Innovation and youth-led “business unusual” entrepreneurship for poverty reduction

The press conference for the launch of the Growth Accelerator in Malawi
The press conference for the launch of the Growth Accelerator in Malawi

May 4th, 2018. The term “Doing business unusual” accurately describes the “Growth Accelerator” Market Test that the United Nations Development Programme, Royal Norwegian Embassy, mHub and GrowthAfrica have embarked on, to support innovative and youth-led enterprises in the country.

Announcing the project at a Press Conference that took place on the 3rd of May 2018 in Lilongwe, The UNDP Resident Representative, Maria Jose Torres described the Growth Accelerator programme as an exciting journey that will promote the increased participation of youth in the economic affairs of Malawi.

This is about finding new ways of doing things. It is about giving opportunities to young entrepreneurs who have creative and innovative ideas but do not have the funding to make those ideas into reality,” said Ms. Torres.

She further said “As UNDP, we are venturing into a space that has been uncommon for development partners in Malawi to invest in. This is an area that has a lot of risks and we are prepared for those risks because we recognize that a vibrant and ambitious private sector can bring innovation and sustainable solutions to Malawi’s development challenges.”

In concurring with her, the Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy to Malawi, Kikkan Haugen described the Growth Accelerator programme as one of the strategies that will help Malawi become independent from its reliance on aid and bring in economic growth.

“We cannot have development without the private sector driving the economic growth of the country. And as a longtime partner to Malawi, we are therefore committed to support entrepreneurship and new investments for the development of the private sector,” said Ambassador Haugen.

Amongst the panelists of the Press briefing, was Ms. Rachael Sibande, a renowned technology expert, computer scientist, entrepreneur and the director and founder of mHub, the implementing partner for the Growth Accelerator programme.

She described the acceleration program as a first of its kind in the country and that it should be appreciated and recognized as such. She commended the government’s presence at the event, as a sign of commitment to Small and Medium enterprises as key drivers of the economy.

“This programme will help the young entrepreneurs in Malawi to move from being job seekers to become job creators. Our aim to create solutions, products and services that will go beyond Malawi, and help solve global challenges,” she said.

In his remarks, the Executive Director and Partner of GrowthAfrica, Mr. Ian Lorenzen said the organization will bring in practical programme designs and methodologies that has been tested and used across other African countries to help bring out the young entrepreneurs in Malawi.

Speaking at the press briefing, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Hon. Henry Mussa stressed on the importance of being strategic in the dissemination of relevant information about the Growth Accelerator programme to the young entrepreneurs across the country.

He urged the media that were present at the Conference to use all possible and necessary means in taking the messages to Malawians. He emphasized against the practice by the media who at times, neglect to give information that is comprehensive to the masses.

 “The youth in Malawi face a lot of challenges, including the lack of employment, despite having qualifications. We therefore should find solutions to help address such challenges. Without doubt, Small and Medium Enterprises have immense potential to positively transform the lives of many. This Growth and Accelerator Market Test is very important and will complement the efforts that the ministry is already implementing,” said the Minister.

He emphasized on the importance of entrepreneurship as a special skill that need to be clarified and understood to ensure that the youth have the knowledge on how to manage and succeed in their business ventures.

The Growth Accelerator market test programme will help to accelerate innovative, business ideas for companies led by the youth. It will give an opportunity to the young entrepreneurs to access funding in the form of matching grants up to 40,000 USD. Those enterprises will ultimately help create jobs, make social impact and promote private sector development and entrepreneurship in the country.

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