I must admit that when I first came to the DRC from Tanzania – my heart wasn’t here. It was difficult to be in a car with little kids knocking at my window and not knowing how to react. Suddenly I felt above them. In Tanzania I was walking on the streets and there was no clear indication that I was even in a position to have a car. It was hard because in Tanzania I was constantly surrounded by people who were changing the world day by day ( I felt) and we saw direct results in the sense that you had an orphan at the school whose full fees was paid and got to eat, drink and sleep comfortably for at least 9 months.
Here I started to get involved with the local charity twice a week but also wanted to work because at the end of the day – you need to support yourself. It’s nice to think you can go and volunteer your whole life or just travel the world but you need to have the money to travel and it’s nice to earn your own money. It was tough to work at first -not because of the work hours or anything but just not feeling like I was making that difference. That high that I got every day in Kibaha was no longer there.
As time went on though and I started to understand how business worked in Congo I saw the difference that was being made by people who invested in this country.People need jobs here – there is no doubt about that. 10 million people live in Kinshasa.
If a Multi-national ( Coca Cola, Vodacom(phone service provider), Airtel(phone service provider) comes to
this country or someone even brings in an international product – they provide the infrastructure (factories) and advertising costs that people here don’t always have the money for.After that, people get employed directly into the company so that it operates properly. There are those who work in the factories, then the truck drivers who deliver the product and then there are even the shop managers who sell the product wholesale.These are just the people who are directly employed by the company. Then the people it affects indirectly – If it’s Vodacom or Airtel for example, there are the street vendors who sell recharge vouchers on the road. That is their income for a day that helps feed their families. In essence anyone can go buy those vouchers, or crates of Coca Cola and sell them on the street and therefore finding a way to earn a decent income.Then there is even the customer who benefits- if it’s a good product you’re allowing them to be able to experience an international product and if it provides competition to other companies – means they get more value for their money.
Being part of this – You are constantly meeting clients to see if they are facing any problems you can help with and how to increase their sales. I’ve watched people who just buy not that much of a product to making this product their main selling item. The other day I met one of these clients who went from just selling things on the street to saving and then getting his own shop and now he has 5 shops that sell a variety of things. He met me for the first time and welcomed me into this area of work and he said to me in French – “We have to help each other because without you – our business will not survive and without people like me your business will not survive.” And it was absolutely true. We are a team.
I never realized how many people can be affected though. Even when one of my friends came to work for his dad one of the workers from the company (who maintained quite a low rank – he cleaned the office everyday ) said to him, ” I’m so glad you are done your studies and you have come to work and help maintain this company . After all We have kids too and need to support them to make sure they go to school so we need these jobs.” I smiled.Every person mattered and every person is affected. Every person you employ is that starfish you throw back into the Ocean.
At the end of the day anyone can come and approach a company and ask if they can sell their product. They don’t need to buy a whole bunch just enough for them to be able to sell and get enough money to bring home. Like this anyone can really learn to support themselves in a sustainable manner. This is the “teaching the man to fish” way vs “giving a man a fish.”
By also being part of a company everyone has an opportunity to rise in the ranks and learn different things. For example one of the factory workers may show potential and then he is put in charge of a shop where he starts doing accounting and selling the product. Papa Theo (we say Papa as a sign of respect) ,who was my driver as a kid, got a bit older, and now he works in an air conditioned office taking stock. There is always room for growth.
There are different aspects to development. Different ways to help it happen. Business is a great way to make things happen. You give that father a means to send his kids to school without feeling like he got anything for free. If you sponsor a kid that’s nice but then they are dependent on that for the next year..it’s not always that sustainable.
Every person in society matters and contributes to the economy and the only way to Grow is to do it TOGETHER.