Polytechnic Innovation Hub—the leading incubator of innovation in Malawi

Article   Mercy Garnet & Chapter Banda   September 20, 2018
PIC: The Innovation Hub
Malawi`s population is made up of people under the age of 18, making Malawi one of the youngest populations in Africa. This youthful population presents a great opportunity for change. On the other hand, it also presents a significant dependency burden on Malawi`s working–age population. The Innovation Hub is a vital place because it allows the youth`s innovative products and services to be identified, developed and matured for scale.

It is a collaboration between UNICEF Malawi and The Polytechnic of the University of Malawi, a platform for promoting youth participation in innovation for development through skills building, mentorship, collaboration and support for innovative products and services that directly contribute to Malawi`s development. 

Three years ago, no fee was imposed on any member, and the hub had thousands of members, of which most of them were not innovative enough. The hub mostly acted as a study room and many people would go for internet access. Today, after introducing a fee of K1000 per member, the hub has 320 active, innovative and serious members. There are several prototypes that the members have developed, which have taken them to places they never thought they would go, including the United States of America, Japan and the United Kingdom, just to mention a few. 

Some of the Polytechnic members of the hub been very innovative. Enelys Pemba, developed sanitary reusable pads; Misael Buliani developed ICT village education initiative and drone innovation; Dumisani Kaliati developed dosage detector and system; and Samson Fiado developed easy books software. There are also others who did not go out but have great innovations like, Carolyn Njolomole, who developed carpet making and a clean-environment initiative. Chaka Phiri developed inspiring positive innovations initiative, and Adams Carriot Michael developed clean battery acid and food herbals and supplements. 

A 23-year-old Polytechnic student under Continuing Education Center, studying computing and information systems diploma Level 5, Samuel Mkango owns an organization, Connector Malawi Initiative, which started last year and has been activated this year.  It involves promoting academic excellence and empowerment, environmental Health, environmental management, and entrepreneurship. 

“As you know, most of the people in Malawi live in rural areas. This has made me and my team start working in rural areas. We have started with Blantyre rural areas, where we are empowering girls’ education, taking care of the environment through teaching people on how to prevent water, air and land pollution. And we are also teaching the communities on how to prevent communicable and non-communicable diseases,” he explained.    

 He is encouraging his fellow students to join the Polytechnic Innovation hub because it is the only place that can change their thinking capacity and how they see things. “Here at innovation hub is not a place where you will have to pay a lot of money; with only K1000, you can gain something that can change lives,” he said. “It is time that you should do something; we should not wait for government to provide us with everything,” he continued.

According to the hub’s acting manager, Misael Buliani, other requirements for one to be a member of innovation hub are the following: one must come up with an innovative idea, and he or she should be committed to it;  The individual must be able to win the trust of fellow members, must have a spirit of team work, and should be someone who is able to collaborate with others.

Since it was established, the hub has managed to network with different companies and organizations, both local and international, to improve innovativeness among the youths. The students are using available resources to develop innovations that are helping to improve living standards among some Malawians and advancing technologies. The hub has also managed to produce a number of members that are now young achievers.

The organizations and companies affiliated with the hub are Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), UNICEF-Malawi, and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the World Bank, Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM), Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), and Mzuzu University. Currently, it is working with University of Malawi, Collage of Medicine, through its Social Initiative Health project, Huawei mobile, by empowering the kids in terms of programing, and Population Service International Malawi through Connector Malawi Initiative project.

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