Tuesday, 22 October 2013

investing in Young Graduates in Malawi

My visit to Malawi was to participate in training unemployed young graduates from the various Universities in Malawi. The training was organised by T4EE, a new Malawian owned NGO, which is dedicated to imparting skills to graduates to make them employable and become entrepreneurs. I spent 3 days with a group of 60 young graduates helping them to see why entrepreneurship, not "tenderpreneurship" is the greatest career they can consider. As a person in diaspora and having gained some experience around the world, I was excited to offer my time to support these young graduates.

Over the years, there has been a debate regarding the deterioration in the depth and quality of our graduates. I cannot say with 100% confidence regarding the depth and quality of those graduating from our Universities. What, however I can say with certainty is that the 60 that I worked with were very impressive, engaging and hungry for success. Obviously by far, sharper than the politicians we have around us. What was however very obvious was that they are starved of information in general, most of which could easily be found on the Internet. Well, Internet is still a luxury in Malawi in my view, if one is to assess accessibility and cost. By the way, Rwanda has just rolled out free Wi Fi for all as they view Internet as key development infrastructure for the country:


What Rwanda has rolled out is the first step of a plan to provide Wi-Fi coverage to all schools and public buildings, markets, bus stations and hotels in the city and, in the long-term, to the entire country. In June this year, Rwanda government engaged a South Korea's KT Corp to build a 4G network that the Government wants delivered to 95% of the country, up from the estimated 10% who currently have 3G access.

I am not aware of any Malawi plans regarding Internet access for all.

Our young graduates are not only starved of information, but they also need tremendous mentorship and coaching. It was fascinating to note that some of the young graduates had already been doing "some business" whilst in campus. There were many creative minds within the group. For example, one girl started a fast food near her home because every day she saw multitude of people walking past their home. All she saw in her mind was money "walking away". She then started a computer school as her home was surrounded by schools that offered no classes in computing. One young journalists is keen to write and publish books and documentaries of Malawian rural life. One graduate engineer is in the process of establishing a small business that will be maintaining medical equipment. Another graduate by the end of programme had already established a consultancy firm to support many project ideas discussed during the training.

Their dreams die because Malawi does not have a system where we nurture these young entrepreneurs. I was happy to note that successful entrepreneurs like Tom Mpinganjira, Thomas Banda Nkosi (Steers) and many others offered their time to speak to the young graduates. I hope they will play a role of coaching and mentoring those young graduates who are determined to live their dreams.

There is also no level playing field to enable these graduates compete. With no easy access to capital as well as expensive capital, how do they compete with "TenderPreneurs" in Capital Hill who have easy access to "Government cash-cows"? Of course it is very unwise for a new young graduate to build his business on borrowed money from Banks because their businesses will fail. This is where we need "angel investors" who can invest in the ideas of these young graduates. There are a lot of Malawian successful business persons who can part with K500, 000 to K5 million as "risk capital" in young dynamic graduates with brilliant innovative ideas.

I have a conviction that we need to believe in our youth and they may not be as street-wise as our generation, but they are the future of the growing Malawi.

T4EE which stands for "Training for Entrepreneurship and Employability" is a good initiative which should be supported by Universities and Corporate Malawi. It is my hope that T4EE will in the near future target students whilst still in the University or even secondary schools to build this awareness and confidence in the young people

Thursday, 10 October 2013

On President Joyce Banda's Pending Cabinet

JB finds herself in a very awkward situation. 7 months before an election she is found in a situation whereby she has to make tough decisions, some of which might cost her the election. If she has seen the light, she must be cursing herself for not taking this decision when she had a better opportunity.

The Cabinet has been dissolved. Good riddance. The Cabinet commanded very little respect internally or abroad. The performance of the Minister of Finance without doubt has been the main talking point. On rating of 1-5 he definitely scores a 0! Not only has he messed up the Treasury, he has been clueless as to what is going on in the economy. A typical case was when the IMF chief was in Malawi. The Minister of Finance was grinning at the top table and was not in charge of his own show. His statement that day and thereafter clearly showed he reads and understands nothing.

As a person, he is a PhD and with reasonable experience and thus his brain is still useful to Malawi Government and PP. Definitely not in the Treasury.

The Cabinet has the likes of Uladi Mussa, some Zulu and many "our time to eat" personalities. No apologies, they simply have to go.

The question we should pose is; Do we really need a Cabinet between now and elections? What really is the value they will add to our democracy and development? Perhaps all efforts should be the re-aligning and strengthening of the civil service and other organs of Government. If it's a constitutional requirement, them let's have 5 -10 Ministers for example. I don't believe that Government business will in any way be affected.

Of course I am aware that the appointment of Cabinet is important during an election because it ensures that those loyal are rewarded and they have easy access to tax payers money for campaign. But my gut feeling is that the Cabinet is a drain on our resources and having no cabinet or a skeleton Cabinet would be the greatest thing JB would have ever done even if she was not elected come May 2014