For more than 20 years, the deadliest conflict since World War II has stunted development in eastern Congo. Health care and other vital services have been provided through foreign aid budgets, but inconsistent funding and frequently shuttered facilities mean these services are almost never available when Congolese families really need them.
Asili is working to change that. A business startup co-created by ARC, USAID international partners, and Congolese families, Asili takes an approach of long-term sustainable development using business principles. It can be thought of as a strip mall with a cluster of businesses in one location, tackling both supply-of and demand-for services. The current business lines include a health clinic, a clean water distribution system, and an agricultural cooperative to help farmers increase their yields and incomes. Services are linked through a monthly membership, which allows members access at reduced prices. The platform is both real and virtual – located in villages and powered by technology.
Asili’s agricultural cooperatives are the spark that gets a community’s economy moving. Asili provides local farmers with the resources, tools, and training they need to become successful and profitable farmers. We give them a loan in the form of seeds and fertilizer, and then provide a guaranteed market to sell their goods once they’re harvested. This model is working. So far we’ve sold over 300 tons of potatoes, Asili’s main crop. Farmers are increasing their income, empowering them to save and access membership in Asili and the other services it provides.
Our clinics are beautiful. Designed with the families who now visit the clinic, patients have remarked on how they stand out as beacons of hope in their communities. And, most importantly, they offer world class quality healthcare – at prices that are affordable to the average Congolese consumer. Since the first clinic’s launch in 2014, our staff have served thousands of patients. Our reputation for incredible quality is spreading. Patients come from all over the region to be treated. Lives have been changed by the simple act of receiving a correct diagnosis for a chronic illness. Having an Asili clinic in your town is viewed as a point of pride - in amazing quality being delivered by Congolese and for Congolese communities.
Our water system
Water is life, a basic need used for drinking, cleaning, bathing, and cooking. For many people living in Eastern Congo though, clean water is a resource that is tragically lacking. Currently operating at conveniently located retail outlets in five villages, and soon to be expanding, Asili’s gravity-based reservoir system has revolutionized our customers’ ability to obtain clean, safe water. So far, we’ve sold over 3,000,000 liters. We are constantly undergoing improvements to ensure that Asili water is reaching the highest possible levels of service. And we’re prototyping the potential of our water sales, selling water in the closest big city, Bukavu, to businesses, establishments, and even other NGOs. We’re learning and growing, determining the best way to bring clean water to as many people as possible.
Asili is rehabilitating communities and encouraging sustainable and lasting development in one of the most challenging areas of the world.
It feels a little bit heavy, I think it’s a huge title or responsibility to feel you’re a change maker…
but, yes, I like to feel I’m a part of change.
- Abraham Leno, Country Director
Since the day Asili launched in 2013, we’ve been learning – talking to the communities where we work, tracking our business model, adjusting as we grow. And now, we’re excited to announce that we’ve taken that knowledge and applied it to our newest venture – the launch of Zone 4!
Once again, the area where Zone 4 will take root is very different from any place we’ve been before. The closest site to Bukavu yet, the heart of Zone 4 will be near Panzi Hospital in the neighborhood of Mudusa - just a few miles away from the heart of the city. That means that there are people around. Lots of them. Over 100 people per square mile, in fact. But while this will be a far cry from the bucolic scenes of Buhanga, the location of our inaugural clinic and water points, we see this change as opportunity.
“We chose the fourth zone because of its clear opportunity to deliver Asili’s high quality service to a much greater population,” explains Tad Lunden, Asili’s Business Manager. “We haven’t been in an area like this before. And just like Buhanga, Cirunga, and Mudaka, this is another great way to test how Asili will do in a densely populated environment.”
Even though it’s a new place, the team is feeling confident that for Asili, more people means better business. In January, Asili had its best month yet thanks to the newest clinic in the busy market town of Mudaka, reaching profitability and selling more water and clinic visits than ever before.
But one of the biggest challenges for the new zone is that we’re not as well known in the Mudusa area yet. That’s where our Asili marketers come in. Made up of women from the community - led by our Brand Ambassadors Mama Salome and Mama Josée - these ladies have been ramping up efforts to connect with the community, speaking to mothers and families about Asili.
Their efforts came to a head on May 19th, when the Asili crew in Bukavu celebrated the official launch of Zone 4 activities with a gathered crowd from Mudusa. Country Director Abraham Leno and the rest of the team talked about the water system – how it will extend from the South Kivu's green rolling hills to their neighborhood, how we keep it working, how much water will cost. They introduced themselves and made sure that everyone knew what Asili is, and why we’re there – and answered questions about what Asili might mean to the community.
Now, it’s time for the rest of our crew in Bukavu to get to work! Ground has broken where the clinic will be built, and the area scouted for the water system. There’s much work to do. But, there's much to look forward to. Stay tuned for more as we reach higher, learn more, and adjust our business to do better for and with the people of eastern Congo.
From the very beginning, Asili has been about getting world-class quality services to communities. We’ve followed through on that promise with water facilities and healthcare clinics that not only work, but offer never before seen quality. But now, we’ve focused our efforts on making sure that communities not only have access to our services, but that everyone in those communities can afford them.
Introducing our third party payor system. Read More
Part of running a world-class business means constantly iterating, testing, and adjusting how we do things. And now that Asili is going on its third year, we’ve learned enough about our existing businesses that we feel comfortable taking that next step – learning how Asili can be even better. Read More
Why Customer Service is So Important to Asili
From the very beginning, Asili has been about Congolese communities. About families, mothers, and children. About serving their needs and ensuring that they have access to best of class businesses, right in their own backyards. And customer service – so often taken for granted in our own contexts – is a huge part of that. Read More