The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is undergoing a remarkable transformation in its entrepreneurial ecosystem, driven by collaboration, innovation and international support. In this journey, various Congolese stakeholders with the support of the Netherlands Embassy, the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO), Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (FMO), Orange Corners and I4Policy are shaping a new narrative for startup development in the country. This blog delves into the intricate collaborations needed to propel the DRC toward an inclusive and dynamic entrepreneurial future.
Orange Corners DRC: orchestrating ecosystem growth
At the core of the comprehensive ecosystem development in the DRC is Orange Corners, an initiative by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is managed by RVO. Going beyond traditional incubation models, Orange Corners empowers young entrepreneurs by providing tailored programmes that equip them with essential skills, knowledge and networks.
The programme, executed in collaboration with the Netherlands Embassy and implementing partner Ingenious City in DRC, also serves as a means to identify and play into leverage points for the growth of the wider ecosystem. In 2021 the embassy, having spoken to various local stakeholders, understood the need for and interest in developing a Congolese Startup Act. They decided to support this process in collaboration with RVO and I4Policy, a pan-African organisation specialising in inclusive policymaking.
Ongoing support from the Netherlands
The development of the Startup Act in the DRC, promulgated in 2022, saw active support from the Netherlands during the whole process. Open forums, workshops and digital platforms ensured diverse stakeholders positively contributed, setting a blueprint for policymaking that genuinely reflects the needs and objectives of the Congolese entrepreneurial community. However, the Dutch commitment to the DRC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem extends well beyond the legislative development.
Embedded in the Startup Act is the establishment of Fonds de Garantie de l’Entrepreneuriat au Congo (FOGEC), a guarantee fund enabling access to loans for Congolese startup entrepreneurs. In collaboration with RVO and MoneyPhone, FOGEC is undergoing a digitalisation journey to streamline the guarantee application process, making financial support more accessible and transparent. This initiative not only aligns with national digital plans but also boosts confidence in responsible lending, professionalising FOGEC and attracting potential funders. “The assistance in digitising FOGEC’s application process will propel our institution forward, positioning it at the forefront of the DRC’s financial sector, aligning with both the National Digital Plan and the National Program for the Development of Enterprises in Congo,” stated Evariste Mukanya Katanga, Chairman of FOGEC.
In tandem with the digitalisation project, RVO is exploring avenues to join forces with FMO to increase their combined impact. Possibilities of extending a line of credit to FOGEC are being explored and this underscores a collective commitment to enhancing financial accessibility for startups.
The collaborative approach
In this collaboration, the Netherlands Embassy’s support, RVO’s initiatives, FOGEC’s financial guarantees, FMO’s potential backing and the collective efforts of Orange Corners and I4Policy intertwine, creating a systematic approach towards ecosystem development. The Netherlands Embassy’s emphasis on inclusive stakeholder engagement ensures the entrepreneurial ecosystem is not only robust but also reflective of the aspirations of the wider community. Their support backed critical events – including a conference in Kinshasa in November 2022 to announce and celebrate the establishment of the Startup Act – but also set a standard for the Congolese government’s ongoing strategies, ensuring diverse voices are heard in further implementing the Startup Act.
As the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the DRC continues to evolve, the collaborative efforts supported by the Netherlands are proving instrumental. Focusing on comprehensive ecosystem development, including digital innovation and inclusive policymaking, these initiatives set the stage for a dynamic environment where startups can thrive organically. This ongoing journey is a testament to the transformative power of international partnerships, inclusive policymaking and cutting-edge digital solutions, reshaping the future of entrepreneurship in the DRC for all.