Noel K. Tshiani is the managing director of Congo Business Summit, a flagship conference and expo planned for October 12–13, 2023, in Kinshasa. 

With its vibrant history and culture, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has always been a land of potential. However, challenges faced by its entrepreneurs, especially startups, have been many. Congo Business Summit is the largest gathering of startups, innovation leaders, and investors in the DRC. This ambitious initiative is designed to solve three key problems that have prevented the Congolese startup ecosystem from reaching its full potential.

Congo’s entrepreneurial spirit is deeply rooted in its people. Throughout history, Congolese have demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and a unique ability to innovate in the face of adversity. But like many emerging markets in Africa, Congo’s promising startups face unique challenges, often stemming from infrastructure limitations, lack of access to capital, and limited opportunities for international expansion.

In our interconnected global economy, a nation’s growth trajectory is shaped by how seamlessly its companies can integrate into the international arena. Startups, with their nimbleness and knack for innovation, are at the forefront of this global integration. But without the right scaffolding, guidance and visibility, these nascent businesses risk being overshadowed in the immense global business ecosystem. Congo Business Summit is emerging as the critical link, connecting Congolese innovation with global opportunities.

The summit is not just a solution; it is a statement. It announces to the world that Congo-Kinshasa is open for business and its entrepreneurs are ready to take on the world. By addressing the core challenges facing startups, the event aims not only to nurture the local ecosystem, but to position Congo as a burgeoning hub for innovation and real investment opportunities in the heart of Africa. The journey ahead is promising, and with collective efforts, the potential of the Congolese entrepreneurial spirit will be realised on the world stage.

Let us delve into the three key problems that Congo Business Summit has identified and the solutions it offers:

1. Boosting global visibility

The first hurdle is ensuring visibility for the private sector, the startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs, and the myriad solutions they bring to consumers. Unfortunately, brilliant concepts often fade into obscurity, deprived of the necessary exposure and audience. Congo Business Summit is addressing this visibility problem head-on. By cementing partnerships with the three leading online news media in Kinshasa, and expanding its reach with English-language outlets such as TechCabal, we are ensuring that these stories of innovation receive the spotlight they deserve, both in the French and English-speaking world. In addition, our proactive efforts to secure media coverage from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France are putting Congolese entrepreneurs in the global spotlight, championing their groundbreaking ideas, and ensuring that they receive the recognition that is vital to attracting investors, securing business partnerships, and reaching potential customers both in Kinshasa and internationally.

2. Enabling startup fundraising

The lifeline of any startup is the capital that fuels its growth. Yet fundraising remains a daunting challenge for many Congolese startups. By inviting business angels and institutional investors from around the world to Kinshasa to participate in Congo Business Summit in October, we are creating a bridge between promising startups and investors with the financial resources to move them forward. This is not just about securing funding; it is about initiating a dialogue, educating investors about the country’s rich investment opportunities, and cultivating a sense of belief in the future of Congolese innovation. President Felix Tshisekedi announced on August 19, 2023, that the national government will prioritise innovation funding in the 2024 budget.

3. Building fruitful partnerships

The third challenge involves developing commercial partnerships. Whether it is between startups and large corporations or government agencies in Kinshasa, partnerships are a major contributor to startup success. Congo Business Summit is not just another conference; it is a breeding ground for synergy. I invite not only local players, but also startups from abroad in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Belgium, and the United States to come explore partnerships with Congolese startups. These interactions will open the door for Congolese startups to understand global markets and for international companies to explore partnerships with Congolese entrepreneurs, ensuring a two-way street of growth and learning.

In conclusion, Congo Business Summit is more than an event; it is a solution to three key problems the startup ecosystem is currently experiencing in Kinshasa. It is about changing the narrative, driving growth, and ensuring that the Congolese entrepreneurial spirit is not only recognised, but celebrated and supported locally and internationally. Let us not just talk about the potential of Congolese startups, let us make it happen. For a brighter, more innovative Congo, the summit is the beacon that lights the way. That is why I invite business angels, institutional investors, and startups ready for expansion from around the world to join us in Kinshasa this upcoming October on this journey of transformation, networking, and investment exploration.

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