the transformative impact they can have on the country’s economy.

There is no better time than now to draw attention to the underexplored opportunities for Kenyan tech startups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Set to take place at Pullman Kinshasa Grand Hotel from October 12 to 13, 2023, Congo Business Summit is the largest gathering of startups, innovation leaders, and investors in the DRC. It provides an unparalleled environment for engaging discussions, strategic networking, and fostering partnerships. The event will feature exhibitions, panels, and workshops on topics related to startups, entrepreneurship, investments, and technology. And it promises significant media visibility and direct access to investors for participating startups from Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma, and Matadi.

The DRC, a vast country with a population of over 100 million people, has been experiencing steady economic growth and digital transformation. As a result, an abundant and untapped landscape ripe with opportunities awaits Kenyan tech startups eager to explore new markets and drive unprecedented growth. The DRC’s strategic location, bordering nine countries, offers an additional potential consumer base of around 250 million people – a prospect too significant for any ambitious startup in Nairobi to overlook.

For years, the narrative about Congo-Kinshasa has been dominated by its natural resources, valued at nearly $24 trillion. However, this perspective significantly underestimates the vast business opportunities that the country presents beyond just the mining sector, especially for tech startups ready to dive into international expansion. The DRC’s youthful and large population, reasonable labour costs, and massive consumer market provide a wealth of opportunities for growth and scale.

That is why Kenyan tech startups need look no further than their homegrown success stories for inspiration. Equity Bank, as a prime for example, expanded into the Democratic Republic of Congo and has since merged with Banque Commerciale du Congo. The bank has since achieved remarkable success, with more than one million customers.

Innovative startups in Kenya in sectors such as fintech, edtech, agritech, insurtech, and medtech can find a dynamic and receptive market in the DRC. The country’s technology infrastructure is constantly improving and there is a growing demand for innovative solutions to everyday challenges, from financial inclusion to access to quality education, healthcare, and sustainable agriculture.

Congo Business Summit, with its diverse representation of various sectors, provides a unique platform for Kenyan tech startups to connect with Congolese counterparts, potential business partners, and government decision-makers. It is a rare opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge and insights into conducting business in the DRC, navigating regulatory requirements, understanding consumer behaviour, and forging business partnerships.

Kenyan tech startups should approach the DRC market not only as an opportunity for business growth, but also as a chance to contribute to the socio-economic development of both countries. By introducing innovative solutions and services, Kenyan tech startups can help to address key challenges, create jobs, improve living standards, and promote mutual prosperity.

The DRC is ready and open for business, and for Kenyan tech startups looking to grow and expand, the opportunities are limitless. As we look forward to the upcoming Congo Business Summit in October, I encourage Kenyan tech startups to explore the untapped potential in the DRC.

Kenyan entrepreneurs can in fact break new ground, disrupt industries, create value, and drive sustainable development across borders. The future is here, and it is full of promise in the heart of Africa: the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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