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Propping up youths’ dreams

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By Whyghtone Kapasule:

DILIGENT—Chabuka operates a motorised milling machine

From job hunting to job creation, it is actually possible. The world has no shortage of people who, with adequate support, realised their entrepreneurial dreams. Sylvester Chabuka’s success story is a living testimony in that regard.

The 24-year- o ld, who graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health, is living his dream having established a flourishing business that puts him at its apex as the Managing Director. He calls his firm Mtengo Wakumunda.

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The doors to his business dreamland opened in May 2019 when he secured a youth loan from Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (Medf) under the Youths and Women Loans that former president Peter Mutharika launched.

Medf Chief Executive Officer, Mervis Mangulenje, recalls that the institution had all the confidence in Chabuka from the very beginning.

“We saw the potential in this young man when we met him at Smedi during their graduation ceremony and he had displayed his product at the pavilion. He explained passionately his plans and his major challenge was access to finance.

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“Later, we engaged him and were impressed with his business plan and approved his initial loan. Now that the business has reached this stage, we have considered giving him an additional loan to increase his working capital to catapult him to his dream,” Mangulenje says.

She adds that Mabuka is also employing others thereby fulfilling one of the pillars of the loan fund that it should create employment.

“Medf’s mandate is to empower the youth and set up their businesses and provide employment to others. It is pleasing that Sylvester is realising his dream,” she says.

But that was after Chabuka had struggled for two years to access capital from friends, relatives and other financiers.

He recalls: “My uncle managed to give me K15,000 and I used this money to make my first product of porridge flour. That capital was inadequate, hence the business failed. I then decided to make personal savings and obtain a loan to finance the enterprise.”

He may not have failed because he did not have proper training in business. In October 2017, he was recruited by the Ministry of Agriculture and [New Partnership for Africa’s Development] to undergo a three-month agribusiness and entrepreneurship training at Small and Medium Enterprise Development Institute (Smedi).

Well trained, business-oriented but under-resourced, he went on to establish Mtengo Wakumunda which has eventually grown and offers employment to four more youths on top of casual labourers within the vicinity of Mvama Police Station in Lilongwe’s Area 49. All that is thanks to the loan he accessed from Medf.

The excited Chabuka says: “The loan package involved working capital and asset financing of a motorised milling machine which helped me in the procurement of raw materials, packaging and extra machinery.”

Having procured the motorised milling machine, he rented a building that became his factory. Four months down the line, production commenced and sales began to rise. He had played a significant role in import substitution.

Initially, Mtengo Wakumunda started with one product, Wamkaka Porridge Flour which is a naturally fortified cereal blend flour which can be used to cook porridge. The flour is highly nutritious as it contains soybean, maize, groundnuts, rice, sugar and milk recommended for the entire family and can be consumed as a porridge or gruel.

“The flour is rich in proteins, iron, fats, vitamins and calcium, making it ideal for body building and reducing malnutrition among its consumers. It is ideal for children’s development and adults’ nutrition requirements,” Chabuka says.

Mtengo Wakumunda with an asset base of around K8 million is proving a leader in value chain. The firm procures raw materials direct from farmers through field agents.

To ensure that it is compatible with international quality standards, the firm has undergone a nutrition assessment on Wamkaka Porridge Flour carried out by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).

“We bought the MS21 code of hygiene and we have met most of the conditions and are waiting for MBS to assess our premises. Completion of this stage will enable us penetrate the retail shops and the international market,” Chabuka explains.

Apart from Wamkaka Flour, the firm’s medium-term plan is to introduce other products such as maize flour for nsima and peanut butter.

The bottom line is simple: Young people do not need magic to change the world. They carry all the power the world needs inside them. What is important, according to Chabuka, is to stay rational and stick to one’s business ingenuity and make Malawi prosperous.

Hope should be rising for many other young people as the government has increased the Medf Youth and Women loans from K15 billion to K40 billion as announced by Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu in his provisional budget statement presented in Parliament on June 30.

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