The tenacity and improvisation needed to start a business and make it work is evident everywhere we go in Kivu. It’s visible by the roadside where ground level stalls sell re-cycled implements and rickety kiosks offer haircuts, and on the corners where people make a living by changing dollars into Congolese francs and on the roads in Bukavu where people share taxis. It’s evident from the threadbare tyres patched up in workshops, the old generators used to pump up car tyres and the market stalls selling clothes hung on twigs.
We also see the tenacity and improvisation in the businesses we support. The Luvungi boulangerie transports heavy sacks of flour by bicycle. Everywhere on the Rusizi Plain bicycles are used as workhorses to carry as much as 120kg. The women in Bweremana ladel out palm oil using old food cans as dispensers and Innocent has to use a combination of solar and petrol generator to keep the internet cafes up and running.
Patient also has to be tenacious and to improvise. We met him several months ago when he took us to one of the soap-making factories in Bukavu.
Since then we’ve been working with Patient to help him set up his own factory, which he has called Kivu Soap. He found a dilapidated building that was built by the Belgians in the 1950’s and patched it up, and he uses the various rooms in the building to manage different parts of the soap making process. He has also made the moulds that contain blocks of solidifying soap, which are then cut up on an improvised table.
We think his approach is good. It keeps costs down at this early stage and enables him to quickly learn how to improve the process and make a better quality of soap. He is working to a weekly cycle of production at the end of which he looks for improvements to apply in the following week. In this way he will tenaciously move forward step by step towards a sustainable future.