Apr 062018

Organization: Invisible Children
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Closing date: 13 May 2018


A project that currently operates a network of 160+ HF radios as an early warning system for rural villages in Central Africa is seeking advices to consider possible medium term technological alternatives.

The project

Community Resilience in Central Africa (CRCA) is a 5-year USAID-funded project implemented by the US NGO Invisible Children in DR Congo (in parts of Bas- and Haut-Uele) and Central African Republic (in parts of Mbomou, Haut-Mbomou and Haute Kotto). The project will run until October 2022.

The project aims to contribute to communities (a) more resilient to the impact of armed groups, (b) more likely to peacefully transform intercommunal conflict and (c) more supportive of wildlife conservation initiatives. The strategy of the project is to empower communities through community-based protection (an Early Warning System (EWS) mostly based on 160+ HF radios), livelihoods, psychosocial services and conflict transformation support. The project has a significant component of collaboration with wildlife protection stakeholders, including natural parks.

CRCA builds on pre-existing networks of HF radios (Codan and Barrett) located in communities (villages) from as early as 2009. Given Invisible Children’s long term commitment to the region and to the EWS, it is extremely likely that the network will continue to function and be supported beyond the end of CRCA. Given USG interest in the region and its historical support to the EWS, it is also quite possible that USAID funding would continue to be available to support the network beyond CRCA.

Invisible Children also supports other communities further North and West in CAR as well as in the West of South Sudan under the EWS with other sources of funding. Some communities are equipped with satellite phones (Thuraya) or use mobile phones or paper mail.

The context

The situation varies, but all-in-all most communities/villages in the area are small, rural communities without cellphone coverage and without a power grid. Most of them are insecure to highly insecure areas, very prone to pillaging, even if only a limited number of HF radios have been looted or pillaged historically. Overall the area is affected by heavy rains and dust, and infrastructure is poor. Locally available technical skills to set up, maintain and use any type of technological equipment is very low. The acceptance of HF radios and/or satellite phones by security actors (legitimate or militias) is generally conducive to the network, except in South Sudan where Invisible Children uses other means of communications for that reason.

The identified dilemma

HF radios were chosen as the primary EWS technology due to the extensive history of use among local stakeholders, and especially local churches, who have been using HF radios (‘phonies’) for a long time in the area.

HF radios were also chosen for several other reasons – there is no ‘airtime’ cost, they are relatively well accepted in the area, and they offer the possibility to operate both one-on-one calls as well as group calls. Going forward, continuing to operate the network with HF radios also offers the advantage that this is what is in place already, so replacements and growth would be incremental only. The nature of HF radio infrastructure also requires a level of community-wide investment that can foster a sense of community ownership and buy-in to the technology and service it allows.

HF radios however present some disadvantages – they are expensive, the antennae’s are visible and difficult to dismantle or hide in case of an attack, they are prone to looting, they require solar panels and batteries which is a good that attracts many interests locally, there is limited expertise locally to maintain them and repair them, it is fairly easy for a third party to listen into communications or to use the HF radios directly. Furthermore, every few years the makers of HF radios make technological changes to their HF radio products and stop producing parts for legacy models, which means that maintenance may be compromised and entire new radios may have to be procured when a simple part has a defect. This has been the case recently with Codan NGT models that are no longer produced. In addition, HF radios can only be accessed at a central control point, limiting the availability of information and communications technology for the community as a whole. If an individual wants to communicate with another individual in another community, this can only be done with a community with an HF radio and that person must be summoned to the HF radio to have a conversation.

The consulting need

CRCA is seeking the services of an expert (an individual or a group/firm) to:

  • Further map out in details the pros and cons of using HF radios to manage the CRCA EWS network;

  • Map out possible medium-term alternatives (4 years from now and beyond);

  • Produce a comparative analysis of the alternatives and make a recommendation to CRCA about medium term technology(ies) to operate the network.

As technologies continue to evolve, CRCA is likely to offer the expert(s) a smaller annual consultancy to update the analysis and recommendation annually from 2019 to 2022.

The expected outputs

  • A detailed analysis of the pros and cons of using HF radios to operate the CRCA EWS network;

  • A mapping of possible medium-term alternatives (this should include but not necessarily be limited to: cellphones/mobile phones, satellite telephones and other technologies using satellite telecommunications, other available mobile phone solutions, aerial internet/balloons, wimax, etc.);

  • A detailed comparative analysis of the alternatives, and a clear recommendation. This needs to explicitly take into account the specificities of the operating environment (remoteness, security, acceptability, sustainability, maintenance, power, costs, increased community access, importance of community ownership, etc.). The analysis should also consider combined or diversified by integrated technologies. Note that CRCA has not decided to move away from HF radios and the recommendation may very well be to remain with that technology.

All outputs are expected to be provided in either French and/or English language, in soft copy, in editable formats (Word, Excel, etc. – not just PDFs).

Practical considerations

Offerors may or may not propose field visits as part of their proposed methodology and budget, depending on their approach and knowledge of the area. In case field visits are proposed in the methodology, CRCA will be able to provide the following support:

  1. Invitation letters to request visas for DRC or CAR, if the offeror is unable to process those itself;

  2. Booking on UN flights, if the offeror is unable to process those itself (CRCA still expects offerors to budget for the actual cost of those flights and to pay for those);

  3. Security briefings in each location where CRCA has offices;

  4. Local ground transportation (4×4 or motorbikes) in locations where CRCA has offices (Kinshasa, Dungu, Ango, Bangui, Bria, Obo);

  5. Access to the project network of fixed HF radios, provided the offeror complies with usage rules.

What CRCA will NOT be able to provide as support (this is indicative, not exhaustive):

  1. Logistics support in locations where CRCA does not have an office, except in Entebbe, Arua and Aru where CRCA has remote arrangements;

  2. Lodging (however CRCA will make its own guesthouses available to offerors where beds happen to be available and will otherwise be available to book other lodging options);

  3. Commercial flights booking, except from Entebbe to Arua;

  4. Security support beyond security briefings and access to the network of HF radios;

  5. Translation;

  6. Any logistics support not explicitly listed in this document.

CRCA will provide to all offerors the following:

  1. Provision of all relevant project documents, in both French and English in soft copy;

  2. Ample staff time to answer any question the offeror may have during the course of the consultancy, or to review and discuss draft/template outputs.

CRCA expects the consultancy to start towards the end of the first semester of calendar year 2018 and to be completed no later than the end of calendar year 2018, however time is not of the essence and CRCA is flexible at to the timing and duration of the consultancy. This will not be key criteria for selection.

How to apply:

Proposal submission

Offerors can ask technical or practical questions to help them prepare their offer by emailing their questions to by April 10, 12-midnight Kinshasa time. All questions will be answered in writing and all answers provided at once to all offerors who have either asked a question or registered (at the same email address) to receive the answers. All emails must use the title ‘QUESTIONS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO HF’.

Offerors must submit their initial offer by May 13, 2018, 12-midnight Kinshasa time at the same email address. Offerors are encouraged to request a confirmation that their offer has been received and CRCA will bear no responsibility for offers not received.

Offers must include one single PDF file including the following, in this order:

  1. Cover page clearly referencing the title of the consultancy, the name of the individual or group or firm, and contact details (1 page);

  2. A draft methodology (to be refined and finalized after award) including:

  3. A description of the approach proposed of no more than 2 pages;

  4. An indicative calendar (Gantt chart) for delivery;

  5. A description of the team structure proposed of no more than 2 pages, including a clear statement of the level of effort of each team member (offers can be for a single individual and in this case only a statement of the level of effort is required);

  6. CVs of all identified personnel to be involved (this can be only one). Each CV must be no more than 2 pages. Ideally, all CVs should use the same format;

  7. Each identified CV must be accompanied by a proof that the person commits to and is available for the consultancy, in the form of a brief signed statement at the end of the CV. In that statement, each person must state that he/she has no conflict of interests with any maker or supplier of any technology that can be considered in this consultancy, or if the person has such conflicts of interests, state those and discuss how the team will address those during delivery of the consultancy;

  8. A description of the offeror’s past experience in conducting similar work, with references that can be contacted by IC, with name, phone number and email address – no more than 3 pages in total with a clear statement that IC is authorized to contact the references;

  9. On a single page, a proposed budget for the consultancy.

Offers may be submitted in either French or English, or a mixture of both (for example, it is perfectly acceptable to submit a methodology in English, but to have some of the CVs in French, or the other way around).

Evaluation criteria for Award

Proposals received from responsible Offerors in a timely fashion will be evaluated for award on the basis of their best overall value to the project. Best Overall Value will be determined by a Selection Committee on the basis of the criteria set forth below.

  1. Proposed Methodology (from sections 2a and 2b) — 40 Points

  2. Proposed Team including CVs, management arrangements in the case of more than one individual and level of effort (from sections 2c and 3) — 40 Points

  3. Past Performance (from section 4) — 20 Points

Although price is not a factor for technical consideration, it is an important element in evaluation for award. Price must show demonstrated reasonableness and be balanced among the respective items to be delivered. The significance of price will increase the closer technical rankings become. Offerors are strongly encouraged to provide their best price proposal with submission of their offer.

Source and nationality considerations

The USAID “Geographic Code” for the procurement of goods and services under this project is Code 937 – United States of America, Cooperating Country, and Low Income/Lower Middle Income Developing Countries. All interested Offerors meeting these product/service eligibility requirements are invited to submit proposals under this RFP. Offerors must agree that no services will be rendered through a service provider in any foreign policy restricted country.

Note that in the case of an individual consultant, the restrictions of Code 937 do not apply, but only the restrictions related to foreign policy restricted countries.

A current list of eligible countries and further information on Source and Nationality may be found at Funds provided under this award shall not be used to procure any goods or services furnished by any firms or individuals from Cuba, North Korea, Syria, or Iran nor any goods manufactured in any of these countries.

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