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Malawi Socio Economic Forum: Youth Entrepreneurship

By Rebecca Gross, Executive Director at Student Driven Solutions

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Malawi Youth Socio Economic Forum

On March 28th I attended the Malawi Socio Economic Forum supported by Standard Bank in partnership with UNICEF A4AY and the Government of Malawi. As the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Student Driven Solutions that provides financial literacy and business training to women and girls in Malawi I was keen to hear the conversations taking place surrounding the topic of youth entrepreneurship. I was both inspired and humbled to hear about the great work taking place to address the gaps surrounding youth employment in Malawi.

So what did I learn?

We need to create a conductive environment for youth entrepreneurship, especially for young women, in Malawi and we need to do it now. The following are some highlights from the Malawi Youth Status Report 2016 that emphasize this point.

  • 66% of Malawians are under the age of 25 and the median age is 17 years
  • “There are almost no work opportunities for girls. Hence, they hook up with older men for money.” –Youth consultations, Lilongwe
  • The economic exclusion of women can often exacerbate their powerlessness in relationships. Economic independence can reduce domestic violence and improve gender relations within the home, for example.
  • 1% of young females and 7.1% of young males are not in employment nor in education or training

Malawi has a very young population that has the potential to create great opportunities. Entrepreneur Rachel Sibande reflects, “youth are creative, enthusiastic, and keen to learn.” But, it’s not so easy to be a young entrepreneur in Malawi.

  • The Honorable Vice President of the Republic of Malawi Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima’s speech underlined the key barriers to youth entrepreneurs
    • Lack of access to capital
    • Lack of business education
    • Limited access to business services
    • Poor regulations affecting business entry
  • Furthermore, Rachel Sibande noted that the curriculum trains youth to be job seekers when what we need is job creators

Ok so there’s a problem and it seems pretty big. How are we going to address it?

Involve the private sector.

  • Invest in innovation through promising entrepreneurs and both the private and public sector will benefit. Standard Bank appears to be leading the charge on this front. They recently partnered with UNICEF to provide business and career advising to secondary school girls in Malawi. Thank you Standard Bank!

Continue the work that is already being done.

  • Among these are the Global Apprenticeship Network, the National Youth Service Program, and Small Medium Enterprise Development Institute (SMEDI). Having partnered with SMEDI through my role at Student Driven Solutions I can attest to the great work they are doing to develop SMEs in Malawi.

Encourage young entrepreneurs.

  • “Listen to your dreams and get started. People will disappoint you…however through disappointment you can get clarity and through clarity you can get originality. Believe in yourself. Follow your dream…. Let excellence be your mantra as you continue to develop the brand called you.” -Honorable Vice President of the Republic of Malawi Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima

As someone deeply passionate about the need to invest in comprehensive programs targeted to Malawi’s youth I am happy to see conversations like these are taking place between the private and public sectors. Please my fellow colleagues, let’s not just talk, let’s take action and commit ourselves to creating a conducive environment for Malawi’s youth to thrive, and so too will the nation thrive.

July 27: 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit

President Obama attended the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit this weekend in Nairobi. His speech is so on point and so in fitting with our goals and vision at Student Driven Solutions that we wanted to share it with all of our supporters. Thank you all for believing in the power of entrepreneurship to create positive change around the world. #GES2015 #positivechange

March 21: Lesson 4

Our students learned more about how to develop a budget today. This lesson is a continuation from last week’s needs and wants lesson. The girls are working hard to develop skills that will help them to start their social enterprises in a couple months.

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Mr. Phiri leading the class and engaging the students

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Focusing on the lesson of the day: Budgeting

Our students are hard at work!

Our students are hard at work!

March 16: Mzuzu Entrepreneurship Fair

Over the weekend our founder, Rebecca Gross, attended the Mzuzu Entrepreneurship Fair organized in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Rebecca had the opportunity to speak with Malawians who are doing creative and innovative work to bring about change in their areas. She was honored to discuss our vision for Student Driven Solutions with the honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, Grace Obama Chiumia, members from the U.S. Embassy, and leaders at UNICEF. We hope for a lasting relationship with the Ministry of Youth and Sport as together we motivate young women to develop their country through entrepreneurship!

The Honorable Minister of Youth and Sport Grace Obama Chiumia visiting the entrepreneurs in partnership with the U.S. Embassy

The Honorable Minister of Youth and Sport Grace Obama Chiumia visiting the entrepreneurs in partnership with the U.S. Embassy

The African Women Entrepreneurship Program helps connect women with markets to sell their products

The African Women Entrepreneurship Program helps connect women with markets to sell their products.  

These guys bring low-cost electricity to villages in the north of Malawi

These guys bring low-cost electricity to villages in Malawi

Kondwani designed a low-cost fuel efficient burner that relies on recycled materials rather than firewood. This will free up time from searching for firewood and will also improve the environment!

Kondwani designed a low-cost fuel efficient burner that relies on recycled materials rather than firewood. This will free up time from searching for firewood and will also improve the environment!

March 14: Lesson 3

Ms. Mpango introduced the lesson on the difference between needs and wants when designing a basic budget. The students worked in groups to create budgets and savings plans. The mentors helped facilitate the discussions and group work.

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March 11: Reserve Bank of Malawi joins us for financial literacy week

We were honored to be selected by the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to participate in International Financial Literacy Week. Representatives from RBM spoke about how financial institutions work, how to open a bank account, and the importance of saving and budgeting for a safe future. As they said, “save today, safe tomorrow.” We agree! Thank you to RBM for supporting our efforts to build a financially literate nation.

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Welcoming the Reserve Bank of Malawi to Malindi 

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Representative from RBM asking the students questions about budgeting and saving

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Our girls proudly walking away with financial literacy information packets to share with friends and family

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Together, we are building a financially literate nation.

Thank you Reserve Bank of Malawi!

March 7: Lesson 2

Our students discussed what it means to be an active citizen and how they can work together to identify problems in their communities. Great work young leaders!

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February 28th: Launch Day

Today was the big day! We have officially launched our program. We are so grateful to the Head Chief, the Church leaders, the teachers, guardians, and the community members who graced our opening event. We believe in forming a lasting relationship with Malindi Day Secondary School and the community. We are thankful that we have met many who share our mission to promote girls education and empower girls to develop their communities through financial literacy training.

In attendance, the Head Chief, Church leaders, teachers, guardians, and community members

In attendance, the Head Chief, Church leaders, teachers, guardians, and community members

Our mentors organized a fantastic lesson. The students participated in activities to get to know one another. They discussed what they look for in a girl they can trust. They split into teams and talked about the value of working in a team and some of the challenges that teams may face. To end the lesson, the girls presented their team discussions to those present at the event. Great job to our young leaders!

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We are off to a running start! Now the real work begins. Please join us in empowering our thirty girls at Malindi Day Secondary School to develop their communities. These girls are counting on us. We appreciate your support.

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Let’s empower girls together!

February 24th:

Today, a few members of our team were officially welcomed by Malindi’s headmaster, Mr. Tepani. We also met with several teachers at Malindi. We are happy to announce our secondary school teachers who will be joining our team. Please welcome Mr. Phiri and Ms. Mpango! We are eagerly awaiting our program launch this Saturday, February 28th!

February 20th:

We’ve made it to the News! Check out an article by The Maravi Post about Student Driven Solutions!

February 19th:

Founder, Rebecca Gross, attended the 5th National Network on Girls Education Meeting focused on reducing early marriages and improving education for girls. Rebecca was grateful to speak with representatives of incredibly impactful organizations working towards empowering girls in Malawi. In attendance was the honorable spouse of the vice president, Mary Chilima as well as representatives from UN Women, Save the Children, UNICEF, and many other international and local organizations that are making a difference in the lives of girls in Malawi. She shared our story and learned from the stories of others. In sharing our story, Rebecca was asked for an interview by Channel for All Nations Radio and was later featured in their news segments that day! Here are the clips:

February 18th:

We are very pleased to announce our partnership school, Malindi Day Secondary School, based in Zomba, Malawi. With the support of YODEP, we have been welcomed by Malindi and the headmaster has already begun raising awareness for our program amongst the students, guardians, teachers, and community members. In fact, the students are completing applications to be reviewed by next Tuesday! We will be interviewing the top-three teachers identified by Malindi’s headmaster to select our teacher next week. All this means, we will be ready to launch by March!

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February 14th:

Our program directors had a very productive trip to Zomba this weekend. We met with the directors of a community-based youth organization called YODEP who has generously agreed to help us secure a beneficiary school for Student Driven Solutions. They were excited to learn about our program and our goal to promote locally appropriate and sustainable financial literacy education  to girls in Malawi. We are very grateful for their support and we look forward to getting to know the school community during our next visit to Zomba in two weeks! After meeting with the directors at YODEP, we drove to Chancellor College to meet with the lovely ladies who will be mentoring our students. Our mentors will be joining us as part of a program called Little Big Prints. We are so happy to have them on board! Look out for their bios which will be going up on our website shortly.

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 Our Mentor-Leadership Team

January 25th:

I’d like to share a blog post written by one of our Chancellor College mentors who is joining us as a member of Little Big Prints.

January 15th:

Check out the latest blog post written by our program director, Elita Chamdimba, about Student Driven Solution’s exciting partnership with Little Big Prints.

January 10th:

Check out the latest post on The Preppy Postgrad about what motivated our founder, Rebecca Gross, to launch Student Driven Solutions.