MANITECH CONGO is n agribusiness company producing natural fresh jams, jellies, peanut butter, sauces and flour. A 100% Congolese products, sourced from Congolese farmers and transformed by Congolese workers. Inspired and headed by Sivi Malukisa Diawete, born and raised in the small city of Kisangani, north of Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After completing high school, she was accepted to UNIKIN (University of Kinshasa) where she obtained her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology.
In 2016, Sivi made the decision to leave the corporate world with experience in Human Resources and rose to the top of the ladder in her career as HR Director with top multinationals in DRC like DHL, Vodacom and MIH so she could follow her passion to empower the local economy by founding MANITECH. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Sivi shared her views on entrepreneurship, the role of government, how her company is promoting and modernizing DRC traditional cuisine. Excerpt.
Alaba: Tell us about your brand, MANITECH Congo and the gap its filling?
Sivi: MANITECH is the products line powered by MANITECH CONGO, our company. We are in the food industry and produce 100% Congolese products, sourced from Congolese farmers and transformed by Congolese workers. We want to be a 100% Congolese food processing company. Our products lines are jam with tropical and local fruits, traditional peanuts butters and Congolese cuisine’s sauces.
In DRC, our local food is not yet transformed in modern way. We want to offer traditional food modernized.
Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
Sivi: I didn’t have a chance to raise any capital. I worked on my own from scratch. I had only 300 USD in hands when I started and slowly I built my company brick after brick.
Alaba: How are you different from other brands in terms of your unique selling point?
Sivi: Our uniqueness is the fact that we offer traditional food in modern manner. For local market, the innovation is in term of the packaging that we offer. For external market, it is the content which is the innovation. At the end of the day, our customers are happy both with the content and the packaging.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Sivi: The biggest challenge is environmental; the business climate is very tough here in DRC, and for small business, it is even worse. Aside the environmental issues, we also face infrastructural, electricity and water challenges. Add on to that is importation; people are used to imported products and it is not easy to convince them that local is also good and even much better. This is because buying local reinforce local economy.
Finally, we have difficulties in packaging. For all these issues, we have decided to advocate, showcase, promote values of local companies, etc. And we import packaging, sadly I will say.
Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Sivi: Our next step is building a 10 times bigger factory. I’m focus on my objectives and embracing opportunities. It is a learning process, a journey from A to C and as one of my mentors says, “I trust the process, I’m going my way.”
Alaba: What are the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Congo, today? What crucial role can the government play?
Sivi: Hmm, this is a difficult one. Let say it this way: if you succeed as entrepreneur in DRC, you can make it in any part of the world. Any challenge you name, we face it here. Get the picture, no fund system to boost start ups, no water, no electricity, very expensive internet and bad network, no proper road, one of the countries with the high cost of clearing imported goods, difficulty to find good employee due to lack of proper education, high taxes, one of the highest rate of corruption, no justice, etc.
I don’t want to give a bad image of my country but unfortunately this is the environment in which we as entrepreneur, are supposed to strive and develop.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Sivi: Proud. Africa is a giant who is awaking now. We see every where entrepreneurs, innovations, excellence. Africa is better than ever and I’m happy to witness this and to be part of this shift. In few years, AFRICA will be the place to be for any business in the world.
Alaba: What’s your advice for entrepreneurs and investors in Congo?
Sivi: Let do it. It is not easy, but we can make it easier. There are opportunities everywhere; the country needs some courageous people ready to take up the challenge. We are the disruptive generation and believe me; future generations will thank us for this. This is the perfect time to change things around and we have everything we need to do it.
Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?
Sivi: My country, my flag, my people, my children. Our country is one of the biggest in Africa, with so much wealth. Yet, my people are poor because we don’t use our resources properly. To be an active actor of change in my country is the best legacy I can give to my children.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Sivi: I take 30 mins off for meditation and 20 mins to exercise daily, and I play with my kids. Most of the time I read novels or I take courses on finance, leadership, marketing, etc.
Alaba: Teach us one word in your local language.
Sivi: FIMBU which means WHIP. A lingala word that Congolese use for victory. We use it in competitions such as football to mean that we are champions. We dance it, and shout it. We gave this word a national meaning and it is associated to the leopard, the DRC’s totem animal.
Alaba: What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa?
Sivi: My local dish, definitely is FUMBWA. I don’t know the name in English. But it is a forest leave that we cook with smoked fish and peanut butter and we eat it with FUFU (cassava pap). My grandma use to make the best fumbwa in the world. And this is my inspiration for our MANITECH peanut butter. My favorite holiday spot is Cape Town, South Africa. I love to sit in front of the sea and just listen to the sound of the wave, some time you see whales or dolphins. It is amazing.
B I O G R A P H Y
Sivi Malukisa Diawete grew up in the small city of Kisangani, north of Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After completing high school, she was accepted to UNIKIN (University of Kinshasa) where she obtained her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology.
Shortly after graduating Sivi was offered a position as the Head of Human Resources with DHL in DRC and Republic of Congo. Her work with DHL created opportunities for advancement in the discipline of HR with companies such as Vodacom and MIH where she was promoted to HR Business Partner than HR Director.
In 2016 Sivi made the decision to leave the corporate world so she could follow her passion to empower the local economy by founding MANITECH, an agribusiness company producing natural fresh jams, jellies, peanut butter, sauces and flour.
After 4 years of hard work and dedication, MANITECH started to grow significantly, which allow her to get national and regional recognition. She was nominated Entrepreneur of the year in DRC by the prestigious MAKUTANO Network, she was featured in Forbes Afrique Magasine (septembre-octobre 2018) and was ranked among the 50 most influential under 40 Congolese’s people by the magazine KivuZik, she was also named ambassador for the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
Recently, she extended her investments in new companies such as DRC Paint, a paint factory; DRC Constructs, a construction service company; and some other investments.
As a leader in the community, Sivi founded the MADE IN 243 association to bring together the resources and expertise of the owners and executives of local Congolese industries. She also Co-Founded ACPRH, the largest HR Association in DRC in which she is the vice president.
Visit MANITECH CONGO
Viero: A SaaS Platform Enabling Entrepreneurs Create Food Delivery App Without Code In 60 Seconds
Viero & Zistify Founders, Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude
Launching a food delivery start-up requires an entrepreneur to manage 4 aspects; Restaurants, Delivery Agents, Customers, and the most costly of them all, an application. Building a food delivery application can cost up to $60 000. There are also additional costs that need to be paid on a monthly basis to maintain and improve the application. “This is a major barrier to entry into the food delivery industry in Africa” said Basheer Phiri, the founder and CEO of Viero.
“Because of these high costs, we see a lot of food delivery Startups all over Africa serving the urban market, because it is big, and has enough customers to cover the development and maintenance costs and make a profit.” Basheer believes that food delivery Startups do not target township and non-urban areas because these markets need to be built from the group up, which means additional marketing costs and slower growth and adoption rates.
Therefore, coupled with the need to cover maintenance costs and the demand for growth and traction from investors, food delivery Startups prefer competing in the already established urban markets. This has led to high concentration in urban markets while non-urban markets remain relatively untapped.
“We saw this and realised that there was value that could be created” said Basheer. “After speaking to a few interested entrepreneurs, we saw that they could manage every aspect of the food delivery business, but could not afford to pay for an App. That is how Viero was born”
Viero is a SaaS Platform that enables entrepreneurs to create a food delivery web application with no code in 60 seconds. (Here’s how it works – https://youtu.be/1T9oxNtRDpM).
The platform built a standard food delivery application template and enables it to be cloned, rebranded and hosted through white-labelling. Entrepreneurs can use the application under a monthly subscription and have access to many features depending on their chosen plan. Entrepreneurs can also make changes to the layout and design of their app, all without any code.
Launched in South Africa on 1 June 2020, the platform has achieved amazing uptake thus far. 22 Apps in total have been created with 2 Food delivery Startups that are live and operating in South Africa and 20 other Startups preparing for launch. 108 orders have been delivered, with R4700 processed in transactions, 200 customer users, 16 listed stores and 45 delivery agents.
Viero was launched by UCT students Basheer Phiri and Hopewell Fakude. They met in their first year in 2018 as residents of Smuts Hall Residence at The University of Cape Town, when they were introduced by a mutual friend who noticed their passion for entrepreneurship. Since then, they have worked together on several Startups and projects.
Basheer and Hopewell are not new to the food delivery industry. In 2019, they launched Zistify, a food delivery start-up for the university market. Zistify delivers food ordered from food vendors on campus through it’s app to university students and staff.
Viero is in capable hands and is ready to disrupt the food delivery industry in Africa. Currently raising a $100 000 seed round to incorporate logistics into its business offering, to bring in more talent to the team, and to continue building and improving the platform.
Meet The Resilient Black Brothers Saving The Planet One Car At A Time
AutoSparkle Owners, Jesse and Genesis Onomiwo (Image by: Jesse Onomiwo)
According to UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Nigeria, only 20% of SMEs manage to survive in Nigeria. The studies further states that “although everybody in Nigeria desires to become an entrepreneur, only 40% of the dreamers get to start, but no more than 20% survive. But one innovative Lagos-based company seem to have gotten the winds in its sails instead.
Founded by Jesse and Genesis Onomiwo in 2010 in Lagos Nigeria, Autosparkle is currently the world’s only waterless luxury car interior-only detailing company with an option of waterless engine cleaning. As a fully integrated professional operation that combines convenience with environmental sustainability, the company takes their services to their clients without messing up the environment with water and soap.
Autosparkle was selected and named one of Nigeria’s Top Emerging SMEs for 2019 by ConnectNigeria. And just last month, the company also got selected as part of 200 businesses out of 5,000 others to take part in the first ever Forbes Digital Accelerator Program for Nigerian businesses. This has further opened the company up to top venture capital firms, successful founders from Silicon valley and a host of highly respected resource persons from Google, LinkedIn and other renowned credible organizations.
But the journey for the founders of Autosparkle hasn’t always been rosy. One of the company’s founders, Genesis Onomiwo, had to drop out of school for a whole year in order to come establish the company in Lagos. His brother and co-founder also had to push his National Youth Service forward by one year. When the business failed to pick up as envisaged, Genesis eventually had to return to the university where he completed his first degree in Architecture. In all, Autosparkle failed more than 8 times before finally picking up. But all that is history now as the rewards of their perseverance and exceptional business acumen is now starting to pay off beautifully well.
Autosparkle spotted a critical gap in the car care market and has so far exploited it richly. The common neglect by car wash shops that popularly dot the roadside in Nigeria and the observed dissatisfaction of most customers with often rushed jobs made the brothers decide to start focusing on waterless cleaning of what they term the two most critical parts of the car; the interior and engine. Their approach to car cleaning is based on nanotechnology and covers everything from stain removal, vacuuming, leather and upholstery treatment, dashboard conditioning, roof cleaning, plastic/rubber/chrome trim polishing, to deodorization, and more.
The level of personalized attention given to the details is based on the fact that Autosparkle treats each car according to its unique needs. That’s why it could take up to 3-4 hours to get one car completely detailed. They do not overlook any part because no one sees them. As a mobile unit, they take their pampering experience to homes and offices in Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Ajah axes of Lagos Island and beyond in Nigeria. From the most executive to the most luxurious of cars, Autosparkle continues to renew the interior of cars for Nigeria’s affluent class and those expatriates living in Nigeria. And now a replacement for the word interior detailing.
Ultimately, the company is building the largest chain of environmentally friendly and convenient cleaning operations out of Africa. This covers waterless detailing (thorough cleaning) of luxury cars, aircrafts, boats, furniture and fittings in homes and other types of spaces. This company is certain one to look out for in the coming years.
Black Founders: Here are some fundraising and networking opportunities
In the past few weeks, the world has witnessed one of the largest civil rights movements in recent history. People across races, religions, geographies and social economic classes have joined together to demand justice, opportunity and respect for black people. As an African woman living in the US, I have personally seen and sometimes witnessed the ugly side of racism and racial bias. To make any meaningful difference, we must support each other in stamping out racism from not just the United States, but across the world. I am hopeful that this movement will bring practical solutions to the fight for social justice.
On the positive side, this movement has brought a renewed (and hopefully lasting) vigor and focus on black entrepreneurship. From venture capitalists to retail companies and professional communities, many institutions have committed to supporting black entrepreneurship in some way. If you’re a black founder, or looking to start a venture, now is the time to tap into new and existing resources and opportunities.
It might be difficult to keep track of them all, so I have curated some key resources.
- Apply to join the 2020 cohort for the 1-week immersive course by Black Founder’s Exchange.
- SoGal x Atlas is limiting this year’s Cohort for “Building without Burnout” to Black Entrepreneurs. Apply by June 15, 2020.
- Clever Girl Finance is now offering all its Finance Resources and Courses for free!
- Apply to join the Transparent Collective which is helping underrepresented founders access the resources they need to succeed.
- Apply for a $10k grant from IFundWomen. Deadline June 15, 2020.
- Apply for a grant at the National Association for the Self-Employed (maximum $4k).
- Founder Gym wants to help you learn about fundraising and scaling tech ventures.
- Have a fintech startup and are looking for solutions for underserved populations, Accion Venture Lab wants to talk to you.
- Reach out to funds that are passionate about supporting black founders such as: Harlem Capital, Backstage Capital, New Voices Fund, Cleo Capital and Cross Culture Ventures.
- Nihal Mehta, Co-founder of Eniac Venture is offering free 15-minute mentoring sessions to Black founders.
- Jason Lemkin, VC Investor is reviewing decks and pitches of Black Founders.
- Ha Nguyen wants to meet with Black and Latinx founders.
Networking and Community
- Add yourself to the Black Founders List, and get visibility.
- Join Valence, a network of black professionals.
- Follow the Black Enterprise blog.
- The Plug has all your information needs.
- Plan to attend the Women in Tech Conference; happens every year. 2020’s is virtual and is happening in July.
This is a dynamic shortlist of resources I could gather online and from my networks- will continue updating. Are you aware of any great resources or opportunities?
Please comment below.
Article By: Dami Olagunju Founder, Lagos Young Professionals Innovation Club (LYPIC)