Three young men from diverse professional backgrounds are on a mission to transform Malawi through technological advancements.
Theologian Kondwani Mshali is the founder of Neytech Solutions, a company which develops software, phone applications and websites for businesses and religious institutions.
Physiotherapist Emmanuel Chatima is the founder of Online Clinic Yathu (Ocliya), an online health service platform.
Statistician Steven Ng’oma’s Mind Foundation trains children to be aware of importance of technology in their lives and the world around them.
The trio is among the 1080 young Malawians that have benefitted from the government’s Jobs for Youth (J4Y) project being implemented by Ministry of Youth and Sports.
The project is economically empowering the youth to improve access to decent work and sustainable entrepreneurship.
The three enrolled in the project in response to an advert floated by mHub, a host working with the ministry to train the youth with interest in technology.
Mshali’s love for computers started at the age of 14 when he learnt fixing phones out of passion while in secondary school.
His desire for technology grew when he was learning theology in Zambia.
“I always researched about computers and how I can use them to improve people’s lives,” he says.
After graduating in 2018, Mshali worked as monitoring and evaluation officer with Global Hope, where his passion for computers grew.
The J4Y Project provided a fertile ground for his passion.
“The opportunity to make a living out of my passion and serve communities through technology motivated me to enrol in the programme,” he says.
Mshali registered Neytech Solutions in 2019 upon completion of a six-month J4Y incubation programme. The firm employs nine people who provide business solutions to 20 clients while spawning new innovations.
“We are developing software that can be used by village banks without Internet connection and another that can easily facilitate e-learning in our schools,” he says.
For Chatima, Ocliya started during his internship at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
While at the overwhelmed hospital in the capital, he started exploring ways of bringing health care services closer to Malawians.
The physiotherapist trained at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine recalls: “I observed that medical practitioners in Malawi do not provide health care services right in people’s homes, unlike in other countries.
“So, I started Ocliya to provide home medical services such as consultation, physiotherapy, nursing and doctor’s visits through an online platform”.
Ocliya has undergone rapid expansion following the incubation programme. It is now registered with Medical Council of Malawi and handles about 70 patients a month.
“We also outsource services from other medical practitioners for our clients,” Chatima says.
Teach them young
Steven Ng’oma’s Mind Foundation is a centre for stimulating children’s interest in arts and technology.
“We help children to master skills in apps development, drone and robotic technology, animation and videography,” says Ng’oma, a bachelor of science graduate from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College.
Working with several children, Ng’oma and his team have developed a number of innovations, including a model drone, which can airlift a two-kilogramme load within a 30-kilometre radius.
They have also developed a bionic arm that helps amputees regain use of lost arm and a robotic hand sanitiser.
“The programme has given us exposure. We are getting more support internationally, but we also hope for increased recognition locally,” he says.
Blessings Chavula, J4Y business incubation manager at Mhub, says the centre has hosted 112 incubates which includes 25 females.
“Almost 40 trainees own well-established enterprises,” he says.
The programme promotes self-employment among the youth through maximum utilisation of their skills and knowledge.
Chavula says this is key in reducing high unemployment rates in Malawi as nearly a quarter of Malawians aged 18 to 35 remain jobless, according to the International Labour Organisation in partnership with the Ministry of Labour.
Minister of Youth and Sports Ulemu Msungama is pleased that J4Y is creating jobs for the youth.
“The project has proved that the youth are capable of creating jobs for themselves and other people. This will be instrumental in government’s plan to create one million jobs,” he says.
The minister promises to lobby for extension of the J4Y project, which intends to create 17 000 jobs.
“One option is to link them to financial programmes such as Malawi Enterprise Development Fund in boosting their businesses with capital investments to stimulate more job creation opportunities,” he says.
The African Development Bank is bankrolling J4Y to the tune of K9 billion.
Making life better
The project rolled out in January 2017 will phase out in December 2021.
Chatima says: “The world is talking about the youth taking the lead. I can testify that this programme has helped me to step up and take a role in making the world better.”