With his diploma in reach, Kikuna Lwembe returned to his garage and put on his mechanic’s gear. This was quite a change from the Diplo-speak, documents, airy boardrooms, conferences, and deliberations that his university degree had provided him with. As far as I know, this is the career path he chose, and that is why he so readily gave up his academic career.
Kikunda, now 32, was enamored with automobiles from the time he was a kid. To fuel his interest and imagination in creating vehicles, his family of mechanics provided him with an abundance of tools and practical opportunities while growing up in Lubumbashi, Congo’s “copper capital.”
“I was fortunate to be born and raised in a family of mechanics, which allowed me to develop a strong interest in the field at an early age. Along with accompanying him on his mechanic trips, I also learned the trade as an apprentice under my father’s tutelage. In no time at all, Kikunda had mastered all the functions and parts of a car’s various systems.
However, his family did not stop him from following his first love, even though he had graduated from the University of Lubumbashi with an international relations degree in 2011. They knew that he would succeed, no matter what.
Kikunda, who is the second-to-last child in a family of ten, says, “I am a go-getter and I have a supportive family.” He had a vision, too.
When I started helping out with car repairs, I began to develop some knowledge and practical experience. ” This is when the desire to design and build my car first arose in me, and over time, as I studied the models and shapes of the vehicles brought to our garage for repair, I eventually found myself in the position of limousine producer and maker.
A Toyota Camry that Kikunda noticed was missing from the streets, but was in high demand, was transformed into a luxury vehicle in his workshop at number 5 Hewa Bora Avenue in the industrial district near where his father Oscar Kikunda, 68, and other family members owned a garage. He was able to borrow money from his savings for the project.
A limousine with a total budget of $13,000 was Lwembe’s first car to be built, and he had to gather all the necessary metal and iron bars first.
Rather than working alone, Lwembe has an eight-person crew at his disposal.
According to Lwembe’s explanation, “I collaborated and worked with family members who had special automobile skills.” Fortunately, there was plenty of assistance available because the business was run by members of the family. Five members of his team are family members. The conversion process necessitated a significant amount of hand labor.
This is a manual assembly, unlike other automated assemblies where machines do all the work, including designing. “All of this was done manually,” he said.
However, there were many early difficulties to overcome before the design could be realized.
Kikuda said that the most difficult part of manufacturing parts has been finding the right materials and the right machinery. It took him an additional year to complete the project, which he attributed to “financial challenges.”
As a mode of transportation for weddings, the limousine is in high demand. In use for the past three years, it charges $200 per day for rental, which includes a complimentary bottle of champagne for those who prefer to bring their liquor.
However, Kikunda’s close friends and fellow mechanics wanted him to sell the limousine, so he decided to keep it for himself and his friends’ use.
Customers appear to be very pleased with the service they have received.
My husband and I chose his car for our wedding because it was affordable, comfortable and came with a complimentary bottle of champagne,” said Kadoni Douceur, a 32-year-old assistant lecturer at the University of Lubumbashi.
On the heels of his “first love,” Lwembe is now working on a sports utility vehicle for on- and off-road use in and around Lubumbashi.