Raissa Malu

The challenges of NICTs in D. R. Congo

This 8th August, I am invited to participate in the panel "Investing in NICTs in Congo, what are the challenges?" of the Salon des Entrepreneurs congolais organized by the Magazine Ici et Ailleurs.

I am not a player in the Tech ecosystem in the DRC, but as Ambassador of the Next Einstein Forum, promoter of the Science and Technology Week, and responsible for a sectoral project within the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Professional Education, I am gradually developing an overview of the situation of science and technology in the DRC. I would like to provide you with some data that will feed into our discussions this Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Rotana Hotel in Kinshasa.

Rich of our diversity

To invest, you need to know the market, including the habits of potential consumers of the products or services offered. If you are planning to reach the mass consumer market, the following should be of interest to you.

What is fascinating about Africa (and I write this absolutely without irony) is that almost all the stages of the evolution of human societies coexist there: from hunter-gatherers to the four industrial revolutions. This is true for the Continent as a whole, but also for countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are rich in our ethnic, cultural and technological diversity. Where some see it as a deep despair, I see it as a beautiful adventure from which happy developments can emerge.

An area of opportunity

Since 1995, UNICEF, with its Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) methodology, has been helping countries collect and analyse data to inform a range of indicators in the areas of health, education, child protection and HIV/AIDS. While these data are used to inform policy and intervention programming, they may also be of interest to private investors if we are to stop seeing Africa as primarily an area of humanitarian intervention.

Because, if you did not know it yet, in all its dimensions, Africa is an area of opportunity. I would even say an area of disruptive opportunities!

2017-2018 survey

For the Democratic Republic of Congo, the detailed results of the 2017-2018 survey will soon be published on the Surveys - UNICEF MISC website. This survey was implemented by the National Institute of Statistics (INS) and covered 20,792 households, 21,756 women between 15 and 49 years old and 6,113 men between 15 and 49 years old. I present here some results concerning Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

What does the survey tell us about household possessions in relation to the subject? Well, imagine that 37% of households own a radio and 9% a television; 35% have a mobile phone; 20% of households throughout the country have access to the electricity grid and 4% have a bank account.

Differences between women and men

Men listen mainly to the radio (40%). They are 33% to have access to television and 11% to the written press (the problem with television is that you have to pay a subscription and with newspapers, you have to repeat the purchase every week!) Only 6% of men have access to all three media each week.

Women have access mainly to television (25%) (what programmes do they watch?), 17% have access to radio and 4% to the written press. Only 1% of them have access to all three media each week.

Access to the media

The data by province are even more surprising, as in the following figure, which shows the percentages of men and women aged 15 to 49 who have access to any media at least once a week. For example, the provinces where women have the least access to the media are Kwilu, Kasai, Central Kasai and Maniema. If you plan a media campaign targeting them, change your strategy.

Acces medias

Telephones, but no Internet

Regarding the use of ICT, 13% of men aged 15-49 reported having used a computer in the last 3 months, 65% a mobile phone and 16% the Internet. Among women in the same age group, only 4% have used a computer in the last 3 months, 42% a mobile phone and 5% the Internet.

The good news is that the mobile phone is nowadays the preferred communication equipment of Congolese men and women. The most interesting thing is that it is not yet used to access the Internet.

Differences between countryside and cities

For example, rural women simply do not use the Internet, while 19% of them reported using a mobile phone in the last 3 months (it should not be smartphones). Those who use the Internet are in urban areas (10%), have a secondary level of education and higher (8%) (one more reason to send girls to school), and are in the highest income category (17%).

For men, 2% of them in rural areas use the Internet. If they have no education or are very poor, they do not use it, while 33% of the poorest men reported using a mobile phone in the last 3 months.

Among the richest men between 15 and 49 years of age, 91% said they had used a mobile phone in the last 3 months (but who is this super rich guy who doesn't use a mobile phone today? How does he manage?). Only 49% of them in this category use the Internet.

Low IT skills

The survey also reveals information on the IT skills acquired. For example, we find that only 7% of men and 2% of women between 15 and 49 who have carried out specific computer-related activities in the last 3 months are able to send an e-mail with an attached file, such as a document, photo or video. As for writing a computer program in any programming language, it is 1% for both.

"Oh okay. So, with all this, are we investing in NICTs in the DRC or not?" Yes, yes, yes, wait, I'll complete the picture.

Many initiatives in Congo

In March 2018, the GSMA Foundation published the following article: "Africa: a look at the 442 active tech hubs of the continent", the results of which are summarized in the image below. As you can see, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the fastest growing technological ecosystem between 2016 and 2018 (during two years of political instability: what will we do then in a period of stability?)

Ecosystem accelerator Africa


Technologies are the field of STEM where I see that there is the most initiative, envy and determination on the part of Congolese and Congolese youth. There are initiatives that want to bring people together like Kinshasa Digital Week and others that want to break down digital barriers like the Lumumba Lab in Kinshasa; there are initiatives that prepare for disruption like Itot Africa in Lubumbashi; there are those that in adversity want to produce the best like Kivu Entrepreneurs in Goma; and there are companies like Tinda in Kinshasa that step by step, with a firm determination, build their own niche.

So I think the question is no longer whether you should invest in NICTs in the DRC, but rather HOW you should do it and with WHO. We're talking about it on Thursday at the Salon des Entrepreneurs Congolais. 😉

Science is fun, join us ! 😊

This post has first been published on LinkedIn. It has been translated in english by Afriscitech.


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