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Young entrepreneurs are making a difference in Africa

by Danny white

Many young, simple and effective initiatives are making a difference in Africa. This is the case of the start-up SillonBlue in Goma.

It is 8 o’clock in the morning in Goma. In the offices of the start-up SillonBlue, the young agents of the company are in the middle of a meeting to share the tasks to be carried out during the day.

Two years ago, these young people created a start-up to meet the needs of several Congolese merchants who want to sell their products online. A few years ago, these young sellers could not do so because of the high cost of creating and hosting a website.

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A start-up changes things

SillonBlue accompanies young economic operators in the creation and the setting on line of their stores in order to ensure them a better visibility on the digital market and in the eyes of their potential customers. The latter can then submit their orders in a simple, fast and secure way.

Othniel Pilipili, co-founder of the start-up SillonBlue, explains how online stores work and the motivation behind their initiative.

“It’s very simple, you have an online store and you sell for example computers, clothes … You come on the platform with your phone, you create your profile, you add products and their details and there you will have a page that is equivalent to a website. When you have orders, you will have them in your dashboard and you will answer them by making a delivery. Our motivation was to integrate the latest technologies in our country, we saw that it is necessary to implement the right technologies in our community.”

According to Othniel Pilipili, the digital approach meets the needs of the community by giving sellers of goods and services the opportunity to expand their business by accessing other online sales opportunities.

Virtual stores

In Goma, many young merchants have already created their online stores. This allows the network to grow, according to Othniel Pilipili.

“This technology meets the needs of the population. To be visible and to tap into new opportunities is a priority for the owners of online stores. When they start using this technology, we always see an impact that it creates. And we realize that we are working in a good way. In Goma we have more than 26 stores and our community has more than 50 people and it’s still growing, this is in Goma alone.”

Among the holders of online stores – thanks to the tool developed by SillonBlue – is Odon, a 20-year-old entrepreneur.

For more than two years, Odon has been selling computer equipment. Today, his online store sells products to customers outside the city of Goma.

“In our store there are several products.  We have phone covers, computers, printers and all the computer tools. For me as a trader, it is really efficient with the system of online stores. We have easy access to many customers coming from everywhere”, explains Odon Kibwana, a computer reseller.

Job opportunities

Today, SillonBlue employs about thirty people, including young girls who are passionate about digital technology, such as Esther, a computer science student. For her, women must be as innovative as men in the digital sector.

“The role I play in the system, I do the presentation of the system to the customers and servants who don’t know anything about it, so I explain the functionality of the system. I am doing computer science at ISC, and I wanted to develop my knowledge in technology more. I don’t limit myself to what I learned in college, I want to develop my skills. In my opinion, the abilities that men have, women also have. I would like to encourage women to go into technology, because they can contribute something.”

A regional ambition

The expected results of the Congolese youth’s innovation do not give them time to rest on their laurels, however. On the contrary, they are motivated and ready to pursue their dreams, improving their creative spirit.

The start-up SillonBlue hopes to expand its field of action in the coming years.

“There are several features that we will review to make some procedures automatic. We want to reduce the time creation of an online store, from 10 minutes to 3 minutes. Our official headquarters is here in Goma, but we have the objective to cover the whole country. But we also aim to integrate other African countries in the system, such as Cameroon, Gabon etc. in the near future”, says Othniel Pilipili, co-founder of SillonBlue.

If in big cities, online sales are booming, this is not yet the case in other regions of the DRC, due to the fact that many people are not yet connected to the Internet or they do not know how online sales work.