SHEAMA empowers Malawian entrepreneurs with financial grants
The SHEAMA project was developed by the University of Arizona in the United States of America and is being implemented in partnership with Malawi’s five public universities namely, Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS), University of Malawi (UNIMA), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), and Mzuzu University with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.
The grants award ceremony took place at MUBAS on 28 August 2023. Each awardee walked home with two thousand US Dollars for their exceptional business concepts and innovations.
According to SHEAMA Chief of Party, Dr. Zikani Kaunda, the five-year project aims to improve access to higher education by providing scholarships and skills development to the most vulnerable Malawi society, especially the youth, to increase employability and job creation. Through the five public universities in Malawi, the project introduced entrepreneurial and market-driven courses besides offering Open Distance e-learning (ODeL) programs to mitigate the problem of limited access to tertiary education. The project dubbed’ Dream Builder ‘has also nurtured a generation of young entrepreneurs who are expected to contribute to Malawi’s economic growth and development agenda.
Dr. Kaunda added that in addition to the support to the awardees SHEAMA also bailed out 259 students from the five public universities who were at risk of withdrawing from their university education due to financial constraints to a tune of 92 million kwacha under the SHEAMA project,’’.
The Vice Chancellor of MUBAS, Associate Professor Nancy Chitera, emphasised that the SHEAMA project has an invaluable contribution to the country’s educational landscape.
“We cannot mention open and distance learning here at MUBAS without mentioning SHEAMA; this project has not only transformed the lives of our students but also brought about a positive change to our nation as a whole”, she said.
‘’ The business ideas and innovations that the awardees have come up with will bring a great difference to the University and the nation. The financial grants will help the entrepreneurs to build their businesses and pursue their dreams,’’ Chitera added.
USAID representative Bryan Dwyer expressed hope that the awardees will bring their business plans to fruition. Dwyer said that education is a rock on which all dreams are founded. He also highlighted the many roles young people can play in national development, and he encouraged the youth to find innovative solutions for the challenges faced by the nation.
Speaking during the event, the guest of honour, Dr. Levis Eneya, The Director of Higher Education in Malawi, said the grants will assist the awardees in their businesses and projects.
“The initiative undertaken by SHEAMA will help to create more job opportunities for the youth because as the businesses of these young men and women grow, they will also employ others‘’ said Dr. Eneya.
He commended the awardees for creating job opportunities for themselves and others instead of waiting for government employment.
Owen Frank Makodza, one of the recipients of the financial grant, spoke passionately on behalf of all the awardees. “With gratitude, we extend our appreciation to the SHEAMA project and its partners for this life-changing opportunity”, Makodza said. He emphasised how the financial grant would give them the confidence and resources to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas and take their projects to the next level. He also thanked SHEAMA for showing faith in their business ideas, promising that they will make the most from the grants they have received.
SHEAMA, through the DreamBuilder initiative, has managed to provide tertiary education to over nine thousand youths in Malawi during its 5-year implementation span. These were mainly in short market-driven courses, diploma and degree programmes. SHEAMA has also introduced 41 entrepreneurial studies in the five public universities in Malawi. Close to two hundred business plans were submitted to SHEAMA, and thirty were awarded a financial grant. Among the business plans awarded were piggery, website development, soap processing, innovative farm and food processing.