Company visits

Bernt and I in Nsumbus' store

Bernt and I in Nsumbus’ store

The day started with a bit of weakness since yesterday. For breakfast, I ate a small serving of porridge, the first food intake after the stomach revolution. It went well and my strength has returned during the day. During the afternoon meetings, it was difficult to stay awake though. At home, I took a refreshing, cold shower, lay down on the bed and fell asleep pronto. After two hours I woke up and felt fit for fight again. After breakfast, Ing-Marie and Bengt left us to travel to Kinshasa and further on to Brazzaville, Point Noire and some other places in the neighbouring countryside.

Today we made three visits to the companies of our entrepreneurs. First, we visited Albertine. She is an engaged business woman and had planned to do wholesale operations in meat and fish, along with a restaurant. The has had to quit the wholesale business due to much and strong competition. The restaurant seems to work well, however. She serves 30 meals a day, and breakfast to patients in a nearby infirmary, which she also owns and operates. She has a staff of four physicians with different specialties. It is an infirmary for the Congolese who are well-off and there are a number of people with a good standard of living in Congo, we meet them now and then. Here we met a contractor who as far as we can judge is on a sound financial footing. We are considering whether our loans could make a difference for her. More and more, we come to grips with the fact that it is our knowledge and experience that are the most valuable things we can give, and it seems that she has taken the education to heart. In the restaurant, we were invited to have chilled soft drinks. The heat has been a little out of the ordinary today.

In the follow-up work, we try to get the entrepreneurs to share which parts of the knowledge we have conveyed that they use and what it means to them. We are trying to map out whether our work makes any difference and what results come out of it. Bernt and I will visit all ten from the last group here in Matadi. So far they have conducted their installments. What we lack from them is a monthly accounting report. We see that an important form of support and help is regular check-ups through the follow-ups which we plan to continue with for two years.

The other contractor is Zola. She sells a limited range of foods. She represents, in my view, an average Congolese. One of her problems is the much too frequent power failures. It affects her frozen goods, but she struggles on. When we got there, her two children were in the store. They were on their way to school in their neat and stylish school uniforms, they said “bye mom” and took off. We discussed the book-keeping with Zola and emphasized that we must have her report every month.

The third was Nsumbu. He has another job which is his main job, and it is his wife who is in charge of the shop. It is a family business, and that is usually a good approach. They have a slightly wider food range. When we looked at the budget, which he did in training, it appears that they have not quite achieved the planned sales. He explained that several similar stores have opened nearby. When this happens, you have to be clever and offer something extra, to create competition. That was part of our training.

In the afternoon we had a meeting with the Institute 1 Minkondo. The group works with the business education at the high school of the Baobab Church. We presented a number of subjects suitable for the program. Myriam Mbama from Brazzaville had found a number of textbooks, available in Congo and she had sent us a list. Julienne went through the contents of our entrepreneurial program. The group was positively interested and we will meet again on Wednesday to see how we should proceed.