In 2016, Sivi Malukisa Diawete quit her corporate job to start an agribusiness company called MANITECH Congo. Prior to starting her own company, she worked for top multinational firms like DHL, Vodacom and MIH in DR Congo.
MANITECH produces natural fresh jams, jellies, peanut butter, sauces and flour, and Diawete sources all her products locally. Like many other entrepreneurs, Diawete started her company with her own savings. With just $300, she started and slowly built her company brick after brick, she told Business Africa Online. Soon, she gained national attention and was even nominated as Entrepreneur of the year in DRC by the prestigious MAKUTANO Network, according to the outlet.
In 2018, she was also featured in Forbes Afrique Magazine and was ranked among the 50 most influential under 40 Congolese people by the magazine KivuZik. The Tony Elumelu Foundation also named her an ambassador.
According to Diawete, the uniqueness of her business is the fact that she offers traditional food in a modern manner. “For the local market, the innovation is in terms of the packaging that we offer,” she told Business Africa Online. “For external market, it is the content which is the innovation. At the end of the day, our customers are happy both with the content and the packaging.”
But she has had to overcome some challenges to get to where she is today. According to her, the business climate in DR Congo is very “tough”, in addition to infrastructural, electricity and water challenges.
“Add on to that is importation; people are used to imported products and it is not easy to convince them that local is also good and even much better,” she said. “This is because buying local reinforce the local economy.”
Despite these challenges, Diawete said she is inspired to pursue her dreams. “My country, my flag, my people, my children,” she said about the source of her inspiration. “Our country is one of the biggest in Africa, with so much wealth. Yet, my people are poor because we don’t use our resources properly. To be an active actor of change in my country is the best legacy I can give to my children.”
The Congolese businesswoman grew up in the small city of Kisangani, north of Kinshasa in the DRC. She has a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from the University of Kinshasa. She was employed as the head of Human Resources with DHL in DRC and the Republic of Congo after graduating.
She continued her career as an HR practitioner with other multinational firms, including Vodacom and MIH where she was promoted to HR Business Partner and then HR Director.
Recently, the president of DR Congo Felix Tshisekedi invited Diawete to Washington, DC where he praised her for her work and contribution to the development of the economy in DRC.