Four in biosciences regional competition

Malawi has a vast pool of women that are using science and technology to produce healthy and nutritious food products but lack adequate support, knowledge and skills to accelerate their businesses.

Malawi’s first technology hub, mHub, recently trained and mentored contestants of the second season Female Bio-Sciences Business (FemBioBiz).

Four of them including Jean Pankuku founder of Tehilah Enterprises; Ursula Banda of The Village Shop; Temwanani Gunda of JAT Investment and Wezi Mkwaila of Nyenyezi Agritech, made it to the final round and they will compete at regional level in South Africa, between September 12-14.

Banda, the founder of The Village Shop, an artisan manufacturing collective that was born to bridge the gap between local artisans and access to lucrative international markets said the programme came at the right time.

“I had just finished formulating the pure organic skin and hair care line and initial clinical trials showed promising results; but I had few resources such as manufacturing infrastructure and cosmetic market data relevant to me because no one has done this before in Malawi,” she said.

Banda added: “So, I was at a point where I could shelf this project until I could contact a manufacturer in another country at a later date, or completely give up. FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme was God-sent because it got me in this crucial biosciences network in Malawi and the sub-Saharan Africa. This has been of a tremendous help to me”.

She also said the trainings helped her to fine-tune the product manufacturing process—narrow down her target market and the supply chain operation problems that she was unable to see a way forward with.

The FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme was created to develop leadership, technological and business skills in female-owned businesses in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region, to support deal-making and business acceleration in the biosciences, with a special focus in health and nutrition.

mHub business development executive, Tapiwa Bokosi, said the training was aimed at refining the women’s business models.

“Top performers of the FemBioBiz Acceleration Competition stand a chance to gain incubation, mentorship and training worth over 200 000 Rand; attend the South Africa Innovation Summit, and also attend Europe’s biggest start-up event, Slush,” she said.

Bokosi also said mHub would like to see the female-owned biotech businesses grow and accelerate beyond the competition.

She  called on the women to go out and train as well as mentor young women so that the country has more Malawian women in the fields of science.

The first season of FemBioBiz programme in 2017 saw 12 women participating in the country, and Fannie Gondwe of Perisha Agro and Packaging Enterprise carried the Malawi flag in South Africa.

Launched on February 27 2018, the second season FemBioBiz Acceleration Programme was implemented in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The 2018 season had 36 applications from Malawi.

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