Two tracks at once

BIKONS styrelse

BIKONS styrelse

Last night I attended a board meeting of the organization BIKON. Bikon stands for Aid to Congo (BIstånd KONgo). We began the meeting with a meal, provided by BIKON’s treasurer Anders Nyström. Joseph Nsumbu gave us an update on the political development in Congo Kinshasa. There is a strong opposition to the government and in the middle of September, there was a big demonstration in Kinshasa. The purpose of the protests were to bring about a presidential election. There is great political turmoil in Congo at the moment. No one knows what will happen in the future.

BIKON supports orphanages and schools in vulnerable areas in Kinshasa and a street children operation in Kimpese. They also help poor families with school fees. BIKON has a big heart for children without support. BIKON is doing a good job and they give hope and optimism to many Congolese children and adults.

At the same time that we provide aid in the form of economical contributions, we must also consider how to stimulate contributions from within Congo. How do we go about to strengthen initiatives within the country that generates the foundation for the development of health care, educational opportunities and social care.

Entrepreneurship is a way out of poverty. The purpose of our entrepreneurial courses is to support the ability to generate the resources that are needed for the various needs of society. Becoming an entrepreneur means that one starts a business which gives the owner an income, and perhaps even make it possible for a number of employees to earn their livelihood.

Presently, MSG has planned activities through our associates in Matadi, Kimpese and Brazzaville, but the political turmoil has put a stop to the implementation of the courses in entrepreneurship at the moment.

In our relations with the Congo countries, I think it is important that we have two tracks running simultaneously. The aid track are for those who have an urgent need of help and the education in entrepreneurship is the track that develops resources from within the countries.

A long-term and sustainable development must stimulate and support the inherent resources of every Congolese citizen.

The objective of all aid must be to develop and create belief in the future.

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Meeting with Solico

img_7583Monday night, we had a meeting with Solico at the Congo Brazzaville Embassy. Bernt and I were there as representatives of MSG. Tonight’s guest was the General Secretary Samuel Nsikabaka from the Niosi Group in Brazzaville. Samuel gave us a status report from Brazzaville. He stressed that the Congolese want to have development, but unfortunately there are many obstacles along the road.

On Tuesday we had a meeting with Samuel and Astrid Ståhlberg at the Hotel Birger Jarl. We felt that Joseph Mandzoungou and Samuel of the Niosi Group have embraced our message of entrepreneurship and how important it is for people to open their eyes, see opportunities and take advantage of them. Right now the Niosi group is in the process of setting up a course. It is expected to start in the autumn.

At our meeting we briefly went through our material, and we gave them an USB stick with our entire training in entrepreneurship. We talked about Alain Mbembas visit to Sweden in June and we recapitulated last year’s visit of Joseph and Judith Mandzoungou and Emy Miantezila and Yapeco Bakala Massengo from Congo Kinshasa. The purpose of that visit was to show examples of entrepreneurship in Sweden. A good entrepreneurship creates endless opportunities for employment, income and prosperity. This applies both to the Congo countries and to Sweden.

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Heart for the Congo

Febe Karlsson with her daugther Sara Esbjörnsson

About 75 people, with a common interest in the Congo, were gathered at the Mösseberg center on Saturday. Many were former missionaries. Organizer was the Missionary and Scholarship Fund of Västra Götaland.

Sister churches

We took turns to talk about our cooperation with the Congolese churches. Different ways to be a sister church to a Congolese church were highlighted. First, Sara Esbjörnsson from Asklanda- Ornunga, told us about their contacts with Kikenge. Visits takes place from both countries and exchange of experiences goes in both directions. Both sides share and meet each other’s needs. Contacts enrich both parties.

Projects

Kristina Lindström from Falköping told us about her congregation supporting Emy Miantezila’s work with children and families. Emy’s activities have achieved lots of good results. Children who had no chance on the street, now have been able to study and get an education and a future.

Håkan Lilja from Gothenburg gave us insights into the health care of the Congo countries. In Congo Brazzaville, the state is investing 59 USD per citizen a year. In Congo Kinshasa, the figure is 7 USD. This should be compared to Sweden, where is the sum is 4 300 USD per person and year. Equmenia Church in Sweden is running a project called Health for all – in the Congo. The needs are enormous, but every effort makes a difference.

Business

Anders Stenström explains how his pharmaceutical company Pharma Campus in Gothenburg collaborates with a private contractor in Muanda, located on the coast of Congo Kinshasa. His congolese partner has build a small hospital and conducts successful healthcare. Campus Pharma is trying in various ways to support the hospital in Muanda with equipment and knowledge.

We also had the opportunity to talk about Matadi Support Group. Since 2010, we have organized 10 courses on entrepreneurship with a total of 150 participants from Matadi, Kimpese, Luozi and neighboring Brazzaville. We have given 1.2 million SEK in variously sized business loans. 900 000: – SEK has been repaid. Lending activities have been difficult to manage from Sweden. They will from now on be administered locally.

During August, we invited four Congolese, see previous blogs. The aim was to show how Swedish entrepreneurs are working and how they manage to create successful businesses. Our mission is to show what conditions and opportunities there may be in entrepreneurship. We want to show entrepreneurial thinking and skills, which means: take the initiative, take responsibility, translate ideas into action, be curious, self-reliant and creative, have courage to take risks, make decisions, communicate, collaborate, seize opportunities, develop and create value.

Our strategy

Any aid must lead to sustainable development. Development is when people through work and sacrifice generate resources and build a society that can meet different needs.

Sustainable development is to satisfy the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

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Visit from the Congo, Saturday

In front of a 500 years old pine tree. On the way to Stockholm

Summary of the company visits during week 33/2015 and Matadi Support Group, MSG:s training in the Congo states

Present

Yngve Håkanson, Lars-Ola Rydberg, Bengt Håkanson,
Emy Miantezila, Yapeco Bakala Massengo, Joseph Mandzoungou, Judith Loukanou, Bertil Åhman, Anders Hellgren, Astrid Ståhlberg

Where and when Equmenia Church, Döbelnsgatan 12, Stockholm

Saturday 15 August, 10 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.

Lars-Ola Rydberg leads the meeting, Bertil Åhman interprets and Astrid takes notes.

Lars-Ola opens the meeting with prayer

  1. Yngve presents the week’s visit program with a Power Point.
  2. Feedback from the guests
  3. How do we proceed?

1. The companies we have visited

Kihléns Konfektion- Liturgical clothing and workwear
Ulricehamns Betong Concrete elements
Fristad Plast Plastic parts and lifebuoys
Hammar Maskin Cranes for trailers
Hökerum Bygg House-building across Sweden
Enitor Plast Plastic parts, started as a supplier to IKEA
DMJ Bygg House-building, spin-off of Hökerum Bygg
Tångabo Gård Agriculture etc.
Träullit Building material/building elements of wood wool, water and cement

2. Feedback from the guests

Joseph Mandzoungou

The Organization of the week has been excellent. Many thanks to the hosts. It has been a week of hard work, to which we are accustomed. We have learned a lot about how Swedish companies are started, how they develop and how they overcome difficulties and develop further. Downside was that no company we’ve met, have conditions that can be easily compared to those of the Congo, but the basic principles of entrepreneurship are the same.

Yapeco Bakala Massengo

Thank you for your invitation. The journey has been amazing! I agree with Joseph. The entrepreneur who impressed me the most was the farmer, he himself performed all the tasks of the farm and he is the one who made the strongest impression on me. I am struck by the unpretentiousness of the entrepreneurs we have met. Swedes are not arrogant and grandiose like the French and the Belgians. You are blessed. We can take you as role models.

Emy Miantezila

I would like to provide the Congolese with fresh ideas on what we have experienced and seen here; small and large activities, well organized family business, etc.

During the week, I have noticed that there is a special talent to make a business grow. I met a 20-year-old who invented a machine that still works. I have seen training and development that characterizes an enterprise as a whole. In the Congo we get stuck and everything goes in the same track. I have learned about continuous improvement. Having multiple activities are fine. There can be a favorable development when the enterprise spans several fields and industries. Here, we have seen humility and dignity. Maybe we can bring these qualities to our community and to ourselves as individuals.

MSG: We have managed to show what we had planned. Sometimes we were worried about that our cultures are too different.

3. How do we proceed? In Matadi, Kimpese and Brazzaville?

Joseph.

Niosi has formed a team of three people with Joseph as chairman. This training obviously lies within the context of Niosi’s work. We will undertake the implementation and start as soon as possible.

Reflections has concluded that anyone would have great benefit of this training. Mansimou and the agronomy program should be interested, as well as vendors in the markets. This could improve and allow for follow-up and training on many levels.

We would like to see training programs, designed for different levels, with the same content. That’s how far we have come now in our reflexions for now. We are also discussing translating the material into Kikongo at a later stage.

Niosi Group has asked me to gather experiences and views from Matadi Support Group.

MSG: It is a good idea to develop the training material for different groups and levels.

Emy.

We have other experiences. We went quickly into the program, which has not started so well. We’ll start again. Theories are fine but not so easy to implement. I think we should start with a brief theoretical passage that is directly implemented in reality.

Our earlier President Moubouto had a section in the constitution which said: Débruyez-vous !, ie approximately: Ready yourselves!

Successor Kabila said: Take responsibility – work!

These are good reminders for us.

We need to start over, encourage and lead well in order for something to happen. We thought that money is the beginning but we now understand that it is just the opposite!
Yapeco.

The beginning is always difficult. MSG began its operations in the Congo and the people did not understand what a credit meant. Many regret today that they had not understood. Several have understood now. Banks and the community helps with money for those who want to start.

Judith.

In Pointe Noire, I received a loan for my business through a UN agency who lent small sums. I borrowed 100,000 cefa and repaid 110,000. The interest rate was very low. My daughter has also received such a loan. It is possible to get loans. If we plan properly and manage the funds well, we will understand that we can borrow at interest.

MSG: What can you say about your acitivities this fall?

Yapeco.

We have got the training material.

When we have a group that is interested, we will try to support them to get going. We have staff in both Matadi and Kimpese, and will plan ahead together with Emy.

The power failures are a big obstacle in our country.

Emy.

At first we must prepare a group. We will market – educate – implement.

Let each of us find the way.

MSG: Are you willing to work for a continuation?

Yngve: Can you send us a schedule before 15 October?

Joseph.

We have a head start in our vision: Training in ongoing stages.

My assignment from the Niosi Group is to find out how the training has been carried out in Matadi. We thought that there would be an Entrepreneurial School.

We have planned to advertise to investigate the interest, need and levels. We want a maximum of 30 people, and we will have two educators in charge of each level/group. The duration per chapter is ready and the budget is done. We have a room, material, remuneration for the teachers, including cost for miscellaneous, such as coffee. We have not decided the enrollment fee, and we need more sponsors, but Niosi is already a sponsor and MSG signs up as sponsor now, on the spot.

Mansimou is the only university that will adopt the training for now.

MSG: Send us the budget, and we’ll see what we can do.

Judith finishes with a prayer.

The participants leave the meeting.

August 2015/ast

Yngve has corrected a few details.

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Visit from the Congo, Friday

Breakfast in Töve, Yapeco, Emy and Bengt

On Friday, we went to Stockholm. We took the road through Östergötland and made a stop in Österbymo in order to visit the Träullit factory. Träullit is a building material made of wood wool, cement and water. This could be a suitable building material for the Congo. The factory has produced wood wool slabs since 1946. Bengt Rääf, CEO, received us at the factory. First, he showed us a film about the material, and then he gave us a tour of the factory. Then we visited a kindergarten built entirely with träullit. It was a very attractive building. Architect Torbjörn Bjerhagen had taken the initiative for our visit because he believes the material would fit the Congo. In October, he travels to Congo and he will bring the material to test it. In a year, we will know if it is resistable to termites, other insect pests and the climate in general. At the end of our visit we were treated to a tasty dinner by Bengt Rääf at the Old Homestead in Österbymo.

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Visit from the Congo, Thursday

Dick med fru och son

Today we started at DMJ Bygg. Robert, who is a project manager, received and welcomed us. The owner and CEO, Dick Jagdell, worked at Hökerum Bygg for 29 years. The company is one of three companies that have hived off Hökerum Bygg. Dick started as an apprentice at Hökerum Bygg and worked his way up until he became a project manager. In 2011 Dick started his own company. Dick’s strength was that he had made many new contacts with large and strong buyers at Hökerum Bygg. Through these clients has got a flying start and the turnover doubled several times over. In 2014 the turnover was SEK 180 million and the company had 27 employees. Dick is a good example of how good contacts can be crucial to success. Dick has been careful in maintaining the contacts. As an example he told us how they had recently had a large project inspected in Stockholm and had received a perfect score. It was not without pride that Dick told us this.

Next it was time to visit a farmer and we chose Tångabo farm. The farm is run by Christer Sandberg and his brother Håkan. They bought the farm of their uncle. In 1990 they renovated and added on to the barn to make room for 20 cows. In 1993 they made another addition to make room for 42 cows. In 2014, they made a big investment when they built an ultra-modern barn for 240 cows. The investment was SEK 22 million.  They now have 180 cows. Three robots milk the cows. They farm 200 hectare of farmland and grow grass and grain – all of it is used to feed the animals.  They deliver 2 million liter of milk per year. They have 8 employees and a turnover of SEK 20 million. In addition to farming the also do peat-harvesting, forest work, chip production, excavators, snow plowing and heating. They deliver heating to the service house, the school, the church and a number of private houses in Hökerum. The milk production is not going that well at the moment as the price of milk has been reduced SEK 1-2 during the last year. The losses in the farming business will have to be balanced out by the other business activities. Christer’s motivation for his entrepreneurship is: “I want to make it better, but also make money”.

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Visit from the Congo, Wednesday

Emy and Joseph are checking some building workers

We started with Hökerum Bygg och visited a construction site in Ulricehamn where we saw a building that will be 14 stories high. The company started in 1967 as a one man company – one man and two empty hands. In 1990 the company was sold to new owners, with Sigvard Ståhl as the main owner and CEO. At that point the company had 60 employees and a turnaround of SEK 100 million. Today the company has 100 employees and a turnaround of SEK 800 million. They produce 400 apartments per year and use pre-fabricated cement. The reason why the turnaround is so high in comparison to the number of employees is that they contract a lot of sub-contractors such as shell assemblers, plumbers, ventilation assembler, painters, floor layers etc. To grow you have to have your own capital that is generated through profit. Some of that profit is set aside to be invested in new initiatives. Today Sigvard is the senior adviser and his youngest son, Victor, is the CEO.

In the afternoon we visited Enitor Plast. Karl-Arne Karlsson, founder and CEO, received us.  After working in a plastic company for 16 years he started his own. He rented a 150 m2 facility and started with a single machine that produces plastic. In 1995 he built a new factory that measured 1000 m2.  In 2000 he doubled the size of the factory and had 8 employees and a turnaround of SEK 12.5 million. In 2011 he lost half of his clients as they moved their production to low cost countries. The number of employees was reduced to five. It has taken the company four years to get enough new clients to reach the same volume as before. Karl-Arne emphasized how important it is to have good co-workers, listen to good advice from friends, have two or three advisers and to make sure that the family is onboard as being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle. They have survived hard times by keeping their finances in order.

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Visit from the Congo, Tuesday

Leif Forsström telling the history of Fristad Plast

We started at Fristads Plast. The founder Leif Forsström told us about the development of the company from one to 25 employees. They managed to keep the economy afloat in the beginning by getting a 60 day payment period from suppliers and giving their clients a 30 day payment period.  Today they produce 100 million plastic details per year using 24 plastic machines. They also produce lifebuoys. The have a turnaround of SEK 40 million. Leif and his two sons Niclas and Christian are big innovators and problem solvers. Niclas is the CEO, Christian is the Development Manager and Leif is the Senior Adviser.

In the afternoon we visited Hammar Maskin in Olsfors. Bengt-Olof Hammar started the company in 1974 on a very modest scale. The philosophy of the company is to have few products that are sold on lot of markets, focus on specialization, keep the books in good order, make production calculations and follow them through, build confidence with suppliers and clients, always keep promises and count on God and his blessings. The entrepreneur should be a role model and never pay bribes. Hammar Maskin produces trailers with cranes to load and unload containers. They have 100 employees in Sweden and 45 employees abroad. They have a turnaround of SEK 300 million. Their markets are Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Brazil and the USA.

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Visit from the Congo, Monday

First meeting in Töve

First meeting in Töve

During August we invited four Congolese friends to Sweden. Two were from Brazzaville – Joseph Mandzoungou and his wife Judith Aurelie Loukanou. The other two were from Congo Kinshasa ­- Yapeco Bakala Massengo from Matadi and Emy Miantezila Mbeye  from Kimpese.

The purpose of these visits from the Congo was to see what can be achieved with good entrepreneurship in combination with the right entrepreneur and leader, and that there are ample possibilities.

We visited eight companies in Ulricehamn and Borås och one in Österbymo in Östergötland, and we set off on Monday, August 10.

We started with a clothing company, one of the few that survived the textile crisis of the 80s in Ulricehamn. Mona and Alf Kihlén gave us a presentation about how they got through the crisis by constantly looking for new opportunities. The company changed its direction and became a service company that offers services to importers of clothes. They modify and complete imported clothes. Another part of the business is production and sales of liturgical clothes. They supply the church’s priests and deacons with beautiful and functional garments. Pulling through the crisis required hard and persistent work. They managed to turn loss to profit and the daughter has now taken over the business as the fourth generation. The staff is smaller, but it is today a profitable company.

Next we visited Ulricehamn Betong. They produce cement elements for house construction and it’s a company that has had an enormous development. In 1990 they had 10 employees and a turnaround of SEK 5 million. They now have 230 employees and a turnaround of SEK 470 million. The success is a result of hard work, a committed staff that is constantly striving to make improvements. They also have a long term perspective with regards to suppliers and clients. The board requires of the owning family that growth, development and good profit is maintained. It’s a family company where the father, Bengt Gustafson, is the senior adviser, the son, Fredrik, is the CEO and the daughter, Ulrika, is the vice president.

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At home again

Stig, son of Yapeco and Yngve. The place is Air Brussel office in Kinshasa

Yesterday went fast and it was really hot. We packed our belongings one last time. Because Yngve had handed out all the bulky A4 binders, containing MSG’s training material, we had plenty of room in our suitcases. That was lucky, as we had received several packages to convey to people in Sweden.

We have met everybody we wanted to see, and they are now able to immerse themselves in MSG’s ideas and Focus Business School.

In the morning Augustin drove Yapeco, his son Stig and us to the Brussels Airlines’ office in the middle of Kinshasa. When we were going along one of the boulevards we saw a plaque commemorating Dag Hammarskjöld at a location between the two carriageways. He died in September 1961, in the struggle for peace in Congo. It was good to see his name. We felt proud. The check-in was troublefree.

Stig, 19 years, is studying law and would like to study in the US in the future. But he also says “I want to come back to my beloved country.” We were delighted to hear this. Congo needs its talented youngsters.

Yngve and I ate French fries at “our” restaurant near Nzo Binati and were fortunate to be served by our favorite waiter, a very friendly and happy man.

In the afternoon Oscar Luthelo Muller, parlamentarian, came to talk about the energy efficient houses. Yngve raised this idea with Oscar and a government minister a year ago. Now the idea had matured. He is very interested, and asked Yngve and Yapeco to look into where to buy the right materials. It is important to find the right solar cell equipment. Yapeco will examine the market in Congo and Yngve in Europe.

Yapeco’s friend Teddy had promised to come and fetch us at 6 pm. Our flight was leaving at 10 pm. His chauffeur did not arrive until 7 pm. While we were waiting, we misunderstood our boarding passes, and thought that the plane had been rescheduled to 9 pm. We endured a very nervous hour. We waited in the driveway by the great gates of Nzo Binati. Albert in the kitchen took out a small bench so we could sit.

Our good-natured driver Augustin stayed with us all the time. And Dickens, who was our driver in 2010, and Michel in the kitchen, also kept us company. The three men sat down on the ground and made it easier to wait.
The car came, and we took off. Teddy’s chauffeur drive as tough as anyone else in Kinshasa. The drivers squeezes in the cars where there is minimal space, they make a u-turn in the middle of a car queue, they honk a lot and speak out loudly to their fellow commuters. We picked up Teddy at his office and with him in the car, it felt calmer.

At the airport, Teddy knew paths that others do not get to go, and he got us past all the queues. The somewhat snotty lady who checked our passports and papers asked for a Coca Cola, but we had no more congolese money.

Yngve spoke with three older gentlemen who were leaving Congo on the same flight as us, and we could sit down and wait in peace and quiet. Both flights went well. In Brussels we changed to a smaller plane and it was so nice to feel the cool air. We switched to long pants and sweaters. At Landvetter we were kindly met by Bernt Sköld, who after eight trips to Congo feels that he misses the country.

At home everything was in order. Sture has brought in the mail, and Ann-Katrin has watered the flowers. Yngve fetched our own potatoes and carrots from the root cellar. We enjoy sitting at the kitchen table again. But very often, we talk about our friends and our travels in Congo.

When we summarize the month, we can conclude that we have participated in 34 meetings, some with just one person and some with a larger group. We have traveled about 1100 kilometers. Yapeco and Augustin went an additional 280 kilometers to retrieve lamps in Matadi. We have changed the place to stay seven times.

We are extremely grateful that we, except some minor ailments, have been healthy and that we were not involved in any accidents. Thank you all who have been thinking of us and praying for us. That meant a lot to us. We hope that we have started a new chapter in MSG’s activities and that purposeful entrepreneurship will be wider spread and have a greater impact on the Congo countries.

Later on, we hope to publish a report on which and how many people who received the sponsorship when they bought solar lamps. We have asked some people to collect the data. All lamps now have a user. Some buyers have been allowed to buy on installment. They have been given a maximum of three months payback.

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