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International Development Partners Challenge Young Entrepreneurs to seize GA opportunity

The Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Ingrid Marie Mikelsen, has challenged young entrepreneurs in the country to seize the opportunity unveiled with the launch of the Growth Accelerator Cohorts 7 and 8 targeting growth oriented post-revenue ventures.

Cohort 7, a General Window with a multisector focus, is being supported by the Germany Government through the KFW Development Bank, while the Royal Norwegian Embassy is supporting Cohort 8, an Agriculture Special Window for enterprises in the agriculture sector.

Mikelsen challenged potential ventures “to devote their time in developing winning business growth plans which will help them accelerate their business and have meaningful impact on the Malawian economy.”

“The main targeted beneficiaries of cohort 8, which is being launched today, are you, young entrepreneurs, who have a footprint in the agriculture sector and are seeking to accelerate growth of your business,” she emphasised.

On her part, KFW Country Director Daniella Bese said they anticipate that the two entrepreneur challenges “will encourage ventures to embark on a multitude of innovative projects that will exert a tangible, positive, and sustainable influence on the conduct of business and the functioning of markets in Malawi.”  

The Growth Accelerator she said, plays a vital role in accelerating Malawi’s economic development and to increase opportunities for the poor through generating higher incomes and job creation.

The Growth Accelerator which provides opportunities for youth-led high-impact business ventures to access technical assistance, mentorship and co-financing support in the form matching grant of up to US$40,000, is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) private sector growth initiative.

According to Fenella Frost, UNDP Resident Representative, the launch of the two challenges “aims to further accelerate the growth of innovative young ventures that approach poverty alleviation with a business-oriented mindset.”

Frost said the agency understands the inherent risk aboard but this, she emphasised, “is a risk we willingly embrace, recognizing it as an inevitable aspect of supporting young entrepreneurs striving to push boundaries.”

Since its inception in 2018, the Growth Accelerator has supported six cohorts impacting 78 high-impact post-revenue start-ups with matching grants and technical assistance, across value chains.

The two cohorts launched on September 21, 2023, are targeting to recruit 20 ventures, combined, according to GA project manager Tambulani Chunga who said the call for expression of interest for Cohorts 7 and 8 will close on October 20, 2023.

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CALL FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST:  Growth Accelerator Cohort 7, General Window & Cohort 8, Agriculture Special Window

The Growth Accelerator (GA) Malawi is inviting expression of interest (EOI) from private for profit youth-led high-impact post-revenue registered businesses in Malawi to join either Cohort 7, General Window or Cohort 8, Agriculture Special Window. The two windows are competitive and transparent technical assistance, mentorship and matching grant opportunities for ventures.

The GA is a private sector development business acceleration programme managed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding support from development partners. The programme is targeted at investing in business growth plans for ambitious youth-led enterprises in Malawi. The GA provides Mentorship, Technical Assistance and co-financing up to USD$ 40,000 through a 12-months business acceleration programme.

Round 7 is a broad Entrepreneurship Challenge with no sectoral focus supported by the German Development Cooperation, through KfW German Development Bank; Round 8 is an Agriculture Entrepreneurship Challenge, supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Are you a young entrepreneur with appetite for growth? Do you have a product/service on the market? Please express your interest to join either cohort 7 or cohort 8 of the GA by downloading and filling in the application forms available on www.growmalawi.org.

For more, contact Wisdom Chimgwede on wisdom_chimgwede@landell-mill.com.


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Think safety or sink, UNDP tips GA ventures

For your businesses to survive, adhere to Malawi labour laws; ensure that your staff are remunerated according to labour law on minimum wage. This was Etta Mmangisa, the UNDP Social and Environmental Safeguard Specialist, tipping Growth Accelerator (GA) matching grant recipients in Lilongwe.

The 16 ventures under Cohort 6 of the GA, were in Lilongwe for their second Kula (grow) session, a technical assistance workshop designed to empower the youthful entrepreneurs with information and skills to help them propel business growth.

Said Mmangisa: “high staff turnover is a sign of employees’ dissatisfaction therefore; it is important to remunerate employees at the ruling government wages. Anything less, even if employees eat at the workplaces could still trigger labour complaints detrimental to your growth.”

The specialist also advised ventures to ensure that laws in all areas concerning their business are adhered to saying “for businesses that produce smell, have machinery that vibrates and make a lot of noise in course of business operations” safety safeguards should be put in place to avoid triggering community uprising.

“For on-going businesses it is important to conduct a discrete stakeholder consultation to ensure that if there are any concerns, the business will take preventive measures and avoid any grievances against the enterprise,” she emphasised.

She further advised that “where businesses are into the making of organic manure, use of or applications of fertilisers, workers should be encouraged to wear protective clothing, to minimise future complaints.”

Cohort 6 of the GA has three ventures – Funani, Kambewu and Apocalypse – which are into organic fertiliser production.

Mmangisa’s presentation spiced discussions on marketing and competition, the theme for Kula session 2.

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GA Ventures Speak on Business Linkages Event

The UNDP and GIZ held the first-ever joint business linkages event where beneficiaries of their different private sector development project initiatives networked and pitched their enterprises and services.

At least four ventures currently implementing projects under the Growth Accelerator (GA), attended the event which Ottaniel Chezani, Deputy Director of SMEs, Ministry of Trade said was a rare engagement.

“I urge entrepreneurs here to take advantage of the event to build networks,” he said adding “that’s how you build resilience.”


In separate interviews, the GA ventures – E&G Investments, MCM Investments, Funani Organic Fertilizer and Kambewu Organic Fertilizer – expressed their satisfaction.

Said Evelyn Chibambo of E&G: “I met an entrepreneur who is exporting her products to Zambia and we have agreed to collaborate. I have learnt a lot from her and looking forward to having my products exported to Zambia.”

“We have been able to make a deal with Zaulimi App for them to advertise our Kambewu organic Fertilizer at a fair cost for one year. With this, we’ll be able to reach more customers and increase our sales,” chipped in Kambewu Managing Director, Roselyn Kanyinji.

Kambewu also interacted with SMEDI “to help us in the certification of our products at a 50% discount which will take our product to another level.”


While, Funani said “networking with Magomelo college and financial provider NBS bank” was a milestone, MCM’s Sphiwe Mauwa enjoyed networking with successful colleagues.

“I had an interaction with Director for Estrell peanut butter and Tanthwe farms, who inspired me in terms of how to grow in business through marketing and production eg. having traders who buy and sell in offices on credit,” she said.

The business linkages event was a platform set to build and strengthen UNDP and GIZ implementing partner relationships towards sustainable business growth, through knowledge exchange and linkages.

According to Alexandra Farrington-Schomburg, GIZ-GIAE Team Leader, the event provided room for businesses to proactively engage with each other.

“We’re facilitators. We need you to do the move. It’s in your hands. SMEs often walk alone and when they hit a wall, it ends there. Use this event to network,” she said in her opening remarks.

According to Rabi Gaudo, UNDP RSG Portfolio Manager, the business linkages event “served as an invaluable platform to network, learn, and forge business relationships capable of reshaping the business ecosystem.”

He emphasised that “in the business realm, learning from others proves more economical than learning from one’s own mistakes.”

Among other, the event brought together Agri-processors, input and equipment suppliers, Financial Institutions such as bankers and training institutions.

Apart from the GA, over the past decade, UNDP has introduced a variety of facilities and instruments designed to catalyze private sector development in Malawi including the Green Economic Transitioning Facility (GETF), Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF) and Zantchito Entrepreneurship and Access to Finance Program.


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You are the future – KfW tells GA ventures

The KfW Development Bank, a financing arm of the Germany government, has advised young entrepreneurs to look at themselves as the future of the country.

Speaking at the start of a two day Kula (grow) session for the 16 GA Cohort 6 ventures, Edwina Hanjahanja said “we believe that you are the ones who hold the key for Malawi because countries develop through entrepreneurship.”

The KfW are supporting the Growth Accelerator, a UNDP business acceleration program, which supports youth-led start-ups to grow and scale.

“As you might be aware, “Kula” means “grow” or “to grow”. This is the crux of the Growth Accelerator. To accelerate growth, and ultimately grow with you through the GA matching grant and technical assistance support instrument,” said Rabi Gaudo, a UNDP portfolio manager.

According to UNDP, Kula sessions “are the most critical and the very heart of the support package of the Growth Accelerator.”

Day one of the first Kula session, has been an exciting start to a six months’ journey, according to participants.

“The first day has been an eye opener. I have learnt a lot about self-awareness and the whole session has been engaging, a lot of learning and unlearning of my behaviour and attitude as an entrepreneur,” said Rachel Kumwenda, founder of Drone Link.

Her counterpart, Alfred Chisale, owner of Dziwani, a clean cookstove manufacturer, said “it has been a profitable day for me.”

“I think I need to improve on the commitment I have on my business. I’ve learnt a lot today,” he said.

Growth Accelerator Project Manager, Tambulani Chunga is hopeful that the 16 businesses will grow from their current levels saying “I’ll be the happiest person to see all of you grow big on the market.”

Kula sessions are part of the GA grant package Technical Assistance.

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You make us look difficult, banks tell Ventures

Three banks – National Bank, NBS Bank and Standard Bank – working with the Growth Accelerator, have advised SMEs in the country to invest enough efforts to understand their businesses better if they are to access various loans from the banking sector.

They were speaking recently when the UNDP in partnership with the Germany Development Cooperation, unveiled Cohort 6 ventures of the GA, who have been given matching grants to grow their businesses in the next 12 months.

Chimwemwe Chijere, National Bank Head of SME, says “the bank views the SMEs as the engine for growth of the economy.”

“The major challenge that the Bank has faced is non-repayment of loans,” he emphasised, advising SMEs to improve in their record keeping, business planning, resource and people management.

These aspects were echoed by Standard Bank’s Mark Msiska and Chisomo Sibale of NBS bank.

“We don’t just offer loans. We do account analysis,” emphasised Sibale.

On the other hand, Msiska advised the SMEs to work on improving their businesses to attract bank financing quoting Seth Godin who said “don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.

The ventures also heard from Malawi Agricultural and Industrial Investment Cooperation(MAIIC), a development financing institution established in 2019 to be the leading enabler of high impact economic development in Malawi.

According to Alfred Kalumbi, MAICC Financial Analyst, there is potential for Malawi’s growth through SMEs if they invest time in growing their businesses.

The GA cohort 6 ventures were accorded a one-on-one opportunity to hear more from the four financial institutions as they look to access products to finance their part of the matching grants.

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Standards experts tip GA ventures

The Growth Accelerator (GA) Cohort 6 business venture owners had a rare opportunity during their first ecosystem event on 21st July 2023, where standards experts tipped them on critical aspects essential to their business growth.

The Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) Senior Certification Officer, Raphael Mpingo, advised the SMEs to take standards seriously, if they want to grow.

“Invest in quality because that’s all your customers need,” he said.

According to Mpingo, standards are not a one size fits all measure saying various sectors and products have their specific standards all being enforced by the MBS.

An International Standards Organisation (ISO) expert, Dr. Abiola Abimbola of NetHost, emphasised on the need for the businesses to invest in continuous improvement.

He said constant feedback from customers is essential for companies to keep improving the quality of their products and services.

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Cohort 6 ventures unveiled

Some 16 youth-led business ventures under Cohort 6 of the Growth Accelerator (GA), supported with matching grant and Technical Assistance, were officially unveiled at an ecosystem event on Friday 21st July 2023.

The event accorded the SMEs an interface with various stakeholders including financial institutions, Malawi Bureau of Standards and International ISO Standards Expert.

The 16 are looking to upscale their businesses in the next 12 months with efforts that have potential to create 730 new jobs, in various areas of the Malawi economy.

This cohort of the UNDP led initiative is being supported by the German Development Cooperation through KfW.

According to Carolyn Kanjala, a representative of the Germany Development Cooperation, through the 16 SMEs, the Germany government anticipates growth, not only for the companies, but the Malawi economy as a whole.

She emphasised: “we consider the Growth Accelerator to be a flagship project, as it offers solutions during these difficult economic times being experienced globally.”

Cinzia Tecce who represented the UNDP said that since the launch of GA in 2018, some 600 Malawians have accessed fulltime employment while 6,000 others have accessed services and products through the five previous cohorts of the GA program.

Tecce advised the ventures to look beyond the monetary value of the facility saying the most valuable aspect is the Technical Assistance available to help them grow their business ventures, sustainably.

“This program has assisted so many ventures take a deep dive into their businesses and rethink their growth strategy,” she says.

The GA Project Manager, Tambulani Chunga, echoed saying “we have been tasked to work with you, ventures, to help you grow.”

“Our role is to help you realise your dreams. From today onwards, we will be interested to work with business owners not employees because we want people who can make decisions on behalf of the businesses in order to grow their capacity monetarily, as well as in business acumen skills,” he said.

Three of the 16 ventures, Apocalypse Waste Management Solutions, Funani and Kambewu, are into organic fertiliser production and are looking to start producing granulated fertilizer products. Another one in organic fertiliser is Vegan Africa Waste Management.

Other ventures under cohort 6 are Akhada Baskets, Aycees & Tees Investment, Chiweto, Drone Link, Dziwani Investments, E&G Investments, Kayola Processors. Malasha Briquettes, MCM Investments, Nkhotakota Steadfast Cooperations for Youth, Planet Green Africa and Yewo.

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GA ventures to create over 730 jobs

GA Project Manager, Tambulani Chunga

The Growth Accelerator (GA), a UNDP SMEs matching grant and technical assistance programme, is poised to create over 730 jobs in the next 12 months, following the contracting of 16 ventures under cohort 6 of the initiative.

Of the total jobs to be created, 125 are envisaged to be fulltime jobs, 605 seasonal and some 1,000 smallholder farmers having ready markets for their various locally produced commodities such as sunflower, rice, to be supplied to SMEs producing various products, including cooking oil.

At the same time, significant number of innovative products and services are going to be scaled up and sold in the local and regional markets, thereby increasing revenue streams for the supported ventures. 

“We are now done contracting the 16 ventures and we are confident that these companies are poised for growth which is the essence of the GA facility,” says Tambulani Chunga, GA Project Manager.

According to Chunga, most of the ventures are expected to start work using the matching grant, which requires applicants to put in 30 percent of the total budget, by mid-July, 2023.

Over 50 percent of the jobs to be created, will employ women and/or youths across the regions of the country.

Says Chunga: “The impact is beyond the SMEs being supported with direct injection of capital into their businesses, these modest investments are expected to contribute to the economic development of the country.”

With average Malawian household of five members, the 125 fulltime jobs are expected to impact 625 people through improvement in livelihood at household level.

Combined, the companies will generate revenue of above K1.1 billion at the close of 12 months from over K860 million investment supported by KfW through UNDP.

Once the investments reach full potential, annual revenues are expected to be more than double, reaching above K3.2 Billion combined annual sales, according to Chunga.

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