If we don’t tell our story who will ?

If we don’t tell our story who will ?

Early 2017, I was still thinking about my trip in Congo which happened in October 2016. With a few volunteers, we organised a talk for over 600 students and a workshop for 250 kids, in the form of a drawing competition for www.esimbi.org . It was truly the most amazing experience of my life.

For the first time, I really felt the pressure of weighting every word because I understood the impact they could have on these young people’s lives. Kinshasa taught us lessons we didn’t expect. They say if you want to be a millionaire, spend time with millionaires. Your entourage will determine who you will become. Jay Shetty once said that we live in the perception that others have of ourselves. We can’t be what we have never seen. So how to bring those exceptional role models to these young people in a country that is in constant trouble? So one day, they can inspire to great things and believe that they can be who they want.

We certainly always seek the results but do we want to go through the process of what it takes to have that lifestyle. A life long commitment to being better than what surrounds us. It is hard. It is hard especially when you live in such conditions like these children in Congo. Everything is a luxury to them, a pen, a piece of paper, water.

The idea of the magazine came from all this thinking. I wanted to do something more. I wanted to give them something that they didn’t have and could keep. The fear kicked in about 5 minutes after thinking about making this magazine happen. What would the content be? Who would design it? What title could fit my thoughts? and so on…

It started to feel too complicated already. But a voice was telling me to just do it. It was necessary, not for me but for them. They needed to see people who came from similar backgrounds going places. They needed to look up to them and be inspired.

So I jumped in. I chose to call it ESIMBI ( meaning “it works” in Lingala ) like my social initiative. I then ask a work colleague who was good with graphic design to help me with a logo. My colleague and I started to do research about Congo, the history, the forest, the artists, the charities, etc…. and what we found was amazing. Tons of content.

www.esimbimagazine.com

 

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My biggest fear was not to find things to talk about. No content to captivate whoever would read this free magazine that was supposed to be a one off. We simply wanted to give the final product to the schools and libraries. But our audience was larger than that. In fact, it was global. So the project ended up catering a niche of people hungry for knowledge. They want education over entertaining, so our goal became bigger.

I am thankful to every one who helped us on this journey. Especially the ones who told me not to do it because it would ruin my fashion career. This project helped me grow into a better version of myself without even knowing it and I simply hope that this magazine will keep going strong. The african community has a narrative to rewrite and we want to contribute to that immensely.

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Facts about the Kuba textile from Congo DRC

Facts about the Kuba textile from Congo DRC

Here I present my styling for the Kuba textile from Congo DRC. I got the material from the local artisan’s market and met with my cousin’s seamstress. She made a few belts for me and I am so happy with them.I previously shared the story of the tribe who makes them. I look forward to your comments.

 

What not to miss on your next trip to Kinshasa!

What not to miss on your next trip to Kinshasa!

My holiday in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year was a full on trip. I had such a tight schedule for 2 weeks but for the first time, I also had help from a friend.

As you may have seen on my previous posts about the waterfalls in Zongo and the national park of N’Sele, I really lived my free time as a tourist and it was beyond my expectations. I just wanted to do a separate post about my travel diary and the places I went to in the capital, Kinshasa. A little city guide for you if I may 🙂

Restaurant Chez Pierra

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The Artisan’s market: Art

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Hotel: Fleuve Congo

 

 

 

Family visit: Private properties

 

 

Celebrity meeting: Footballers Emmanuel Eboue and Marcel Tisserand

 

 

Tv interview for KIN 24

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Gala night to honour African footballers

organised by Singer Mohombi

 

 

Street Style

 

 

 

 

Restaurant River

 

What if we had more power than they made us think?

What if we had more power than they made us think?

When looking at charity tv adverts’ or those posters in the tube, the metro depending on the city, we have all heard someone ( or ourselves ) say something like, ” I wish I had more money to help these people or this community. ”

Well, what if we could. Really. What if we took a step back to realise that it was never about the money? That if we really really wanted to help someone, it only depends on us.

Today, I wanted to write about the project my social initiative is fundraising for.

ESIMBI ( meaning “It works” in Lingala ) tells stories, stories about children who dream of becoming astronauts, doctors, nurses and teachers. As they wake up every day with the hope that this could be possible, they realise that they live in Congo, Kinshasa.

My homeland. For them, school is hardly affordable, and their dreams are too expensive for their reality. Any little helps as Tesco has taught us.

As a charity and advocate of change in Congo, ESIMBI is always pushing boundaries for the children in our program. Inspired by their resilience and together with them, we at ESIMBI have been learning as well, how to provide them with what they truly need to grow and achieve. It is the least we can do.

The children in Congo are at a great disadvantage educationally. ESIMBI is determined to solve this issue. We are raising funds to bring ESIMBI DIGITAL to Congo. The funds will help us send the knowledge that will help them develop their young hungry minds – neatly packaged as tablets that that can be used offline, due the electricity issue in the country.

Our current program encourages the development of 1,000 children in Congo, and we are growing to aid 1,000 more, to give them the hope that someday what they are learning today will benefit them tomorrow.

We are asking for a small donation to help us reach our goal and make ESIMBI DIGITAL a reality for congolese kids with big dreams!

In partnership with the company Smartspin, we need to raise £8500 to make this project possible and successful.

You can view all the details of the project here. I would be pleased to hear your feedback too.

Do you support any organisations? If so, how did you choose the right one for you?

Link to our website:

https://www.esimbi.org/donate

 

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The fashion industry: how this industry can revive the Congolese economy.

The fashion industry: how this industry can revive the Congolese economy.

How many jobs do you think are in the fashion industry? I am sure the first ones that come to your mind are fashion designer, seamstress and fashion model. In the Congolese community, those are the most mainstream roles in the fashion industry. However, in fashion there are 100 of them, which include and are not limited to Marketing, Finance, Beauty and Operations. So if the question is can the fashion industry revive the Congolese economy? The Answer is yes, it can be one of the driving forces.

In 2015 Fashion was a $1.2 trillion global industry, which included luxury fashion, fast fashion and accessories (bags, jewellery, watches and shoes). Fashion and apparel industries employ 1.9 million people in the United States and the UK fashion industry is estimated to support 850,000 jobs. The number of people that work in this industry in Congo is unknown to me.

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So why and how are Congolese people so limited in their understanding of an industry they swear to love? If you do not understand what I am speaking of, I am speaking of Sapologie. A term engrained in the brain of every Congolese person regardless of whether they were born inside or outside of both countries respectively.

La Sape, an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (French; literally “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”) and hinting to the French slang word sape which means “attire”, is a subculture centered on the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo respectively. An adherent of La Sape is known as a sapeur.[1] The movement embodies the elegance in style and manners of colonial predecessor dandies.

As Congolese people, we have created a subculture that has been features and respected by not only other African countries, but globally by the likes of African American singers Solange and Jidenna but also, the Chinese community who were heavily involved in Congolese music through Papa Wemba. So if our industry already has a name, already has an impact and is influencing people all across the globe, how are we not or rather how have we not developed a sustainable industry that can create thousands of jobs across both nations and fuel the passion of many artists in that industry?

The main reason is that fashion is not taken seriously, and like any other art, is dismissed over the likes of studies in business, medicine, education and engineering. However, there comes a time when thinking must change and new entrepreneurial ways must be accepted in order to see change.

Why develop Congo’s fashion industry?

The industry is set to double in value in the next 10 years to generate up to $5trillion annually. This presents a huge opportunity for business in Africa, as the combined value of apparel and footwear in sub-Saharan Africa was estimated at $31 billion in 2016.

The fashion industry holds amazing potential to motivate and bring change to some of the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, while advancing the structural transformation needed in the industry and in the country.

The role of creative industries in Congo Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

With 13 million young African joining the labour force on a yearly basis, the development of skill based industry, where people can learn on the job and gain qualifications in a labour intensive sector is imperative to for the stability of our nations. Fashion uses our culture and creativity as a selling point, which can be leveraged both within and outside of the continent.

What can we do to change this?

Investment, training and the industrialization of the industry. There are many more roles outside of being a seamstress in fashion, from textile designer to fashion forecaster, the roles are endless. Let’s broaden the minds of the people in the industry.

Africa currently accounts for just 1.9% of global manufacturing. That figure does not just relate to fashion. With having raw materials available, Congo should focus on moving to the top of the value chain and produce garments targeted at the home and international audience.

Strategic support and investment in local manufacturers should allow the Congolese fashion industry to steadily grow and become an entity of its own

 

Is accidental entrepreneurship a real thing in Congo?

Is accidental entrepreneurship a real thing in Congo?

Although being the richest country in terms of natural resources, people in Republic Democratic of Congo live on under $5 per day.

Despite these challenges, they tend to come up with new ideas to generate revenue to live adequately. Last year Harvard business review wrote an article about why African entrepreneurship is booming. If there is real growth in Africa and there is to be predicted growth in Congo, why isn’t entrepreneurship valued?

These entrepreneurial activities can have a huge impact on the economy of Congo as well as the quality of life of the population in the form of employment. However, an important factor is the missing legislations, training and investment in entrepreneurs. This fact makes business development and business growth stagnant.

Entrepreneurial forces are relatively strong in Congo, as most people become accidental entrepreneurs based on necessity due to the poor economic situation. However, we have failed to realise that entrepreneurship development is the foundation of all economic evolution in any nation.

I took the below pictures on my last trip to Kinshasa with Gaelle who works with me on my social initiative ESIMBI. I wanted to share them as they completely represent how street businesses are the force that sustains the neglected Congolese population but shows their strength and resilience.

 

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Entrepreneurial challenges in Congo

  • The country’s economic has been declining since the 1990’s and its instability have made Congo an unsuccessful place for entrepreneurial capital investment.
  • The lack of adequate electricity, basic internet, which is a must in the business climate, stifle entrepreneurial activities.
  • Female entrepreneurs, are often underestimated and overlooked because of cultural barriers labelling women inherently inferior to men.

 

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The prospect of entrepreneurship in Congo

  • Economic Development: the development of entrepreneurs will increase the National gross domestic product.
  • Reduction in unemployment: entrepreneurship encourages and increases the creation of employment in Congo which contributes the country’s development.
  • Improved way of life: encouraging entrepreneurship development will go a long way to improve the standard of living of the country’s population through innovations.

 

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To fully encourage the development of entrepreneurs in Congo, we need to prioritise education, investment and continuous development. Not only in the entrepreneurs but also the industries that they are working in, this will generate a surge of potential from everyone in the country to see and recognise that they have the ability to change their live and that of others through business, mentorship, and apprenticeship.

 

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