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[IN THE HUB] – Wangiwe Joanna Kambuzi, Mzuzu E-hub, Malawi

Hi Wangiwe, thanks for sharing your journey with us on TechInAfrica.com and telling our readers more about Mzuzu E-Hub. First of all, can you introduce yourself, who you are, where you are from and what is your background?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell our story. My name is Wangiwe Joanna Kambuzi, 29 years old, based in Mzuzu, Malawi. I am a social innovator and community builder whereas the Founder and Executive Director for Mzuzu E-hub, an entrepreneurship and innovation hub that supports start up and early stage businesses with co-working space and technical assistance by linking them to a network of services for growth and success. I was listed on the Hot Topics 2019 Meaningful Business 100 global award list and the 2018 Social Impact Incubator Community Builder awardee run by Segal Family Foundation; Southern Africa Start-up Awards 2019 Female Role Model of the year Malawi. A passionate youth development advocate and Communications and PR Practitioner. My background comes from the corporate sector where I worked up for about 8 years in the banking sector and a mobile telecommunications company before I joined the socio-economic development sector.

Thanks Wangiwe, can you tell us more what brought you to create Mzuzu E-Hub?

Basically I was just an upcoming entrepreneur encountering a couple of challenges at the time and through my observation I figured it was quite a budding problem especially amongst youth. From lack of unaffordable working spaces, unaffordable business development support services, lack of adequate knowledge on technological tools and resources to support marketing of the business, an unavailable community of young entrepreneurs, start-ups, small and medium enterprises who come together to share best practises and lessons learnt and lack of investment opportunities. This inspired me highly to set up a platform that would serve as a home for solutions, a platform for a community that comes together to support each other to grow and leverage opportunities for knowledge sharing, investment and networking.

With lessons from various local and international existing platforms I was able to learn the concept of co-working spaces, incubation hubs and I worked towards developing a platform that could respond to the needs of the community I come from which is Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi with plans to grow nationally.

Can you tell us more about the start-up and tech ecosystem in Malawi?

Malawi has a budding and evolving start-up and tech ecosystem including enterprise development support organisations i.e. mHub, Synergy, Dzuka Africa Start-up Hubs, Jubilee Enterprise, Flame Tree Initiative and more, Academia including Mzuzu University, LUANAR, Polytechnic and MUST that have design studios and incubation programs, the government under various ministries and parastatals, finance service providers i.e. banks, microloan companies, NGOs working youth and women economic empowerment, Development partners including UNDP, AFDB, World Bank, Segal Family Foundation etc. and investors i.e. Accesserator, Start-ups in various sectors, Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs)

The ecosystem has been making a lot of progress towards creating a conducing environment for entrepreneurs to thrive and its amazing to see Malawi developing innovative enterprises that support various challenges within our communities.

Can you share with us some nice local start-up stories that you love in Malawi and some from your hub?

With growth in impact stories within our community I will talk about a few including Agricenter, a start-up social enterprise that developed a solution which works with cooperatives and farmer group organisations to link them to markets, advisory and value addition. They currently work with up to 6 cooperatives with a membership of 120 farmers producing soya, tomatoes, beans, ginger, rice and mushrooms. They graduated from our Bizcubation program in 2019.

Our newly recruited cohort of the business incubation program highlights another interesting start-up known as Mzuzu Dairy Ltd, a milk processing company supporting production of fresh milk, yoghurt, sour milk and other products. They provide local farmers with a market for milk.

On a national level we have interesting stories from start-ups including IMOSYS providing technology solutions in various sectors including water access and management. Amidst COVID19, they are developing 3d printed masks to support health personnel and communities to stay safe.

We have also seen a growth in home delivery services after the introduction of The Basket Malawi, a delivery service utilising social media to place orders for farm fresh vegetables.

How would you see Malawi within the next years as a tech and start-up ecosystem?

I believe with the progress being made currently within the ecosystem, we will see tremendous growth in knowledge sharing and collaboration amongst stakeholders, policy reforms include a start-up act and a social enterprise act just to mention a few, investment opportunities with a diversity in investor relations as well as solutions that reach out to more people within our communities without leaving anyone behind.

How is the investment scene in Malawi for tech start-ups?

The investment scene is quite the missing puzzle with lesser investors in the space with a lesser number of companies they have invested in basically foretelling lack of investment readiness amongst most start-ups. Well known investment ventures include Accesserator, Foster Lewis, Kweza Partners that are doing a tremendous job providing opportunities for investment.

There is also various international opportunities being tapped on and hopefully as the ecosystem grows we will be able to see a lot happening in this space.

What are your next milestones for Mzuzu E-Hub?

We are working towards building partnership and collaboration with various key players to support our programs and our community which will help grow the opportunities they can access including investment and networking. We plan to work with fellow enterprise development support organisations in providing our programs to reach out to beneficiaries nationally both physically and virtually. We are also working towards strengthening our capacity and knowledge base to
help us improve our service delivery through networks ie Afrilabs, a network of innovation hubs in Africa.

Compared to your neighbouring countries, how do you think Malawian start-ups and entrepreneurs can make a difference?

They can make a huge difference by developing solutions that solve problems with potential to reach out to larger communities. We have various opportunities that we can be able to utilise as spaces to transform existing processes and have an impact on communities. Our ideas should be able to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a global agenda to make our country, the continent and the world a better place to be. Quality and standards should be highly emphasized as they develop their products and services.

Its always amazing to see and learn how our neighbouring countries are making progress in the business industry and able to export to other countries including Malawi.

Any advice for future entrepreneurs?

My advice for future entrepreneurs is to JUST START, there is no better time. It is quite a challenging space to work in but the passion that drives you should be able to get you places. Best investment is learning both for you and your enterprise development. Be apart of a community and work towards collaborating with Others-You will never achieve a lot by working alone.

Thanks Wangiwe for being part of this first series of interviews about hubs in Africa! 

To know more about Mzuzu E-Hub, go to their website:
https://mzuzuehub.org/

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