With more than half the population of Malawi being the youth, there has been a rallying call for the country to tap into this demographic dividend to reap economic benefits.
In an apparent response to this, Malawian youth have gone full throttle beaming with ideas that could transform the economic fortunes of the country.
Among them are young people who have for the past decade set on an journey that could revolutionise the country’s developing information communication technology (ICT) industry.
From innovations, entrepreneurship and more importantly leadership, Malawi’s future seems to be in good hands.
Taking his stake in Malawi’s ICT future is Lusungu Mkandawire, a 30-year-old Information Security Manager working with the telecommunications company Airtel.
He was recently awarded a fellowship by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) to participate in a four-month work placement at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) in London.
The CSC fellowship programme offers a wonderful opportunity for mid-career ICT professionals from full member countries to carry out well-defined work programmes that contribute to strengthening the ICT sector of their home countries.
Before joining Airtel Malawi, Lusungu had stints with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and KPMG where he worked as a Systems Administrator and Senior IT Auditor respectively. This work experience inculcated in him a passion and love for risk management and cyber security.
The application process for the CSC fellowship programme was quite a competitive one with hundreds of applicants from Commonwealth countries vying for two slots. Lusungu’s application focussed on National Cyber Security, Cybercrime and ICT for Disaster Management.
“Most organisations in Malawi do not have comprehensive risk management programmes to address or mitigate risks they face. 0As such, risks are not addressed in strategic manner, or if addressed, are addressed in an ad hoc manner which usually results in financial losses to these organisations,” Lusungu says.
As part of the fellowship, he has had time to complete the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control, IT Certification to help him build greater understanding about the impact of IT risk and how it relates to the overall organisation goals and aspirations.
“With this knowledge I will help Malawi develop comprehensive risk management strategies to deal with existing and emerging threats,” he says.
In fact Lusungu has already been roped into the task of developing Malawi’s first ever cyber security strategy. He sits in the technical working group.
Mkandawire has also had time to get exposed to project management. He observes that many Malawian projects fail before delivering their intended products as there is no systematic management of the projects.
“Project management is about planning, delegating, monitoring and controlling all aspects of a project. With the knowledge that I have acquired, I will be able to manage projects from end to end and deliver the required products as expected within defined time frames,” he says.
A graduate from the Polytechnic of the University of Malawi, Mkandawire has set his eyes on also leaving a mark on Malawi’s ICT studies. He wants to get involved in curricula development for higher education institutions in Malawi and promote research and development.
“As cyber security becomes much more critical in developing countries, I hope to use my knowledge, skills and experience to improve the security posture of Malawi and its neighbouring countries. I will achieve this through education and awareness programs that I will initiate when I come back in Malawi,” he said.
Living in London has also helped Mkandawire take stock of Malawi’s ICT industry in comparison with that of the United Kingdom.
“The ICT sector has grown rapidly in Malawi over the past couple of years. As evidenced in the recent efforts to develop the National Cyber Security Strategy or the recent passing in the National Assembly of the Electronic Transactions Bill, the Government of Malawi has done a lot of work to provide an environment that enables the leveraging of ICTs for further development of the nation,” he said.
He however observes that despite such progress, a lot of work still needs to be done to enable Malawi fully benefit from the developmental impacts of ICTs.
“Organisations can look at increasing productivity by embracing emerging technologies such as IoT, cloud computing, e-commerce, mobile technologies, virtual currency, TV Whitespace projects and Big Data,” Mkandawire said.
Lusungu has also had the opportunity to learn from London’s cosmopolitan culture. One thing that struck him was the city’s pace.
“One other thing that stood out for me is how prompt or punctual people are. For instance, meetings start on time and trains depart on time,” he says.
This is one of the lessons that he wants to bring home to Malawi’s youths. That it is time to catch up.
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