Virunga National Park Research

Exploring Africa’s Goma Region: Diary: Day 13

FLI Beni Airport

Beni-Mavivi Int. Airport

The 7R Future Leadership Institute has been following Belgian Floris Buter from the Virunga National Park on a week long field trip in Africa, in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project. The collected data are to be wired to the Belgian engineering firm TPF. They need the data to make a feasibility study.

However during his field trip Floris decides to leave the Virunga National Park project to set up his own business servicing the Virunga National Park and others. Today you will read how an advisor from The Netherlands questions his entrepreneurial project in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).

PROJECT DIARY
Topographical Feasibility Study In Hydro-Power Project

Day 13, 23th of June 2015 – Beni

4:30 I wake up and read the message of the dying lady and translate it. There is a lady that sent me a LinkedIn invitation to connect a few days ago and since I’m desperately looking for a job these days, I accept all invitations. Even if I don’t know the people contacting me. I reply: “Dear……., thank you for your contact request. We are connected now. Is there anything that I can help you with?”

The message of this morning is from a widow of an engineer that used to work in Benin. Her husband passed away 20 years ago and now she is dying. She has cancer in her breasts and lungs. The doctor gives her 3 weeks. She doesn’t have any family left and she’s looking for somebody that she can trust to do something good with her money. She wants my bank account details to transfer $1.500.000…..urgently.

5:30 I swim in Albertine’s pool.

6:00 Shower.

6:30 I eat my breakfast: pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, orange, an omelet, tea and a small coffee.

7:30 I call Berns, a friend of mine in The Netherlands that is a specialist in private equity and an all-round financial professional. I request his advice about the dying woman who wants to leave me 1.5 million. Berns says it is a scam and hangs up.

9:03 Berns calls back and I tell him I banned the lady who is dying from my LinkedIn account.

He asks me how the plans are moving with me becoming an entrepreneur in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). I tell him about my plans and he responds in detail:

He says that with a minority share, I can easily be pushed out by new investors bringing in new capital. This new capital could be appreciated higher than the initial capital. Berns suggests it might be extremely unwise for me to do project as explained to him.

Other questions he fires at me:

“Is there a Chamber of Commerce in DRC? Does the company have annual reports? Can I be expropriated?”

He continues his advice: “If you want to be an entrepreneur you have to start small. You’re as green as grass.”

“What is the legal entity? What about the location that you use. Is it rented or bought? Do you have the legal papers to prove that you can use this space?”

“Imagine, you got your piles of coke and stuff to bake your pizza. All is ready. Then a man comes along and says: “This is all mine.”

“Who will represent your interests?”

“There Is so much shit in the Netherlands with a good legal system. How do you think it’ll be in the DRC?”

“Watch out!”

“Make sure that your money is safe.”

“When you were working for Virunga, you were always surrounded by armed rangers to keep you safe. How will this be without them?”

“So, are you safe? And I also ask this on behalf of your parents.”

“Most investors are going to do something only when they are 99% sure that they will get their money back with a profit.”

“Do you want your arms chopped off?”

“Do you have someone to fall back on?”

“To fuck people over with companies is very easy, already in the Netherlands!”

“Experience it first, if you want to invest, start with a small amount each month and see what happens.”

“You should be able to miss the money that you put in.”

“$12,000 is too much.”

“Start with $500.”

“Where does the money go? Where does it go?”

“Is there a works council? Who is in the Board? Who are the workers? Are banks involved?”

“When you have a DEAL, everyone must go to work.”

“Then you need to keep all the frogs in the bucket.”

“What about Tax Authorities?”

“In the Netherlands we go to court, in the DRC I guess you bribe people. Right?”

 

I hang up. Dazzled.

 

9:30 I send an email to ZBD. It takes hours!

11:00 The email is finally sent.

11:30 I go into my new home.

12:00 I eat lunch; sweet potatoes with beans

12:50 Back to Albertine’s

13:00 Picked up by Mike driving the Land cruiser of Jonathan. He brings me to airport 9 north of Beni.

1330 I make a picture of Fokker 27. A lady comes to me and asks me whether I have permission to film. I say yes. She commands me to show the permission. I say her to **** off and leave her.

14:00 I’m waiting at Beni-Mavivi Int. Airport.

14:47 Writing my diary at Beni-Mavivi Int. Airport.

15:00 Flight canceled. With AVSI back to Hotel Albertine. I count my money and calculate that I have $160 on me.

I call ZBD. Fortunately, he is still in Butembo and didn’t leave for the Lukwaliha site yet. We agree that he sends me $ 350 via Airtel Money. ZBD calls me back and asks me if I have an Airtel money account that can receive over $100? I have no clue and decide to go to the Airtel shop to arrange this. ZBD is also going to the Airtel shop to send me money. In the Airtel shop, everything goes very smooth. I am helped immediately and my plus $100 account is created. ZBD sends $ 350. The girl that helps me, Sooza, makes a mistake and sends $ 46 to the wrong account. I receive $ 300. She says I will receive the 46$ later. I accept and leave.

I call Makasi and we agree to discuss the new house in Ishango. We make a list and this is what should happen:

  • The ramp needs to be improved. It is now too high for a normal car to drive into the compound.
  • The grass on the driveway needs to be redone.
  • Curtains must be put everywhere.
  • A solar installation must be installed for lighting, television, internet and a fridge.
  • A gas bottle and stove must be installed.
  • The walls inside the house must be painted.
  • The closets in the kitchen must be fixed and painted white.
  • A parabolic antenna for television must be installed.
  • A Wi-Fi transmitter that can translate 3G into wireless WIFI must be installed
  • We must find a TV with a lot of international channels
  • 3 Chairs for the living room
  • 5x bed cover
  • Fix bathroom 1 & 2: toilet, sink rideaux
  • Get a fridge!
  • 4x plates
  • 4x knives forks spoons
  • Thermocan for tea
  • 4x glasses, mugs, wine glasses
  • Paint the outside gate
  • Find new lights to fill all empty sockets
  • Fix the outside toilet
  • Paint the exterior
  • Review water back-up tank
  • Paint the roof
  • Paint blue doors and blue fence leading to the extra visitor’s apartment
  • Repair small route through grass
  • 4x mosquito net
  • Change cylinder in blue door and provide me with keys
  • Make office space in front of the house ready and arrange key
  • Replace the old green chair
  • Fix the drying line

After the visit I stay at home and Makasi leaves. I decide to go out and eat in a restaurant. From my house I walk around the roundabout. I turn right and get advice from a few men drinking beer and grilling meat. They suggest me to cross the road that goes to Mambassa and I arrive at a place where only Primus / Heineken / Bralima products are sold. I order a tilapia and chips, mayo, salad, pili pili (piri piri in correct English) , a primus and I watch TV. Very cozy.

After dinner I walk back to the place where the men gave me the advice. I order a TurboKing beer and some small pieces of goat with onion and pili pili as I am still hungry.

I walk home and go to bed.

Before falling asleep I remember that somewhere during this day I heard from Christian that there will be an Echo Flight tomorrow and that I have to be present at 8:00 am at Beni Mavivi int airport.

 

Notes by Floris Buter

FLI Floris Buter VirungaFloris Buter is the Managing Director Commercial Enterprises of the Virunga National Park in Africa. He is responsible for the identification, conceptualization, implementation and operation of all commercial opportunities in and around Virunga National Park. Today he is in the process of leaving his job, setting up his proper company servicing the Virunga National Park and other potential clients.

Virunga is truly the crown jewel of Africa’s national parks. The park contains over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s biodiversity and is home to about 200 of the earth’s last 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is the oldest national park in the Africa. Despite this, the forests and amazing animals of the park, most notably the mountain gorilla, are in a desperate fight for their survival.

To read the other diary posts from Floris Buter, click here.

Are you a scientist, adventurer or explorer on a mission ?
The 7R Future Leadership Institute supports nature research and exploration. If you are a scientist, adventurer or explorer on a mission, we are interested in your story. Please contact us via info(at)fli.institute to discuss terms and conditions.

The Virunga Movie was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 in the category ‘Best Documentary Feature’. You can watch it here.

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