In this week’s edition of AfriLabs hub, featuring Innovation centres across Africa, we visited East Africa, where we caught up with Wangiwe Joana kambuzi, Founder and Managing Director of Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub in Malawi.
Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub is an entrepreneurship, innovation and technology hub founded in 2017.
The hub support tech and non-tech startups with capacity building to starting and managing a business apart from creating a platform for skills transfer bring the digital gap.
Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub provides co-working space, business incubation and technical assistance to startup and emerging enterprises by linking them to a network of services for growth and success.
Facilitating this through skills and knowledge transfer, information sharing and provide access to resources, opportunities and networking platforms.
According to the founder, Malawi’s population is predominantly young people consisting about 70% of the country’s population.
However, they are among the most vulnerable population due to the shrinking job market.
“Besides thousands of young people graduating from tertiary institutions, it is evident that they lack industrial skills which can make them competitive on the market or support them establish enterprises.”
The hub is coming in to fill the gap and support the growth of entrepreneurs in Malawi
Mission and vision
Wangiwe commented that the Malawi-based hub is positioned to building the ecosystem and platforms where innovators can build the skills and knowledge towards the enterprising.
According to the Founder, annually the hub supports 50 startups through its Bizcubation and Hatchstart incubation program that aims at nurturing ideas into businesses.
“At the same time we support young people with marketable digital skills which include; data management, Website designing, computer programming, digital marketing, end-user computing, and photography and videography.
we also intend to build capacity of young people in big data and internet of thing towards fostering national development.”
Innovation and entrepreneurship
On how hubs foster innovation and entrepreneurship in their local communities, Wangiwe said that hubs are an important asset in the community as they are key in providing information to young people about opportunities for knowledge and skills development.
“Hubs are well positioned to stimulate, activate and accelerate entrepreneurship as they work with a diverse entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
On the state of Innovation and entrepreneurship in Malawi, the founder stated, “While the education sector does not really recognize innovation and entrepreneurship, young people are introduced to the concept at late stage which creates a negatives perception in young people about entrepreneurship”
While on Malawi’s reception towards STEM and how it can be encouraged from basic school, Wangiwe stated that due to cultural values, the society has drawn lines in what could be done by women and women which is wrong.
“Women need to be encouraged about their capacity towards STEM and can be supported through creating awareness in secondary school and primary school.
One key issue is to introduce stem at each basic school at early levels to grow a positive perception of young people.”
Challenges and milestones
The hub due to its limited staff capacity hasn’t been able to reach out to more members of its local community, however, the innovation centre has supported the communities and startups it has worked with thus far.
“We have so far supported 62 startups to start off the ground through our incubation program, connected 12 startups to financiers and reached out to over 15, 000 students in secondary school and colleges creating awareness about entrepreneurship.”
Governmnet and AfriLabs’ role
On how the Malawian government can assist hubs in the country, the founder commented that support can be rendered by creating a more flexible playing ground for hubs and enable some laws towards startup growth.
“On the other hand, the government can create deliberate funding vehicles aimed at growing the ecosystem through operations.”
AfriLabs has played a crucial role in the journey of Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub from facilitating, learning to financial opportunity linkages and exposures to the international ecosystem
Women’s participation in technology
On women’s participation in technology, the founder said that women’s participation needs to be encouraged at all levels.
“Increasing women participation will mean breaking the cultural norms and breaking the syndicate towards inferiority.”
Featured Image: Wangiwe Joana kambuzi, Founder and Managing Director, Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub