Huh. How did you end up there?
Yeah, we get that question a lot. That’s actually a great story. It involves South East Asia, a compelling friend, more than a few wild rides on the back roads of Africa, and a hostel named for the local flame tree. But we will get to that later...
For now, we want to talk to you more about what we’re doing in Malawi and why. A while back, Flame Tree Initiative and Mzuzu University got to talking about how we could work together to create sustainable solutions to some current obstacles:
1) Universities in Malawi are working to build quality extension programs to better interact with their local communities. There are great opportunities here for collaboration and, well…extension. With the evolution of the internet and social enterprise, there are an increasing number of resources available to those who are willing to capitalize on them.
2) The universities are centers of knowledge generation and innovation. They are filled with inspiring people with great ideas. But there are currently minimal services in place to help bring those ideas out into their communities.
3) There are urgent development challenges -- things like access to clean water, food security, and clean energy -- that have solutions. They are being disbursed all over the world and many are being generated right here in Malawi, but they aren’t spreading quickly enough.
So we asked ourselves, how can African universities become catalysts for development? How can educational institutions begin to tackle the regional development challenges that plague their communities?
Thus, our Development Entrepreneurship Lab and DEStudio concepts were born.
We realized we could take the social entrepreneurship model which has seen success all over the world, and adapt it to the university system. Rather than being left in the academic world, the groundbreaking ideas that Mzuzu University students and faculty possess can be transformed into small businesses and self-sustaining nonprofits. These new companies will not only provide jobs, but also begin to provide the technologies needed to alleviate the poverty endemic to the region. Rather than working outside of the general population, Mzuzu University can begin to engage with its community and funnel its knowledge, skills, and innovations out for the benefit of everyone.
Development entrepreneurships — small businesses with not only a social impact, but a development mindset as well — have the ability to transform social context. Through them, low cost technologies which address health, hunger, energy, and the environment can begin to spread across the country.
How? You ask. It’s happening all around us, every day. Motorcycles retrofitted with cold boxes are solving vaccine’s cold chain challenge. A rolling barrel is decreasing the time and physical demands placed on women for water retrieval. A solar lamp gives a little girl extra time to study at night, boosting her chances of breaking the poverty cycle and allowing her to better care for her own family in the future.
Rather than depending on foreign aid, the Malawian people can generate their own economic change through job creation and the provision of sustainable solutions.
Organizations all over the world are finding the answers to key development challenges. Flame Tree and its partners are ready to grow those solutions in Malawi.
Until Next Time,