Job Booster Enterprise’s Impact on Chad’s Youth
Starting a business in a country with an ongoing conflict, where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, and the business environment is extremely unfavourable, carries significant risk. Yet this is exactly what Job Booster Enterprise Chad—which started operations back in 2021—did. CEO Hyacinthe Ndolenodji shares the company’s successes and challenges: ‘I want to be there, especially for young people, because the amount of potential they possess is immense.’
Hyacinthe Ndolenodji started his career as an architect. ‘Over time, I started realizing that people’s first need is not to build fancy houses. There was a perception among my community that architects were a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Less than one percent of the Chadian population is considered wealthy, so I was only useful to a small group of people. So why not make a difference to the other 99 percent instead?’ he says.
‘I returned to the university and pursued a Masters Degree in Sustainable Development. When I came back, I started working for Woord en Daad—first as a project manager and later for the Job Booster Social Enterprise. That was when I realised that the majority of that 99 percent are young people. I receive a lot of messages from those who need help finding jobs, and I’m happy to assist them on their journey. Living my dream brings me joy.’
Since early 2022, Ndolenodji has been the director of the then-newly established Job Booster Enterprise Chad, which took place during a turbulent period for the country. Ndolenodji: ‘Since the death of Idriss Déby, our former president, the country has been in transition, politically and socially. Several protests have followed, the largest of which took place in 2022. Tensions are palpable between political leaders, with many groups fighting each other.
‘There appears to be hope as the main opposition leader has returned, and an agreement was signed between the transitional government and one of the major opposition parties last month. Hopefully, this signing will cool the political temperatures in the country as we approach the 2024 elections.’ The unrest affected economic activities in the country, Ndolenodji points out. ‘Some people didn’t feel safe enough to leave their homes.’
Combining two goals
Ndolenodji believes that economic activities are key to reducing poverty. ‘With Job Booster Enterprise, we fight poverty with an entrepreneurial approach. We focus not only on impact, but also income. It is only when we generate our own income, that we will be able to make our activities sustainable in the long term,’ he believes. Impact takes shape through job creation, access to employment, increasing income for households and entrepreneurs, and improving living conditions. It is a new concept in Chad, he says. ‘Other organisations focus either on impact or income. Combining both goals is new.’
How do you assess the business climate in Chad?
‘The current socio-economic situation differs greatly from my upbringing, particularly the technological advancements. For the longest time, agriculture was the only means of income. The government has been able to invest heavily in infrastructure, healthcare, and education thanks to the income generated from oil exploitation. This has led to significant improvements in access to services, although there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the entire population benefits. Access to the internet has also greatly improved development opportunities. The fact that our social media channels have more than 4,500 followers says a lot in that respect.
‘Although we were aware of the high costs of internet and electricity in the country when we set up our company, we still decided to establish our business. This meant that we needed to generate more revenue to cover those expenses. However, since we had a strong network, we were able to secure favourable contracts that helped us manage those costs better. But sometimes it is tough.’
What do you see as key successes of the first two years?
‘Job Booster Enterprise Chad has completed its second operational year. In the first year, we relied solely on working capital loans. For the second year, Job Booster Netherlands provided a loan, of which we have only used half. As we approach the end of the year, we can confidently say that we won’t need to use the remaining half. This is a clear indication of our revenue growth, and we are now able to cover our costs with locally raised revenue. I am proud of our achievement.
‘I am glad to say that we have successfully established ourselves as a social enterprise in the economy of Chad. It was a challenging task as the concept was new in the country. We had to put in a lot of effort to ensure that our company was legally structured in the right way. Although we are registered as a profit company, we are a limited company with social goals. This was the only option available to us at the time, but we are committed to achieving our social objectives. This form suits our vision.’
Can you describe the impact that Job Booster Enterprise has made in the past two years?
‘We have begun to support 130 small entrepreneurs in Logone Oriental and Mayo-Kebbi Est, two rural provinces that are difficult to access. These regions have abundant natural resources and a skilled workforce, but due to a history of reliance on donations, the people lacked an entrepreneurial mindset. We aim to change this by providing the necessary support and resources to help them succeed.
‘Research showed that one of the most important things was developing a business mindset. In the beginning, people were hesitant about our approach. We organised workshops that focused on leadership and personal development. There we saw a turnaround, with people realising their capability. I would like to share an example of eight women who decided to collaborate after attending our workshops. They established a small loan system and now fund their activities without requiring our intervention.
‘Another example is about a woman who faced the issue of her pigs dying. She didn’t have the funds to buy medicine when her animals fell ill. She did not realise that she could sell one pig to get the funds to keep the other pigs alive. Upon attending training, she realized that when there was a need to treat the pigs, she would sell one. It’s fulfilling to witness such progress up close.’
Which issues have proved to be harder than previously thought?
‘One of the biggest challenges for young entrepreneurs is access to finance. Banks mostly focus on large companies. We contacted banks and offered guarantee funds covering 50-70% of the risk. However, the interest rates were too high, at around 14%, with rates for microfinance even higher. Young entrepreneurs can never afford that. So, we had to look for other options.
‘We developed the Booster Investment Fund, which provides flexible loans to our entrepreneurs and also realise equity investments. I am currently in the Netherlands to discuss this plan with the shareholders. In this validation phase, we will also start fundraising. The initial plan is to start with between 150,000 to 200,000 Euros. The launch of the initiatives will take place by the end of this year. In addition to technical support, entrepreneurs who receive our support will also receive investment readiness training. After that, they will come to our investment committee which will decide whether someone gets a loan or the investment takes shape through equity investment. With the Booster Investment Fund, we not only work on impact, but through interest and equity, we also raise revenues.’
What is the added value of working with the parent company in the Netherlands, Job Booster Netherlands?
‘In the Netherlands, most people have achieved a certain level of prosperity which has given them the opportunity to support those less fortunate. They are willing to invest in the lives of people who are struggling, which they can do through the Job Booster Enterprises program. Working with Job Booster Enterprises in the Netherlands and other countries helps us keep our broader strategic vision clear. Our goal is to make a long-term difference for entrepreneurs in Chad and other countries, not just for five or ten years, but for as long as we can.’
Job Booster Enterprises
Job Booster Netherlands BV was founded in 2019 by Woord en Daad. The company aims to bring together supply and demand in the labour market in middle- and low-income countries in a sustainable way, with an explicit focus on underprivileged groups. Job Booster Nederland BV does this through the concept of Job Booster Enterprises. With participation in Job Booster social enterprises currently in four countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and India – the development of a sustainable and inclusive labour market is stimulated. Being social enterprises, Job Booster Enterprises do not focus primarily on profit, but on impact. Impact on the lives of young people, in a working environment where they feel safe, that provides an income that allows them to meet their basic needs and provide for their families, and that has no negative environmental impact. https://jobboosterchad-entreprise.com/en/