A case study of Yme Jibu’s water supply system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The present thesis analyses the case of the Congolese social enterprise Yme Jibu that manages a semi-urban water network in the surroundings of Goma. Due to their independence from donor funds and their ability to reach scale, private initiatives show much promise of contributing to sustainable development. Inspired by this opportunity, Yme Jibu has emerged as a private company out of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Yme Grands Lacs.

In this light, this thesis evaluates whether the change from NGO to social enterprise represents a necessary driver for sustainable development and how Yme Jibu can best manage this transition. The research question is answered in three parts.

  • Firstly, the author identifies the main elements that a sustainable business approach to poverty entails in order to provide an orientation on why and how business can be a driver for development.
  • Second, the specific case of Yme Jibu is analysed based on the findings obtained during the field stay in Goma.
  • This leads to the conclusion that the transition from NGO to social enterprise is viable and necessary for Yme Jibu to achieve its mission of providing sustainable water supply over the long run and for further communities.

The practical analysis also shows that in order to succeed in this endeavour, several challenges need to be overcome. Based on this field experience, and on knowledge from researchers and other practitioners, the third part of the paper establishes ten best practices. These can be summarised in three main areas that need particular attention in the near future: the internalisation of the new role of being a social enterprise, the further development of the water service delivery to create value for the community as well as for the company, and a well-structured planning of the upscaling.

By managing the transition along these best practices, Yme Jibu will be able to refine its business model in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the water supply system in Goma and to be ready for the upscaling to new locations.

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