In this interview for TechCabal, Noel K. Tshiani, founder of Congo Business Network, interviews Fidèle Nsadi about his foray into the fintech space in Kinshasa.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your professional background?
I would say that my entry into the professional world started quite early, at the same time as my passion for computers. While I was at school (in the humanities), one of the jobs I had was in information technology (office automation) where I had to type texts on a computer for clients in cybercafés.
After my high school diploma, I started studying computer engineering at the University of Kinshasa. During my studies, I worked as an IT Consultant for some not-for-profit organisations for a few years. In 2020, while still a student, I decided to become an entrepreneur by co-founding Faithful LLC with my brother and friends from the university. Faithful LLC is a technology company with the mission of solving the problems of African populations through its projects with strong social impact.
The same year, I was incubated in the second cohort of the Orange Corners programme, an international support programme for young entrepreneurs financed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I then joined the “Masolo” project, born under the initiative of two professors from the University of Kinshasa with the objective of creating a Congolese instant messaging application.
At the end of 2021, with Faithful LLC, we created a fintech application called Express App, which aims to solve the problem of financial inclusion in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’ve been the CEO of this startup since 2020.
What is the solution you are currently working on and what inspired you to launch it?
Currently, we are working on Express App, a mobile fintech solution that solves the problem of quick and easy access to financial services in the DRC. Indeed, the banking penetration rate is less ecthan 15% in the DRC and the Internet penetration rate is less than 25%. For most of the population, the traditional banking system is still quite cumbersome and the proposed fintech mobile solutions are dependent on the Internet.
Express App is a mobile fintech solution that aims to accelerate financial inclusion by offering a number of financial services in the DRC and the rest of Africa in a simple and fast way. The peculiarity of Express App is that it works without an Internet connection, in order to allow a large number of people to access financial services such as mobile money, mobile banking, and the purchase of credit via a mobile application, even if they do not have access to the Internet, the penetration rate of which is still very low in the DRC and in many other African countries.
Thanks to its technology based on the automation of USSD technology, Express App offers users the possibility of benefiting from financial services in a simple and rapid manner and provides them with a very intuitive user experience.
How would you assess the startup ecosystem in Kinshasa today, and is it growing?
The startup ecosystem in Kinshasa is in its infancy but is starting to mature, with startups becoming aware of the challenges and issues.
Several innovative startups are emerging and offering interesting solutions. In addition, we can also feel the will of government authorities to support this movement, particularly with the recent adoption of a new law on startups, the Startup Act.
Also, there is a great dynamic on the part of incubators and especially venture capital funds, which are beginning to take an increasing interest in the Congolese ecosystem.
What are the main resources that startups need today to develop in the country? Are they incubators, accelerators, investment funds, or government support?
It takes everyone’s contribution. Excellent support is essential to help startups progress and create great Congolese success stories.
For the Congolese context, I would put the support of incubators first because entrepreneurs are called upon to make important decisions while learning, and to do so they need guidance. At a certain stage, startups will of course need funding to grow.
The government can support entrepreneurship by creating the right conditions for the ecosystem to emerge so that the country can become a startup nation in the heart of Africa.
Based on your entrepreneurial experience, what advice would you give to someone who wants to become an entrepreneur on what to look out for or what mistakes to avoid?
I would say that it is necessary to embark on entrepreneurship for the right reasons because it is a path that requires a lot of sacrifice and patience. I’d also say get to know yourself well: your strengths and weaknesses. It is also necessary to surround yourself well and be passionate about what you want to accomplish and why you want to accomplish it.