Story By: Fazilla Tembo – Contributor (The Nation Newspaper Malawi)


For Siyaphela Makunganya 33years old, who operates private ambulance services in Zomba, his dream has come true.

The dream started in 2018 when his grandfather living in some part of Balaka district fell sick and there was need for a vehicle to urgently carry the patient to hospital. But all efforts failed and the old man died two hours later.

It then dawned on sad Makunganya that if private ambulance services were available, lives could be saved.
“I embarked on a research from inside and outside the country and I found that many such services do exist in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa,” he explained in an interview.

“However, I realized that running such business required huge capital but that did not discourage me,” he continued.

Makunganya connected himself to a Nigerian organization called Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) where he successfully got a $5000 grant and used the part of the funds to purchase a second hand Vannette minibus, which he customized to become an ambulance.

The major breakthrough for Makunganya came in 2020 when a client in Matawale, one of the renowned townships in Zomba, tipped him about Growth Accelerator Programme.

This is an initiative run by MHub in partnership with Growth Africa – Growth Frontiers with support from United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Malawi, KfW, and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

The program seeks to support high-impact post revenue businesses with co-financing of up to $40,000, mentorship and technical assistance.

Makunganya successfully applied for $2,100 only, not knowing he could apply for a grant of up to $40,000 and get it.

When Makunganya realized that he had left a whopping $38,000 behind, he re-applied for it and got the funds in tranches.

“I got the first tranche of $3,000 which I channeled towards marketing my company through adverts and banners,” he explained.

“My desire was to have more ambulances: so when I got the remaining funding, I grew my business to where it is now,” he said.

Makunganya procured two sophisticated ambulances using the subsequent GAP grant tranches and the new vehicles have increased visibility of his business, Zomba Private Ambulance (ZPA) services.

Although he started the ambulance services business without any medical background Makunganya outsources off-duty nurses and clinicians who work in shifts to run the business.

Besides, ZPA services has also created jobs for over 10 people in Zomba.

With the publicity and visibility, Makunganya’s ambulance services business started receiving many calls around Zomba.

The founder and managing director of ZPA services recalls that in 2021 renowned musician, Lucius Banda, hired the firm to offer services at Sand Music Festival in Mangochi after seeing the adverts.

“The firm has now grown compared to the past, before joining the GA initiative,” explained Makunganya, adding: “The training and mentorship that we got from the initiative on bookkeeping and reporting has really contributed to our growth.”

Makunganya also recalls that his business thrived sharply towards the end of 2019 and early 2020 in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.

With cases of COVID-19 on the increase, ZPA services was overwhelmed with calls to ferry clients to hospital, or to take those discharged from hospital back home.

According to the proprietor, another factor that has contributed to the growth of ZPA services is the affordability of their charges which range from K10,000 to K30,000 per trip.

Zomba ambulances are also available to ferry dead bodies from hospital to given destination.

Having registered success, one would think Makunganya’s dream is fully realized. But that is not what this enterprenuer Is thinking: he want to expand his business farther and beyond.

“I want to reach out to other districts in the country, and I want to expand to other neighbouring countries like Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa,” explained the ZPA services founder, who hails from Group Village Headman Jere, T/A Kalembo in Balaka district.

“In future, I want to expand to air ambulance sexpanto airlift those in need of medical attention elsewhere, outside the country,” he concluded.

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Amazing bakes is one among eleven businesses that are benefiting from the fifth cohort of the Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge. Mwabi Msiska is a cofounder of Amazing Bakes a confectionery and beverages company situated in Zomba district.


Amazing Bakes is receiving a grant of $40,000.00 that is being used to purchase industrial equipment to improve their production processes. “Before the grant, what used to happen is that everything was done manually. So when the fruits arrived at the factory, women would get table knives and peel the fruits and then using the same knives, chop the fruits before we start the boiling.”


Other than the financial support that they are receiving from the programme, Amazing bakes is also receiving technical support that helps them identify gaps in their businesses and possible ways of closing those gaps in order to scale up the business. “Before the trainings our business was almost not structured at all. We were just running things in an ad hoc fashion. But with the trainings we’ve received so far, we have are now able to structure our team in order to improve accountability as well as to foster the anticipated growth.”


The Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship challenge supports high-growth post-revenue entrepreneurs with co-financing of up to $40,000.00, mentorship, and technical assistance to help them grow and scale. The program is run by MHub in partnership with GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, with support from UNDP Malawi, #KFW, and the #RoyalNorwegianEmbassy

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Dairy Times News Paper- https://times.mw/  (Fazilla Tembo-Cobtributer)

Over 60 local entrepreneurs have benefited from Growth Accelerator Malawi program with technical skills, mentorship and risk capital grant of up to $40,000 each since its inception in 2018. mHub in partnership with Growth Africa are implementing the initiative with support from  Royal Norwegian Embassy and KfW through The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) .

mHub Communications Manager, Karen Manda Nyasulu said in an interview that the program targets youthful high impact revenue businesses looking to grow and scale. “When selected, we first equip them with various skills that are crucial in running, maintaining and sustaining their businesses,” she said.  Nyasulu added that most of the businesses have accelerated and have created jobs among youths.

One of the beneficiaries of the program, Ewan Phiri, Managing Director at SouthEast Group, manufacturers of Mkango Corn Puffs in Mangochi boasted of his company’s growth from the accelerator program. “We needed finances as well as trainings to accelerate our business and that was the aim of joining the program,” he said. Phiri said the organizations provided the much needed support of $40,000 grant which has been used to procure larger output corn processor, automatic packing machine, delivery van as well as construction of sanitation building. Previously, he said, the company was failing to reach the demand because the supply was very little.

Another beneficiary of the program, Hazzat Pillani of Balaka Limeworks Supply Company, said his company was slowly growing due to lack of funds and technical expertise in financial management.  “We have increased production of lime from the 10 metric tonnes to 40 metric tonnes per day,” he said. Pillani said the joining of the program has scaled up the business as the company has now purchased a bigger Boremill to process lime. He said: “This was a great relief to us because it has increased the capacity of production.” Pillani said they have increased their customer base with companies like Optichem, Alliance One, Press Agriculture and Poultry companies requesting for orders in large quantities. The company employs over 50 people and supports 40 small miners as well 300 women from the communities who sell lime stones to the factory.

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Berias Unyolo is a co-founder of Mundawathu Gardens, one of the eleven Entrepreneurs under the fifth cohort of the Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge. Mundawathu Gardens is a seed multiplication and distribution company whose main focus is on multiplying the improved seedlings and distributing them to farmers with an aim of promoting a healthy livelihood.

Unyolo has expressed his gratitude for the Growth Accelerator Programme claiming it is the core factor that has promoted their brand and growth. Mundawathu Gardens is receiving financial support of $40,000.00 under the programme that is being used to construct a Modern greenhouse for seedlings propagation, purchase of a plot for fruits plantation, drilling of a borehole & installation of a solar water system, and the purchase of bamboo seeds and other improved grafting materials.

“With the financial support that we are receiving from the growth accelerator, we are able to increase our production from 100,000 to 450,000 seedlings which will also play a huge part in increasing the revenue in our business.”

The Growth Accelerator Cohort five Entrepreneurship Challenge supports high-growth post-revenue entrepreneurs with co-financing of up to $40,000.00, mentorship, and technical assistance that helps them to grow and scale.

The program is run by MHub in partnership with GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, with support from UNDP Malawi, #KFW, and the #RoyalNorwegianEmbassy

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David Nkhwazi is one of the eleven ventures under the implementation of the fifth cohort of the Growth Accelerator Programme. David is the Managing Director of Stewart M. Grant Ltd a business based is Salima that focuses on collecting ornamental fish in lake Malawi that is exported around the world.
Lake Malawi is known to the world for its enormous variety of fishes. 500-1000 different species of fish are found, and most of these fish are found only in Lake Malawi.
“The Growth Accelerator programme is a very good program which I believe must be replicated in various sectors. The programme finances us with a grant of up to $40,000.00 that is beneficial in improving our business and our processes in terms of how we do things, acquiring equipment that will improve our processes and our production” Shared David.
The Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge supports high-growth post-revenue entrepreneurs with co-financing of up to $40,000.00, mentorship, and technical assistance to help them grow and scale.
David appreciates the technical support that he is receiving under the programme. “The trainings themselves are very good in the sense that we are receiving guidance on the things that we must do to excel in our organization”. So far the programme has equipped the ventures with high-level techniques of Business management including Leadership and Visioning, Customer & Market, Industry & Competition, Value Architecture, Financial Architecture, and People, Processes & Performance.
The Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge is run by #mHub in partnership with #Growth Africa, with financial support from #UNDP Malawi #KFW and the #royalnorwegianembassy.
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Lizzie Msowoya Kuntambira is a representative of the Viphya Highlands Coffee under Cohort five Growth Accelerator Challenge. Viphya Highlands Coffee located in Nkhatabay district, is a specialty coffee that will hit the market sometime in September this year. The business was founded in 2008 and they specialize in growing and processing coffee and are now moving into adding value to their coffee and selling the finished product.


Viphya Highlands Coffee’s participation in the Growth Accelerator Challenge has been quite rewarding because, since its establishment in 2008, they have been selling coffee as green bean which is a raw material that is further processed into the coffee that is easily consumed. The coming in of Covid-19 has been challenging for Viphya Coffee, the market for green beans plummeted and their business was on the verge of collapse says Lizzie “coffee shops were closing up and people preferred taking coffee in the comfort of their homes yet we only sold green bean that could only be processed in Coffee shops”.


Coming across the Growth Accelerator Challenge call of application was an opportunity that they would not allow to slip their fingers. “I was so excited because this was the answer that we had been waiting for” Said Msowoya. Being chosen as one of the ventures under the fifth cohort of the Entrepreneurship Challenge has helped Viphya Highlands move into a higher value market that is processing the coffee from green bean to a ground product that can be sold directly to the consumers at a better price.


Viphya Highlands Coffee is receiving funding of $40,000.00 that is going towards the establishment of a processing plant including buying specialized machinery to roast, grind and package the coffee. “The Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge has really propelled our growth and moved us towards that high-value market” said Lizzie.


Growth Accelerator Entrepreneurship Challenge supports high-impact post-revenue businesses with co-financing of up to $40,000.00, mentorship, and technical assistance to help them grow and scale. The program is run by MHub in partnership with Growth Africa, with support from UNDP Malawi, KFW, and the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

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It has been established that health institution Uchembere Wabwino Maternity Clinic, through its under-five services, has registered the highest number of people impacted since its establishment in 2019. Uchembere wabwino partnered with Mzuzu Health Center under the Ministry of Health to offer free under-five services to women within her reach, a baseline survey report has shown that so far 500-plus women have been impacted through the program.

Uchembere Wabwino Maternity Clinic is part of the ventures under the Growth Accelerator Cohort five Entrepreneurship Challenge being supported with co-financing of up to $40,000.00, mentorship, and technical assistance to help them grow and scale.

The program is run by MHub in partnership with GrowthAfrica – Growth Frontiers, with support from UNDP Malawi, #KFW, and the #RoyalNorwegianEmbassy.

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Three of the eleven business ventures penciled in the Growth Accelerator Cohort five Entrepreneurship Challenge recorded the highest revenue amounts between March 2021 and February 2022. This has been outlined in the baseline survey report which has just been published.  The three are Trendsetters Shoes Manufacturing Company, Stuart M. Grant and Dairy Joy Limited. 

Trendsetters Showcasing their Malawian made high quality boots

“The baseline revealed that 27% of the (eleven) entrepreneurs have the highest record of revenue in the past 12 months as compared to other ventures,” the report reads. According to a revenue chart attached to the report, Trendsetters raked in US$129, 529 baseline profit, Stuart posted US$ 87,360 and Dairy Joy Limited pocketed US$72,550.

Overall, the report has said that all the eleven ventures recorded a higher average annual revenue as compared to the average cost in the past 12 months under scrutiny. “From the baseline data collected so far, 64% of the ventures have recorded profit margins that range between 55% and 85%. The other four ventures have recorded profit margins that range between 35% and 50%. “This speaks to the financial capacity of the round five participants and showcases the investment readiness of the entrepreneurs,” further reads the report. 

A mixture of fish species ready for exportation by Stuart M. Grant

The 11 ventures are 7th Logistics, Amazing Bakes, C&CM Enterprises, Dairy Joy Limited, EcoGen Limited, Mundawathu Garden Limited, Oak n Pine, SouthEast Group, Stuart M. Grant Limited, Trendsetters Shoe Manufacturing Company and Uchembere Wabwino Maternity Clinic. The enterprises form the round five cohort of the GA Entrepreneurship Challenge, a 12-month business acceleration initiative that provides mentorship, technical assistance and co-financing.

As a matter of recommendations, the report has called for establishment of partnerships with other entities. “(This) can help ventures grow and accelerate through attracting new customers and investments, scale innovation, addressing complex changes and enabling employee development through skills transfer. “Partnerships include investors, suppliers, and other companies. It is one of the indicators to measure the business and financial performance of the ventures. As of 28 February 2022, all ventures collectively have a total of 22 partnerships established in one form or another,” the report continues.

A Client enjoying the Dairy Joy Yoghurt

Meanwhile, the ventures have said they collectively plan to increase to over 100 partnerships by the end of the year. “(This) significantly exceeds the originally set target of just 11 partnerships,” the report further says. 

The survey has also revealed that there is limited financial management capacity of most of the ventures. “The programme will therefore fast-track capacity development on the financial management of the entrepreneurs to run their businesses more effectively and for provision of accurate data for reporting,” it concludes. Meanwhile, economic analyst Richard Mngomezulu has said that the eleven selected firms have shown great potential through their profit gains. “Every business, small or big, is making steady progress every time it posts profit. It doesn’t matter how big it is, a profit is a profit and it is a good sign in business operation,” he said in an interview.

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Growth Accelerator Cohort 5 Unveiling

In Malawi, most entrepreneurs venture into their business out of necessity and a desire to be financially independent, but in most cases, they lack the resources needed to start a business. Not many programs in Malawi focus on skills, capital and mentorship for young entrepreneurs which is where the Growth Accelerator Malawi comes in.

Growth Accelerator Malawi was initiated in July 2018 financed by UNDP with support from KFW under the implementation of mHub in partnership with Growth Africa. The key focus of the programme is on accelerating the growth of early-stage, innovative, impactful and ambitious entrepreneurs with an emphasis on impact investment for sustainable enterprise development. The objective of the Growth Accelerator is to provide a competitively selected cohort of ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs to access technical assistance, co-financing and mentorship support to enable growth and scaling of their businesses.

Since its inception, the programme has facilitated four rounds of the

entrepreneurship challenge and has supported 53 ventures. The programme sets out to identify innovative early-stage post revenue entrepreneurs that are seeking hands-on technical skills, mentorship and risk capital to scale up their business ventures.

The fifth cohort was officially launched on 1st February 2022 at the mHub offices in Lilongwe, Malawi. The ceremony was graced by delegates from the Ministry of Trade, KFW, UNDP, Growth Accelerator Malawi Implementers and the successful Ventures. This round of the Growth Accelerator has identified 11 ventures through a transparent and competitive selection process. The 11 successful entrepreneurs are from different regions in Malawi (Mzuzu, Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, Mangochi, Dowa, and Salima) and have different business focuses including, Aquaculture, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR), Interior designing, Dairy production, Shoes Manufacturing, Bakery, and Farming.

The KFW appreciated the impact that the programme has made in the country since its existence in 2018; a total of 63 businesses have benefited from the programme, 40 New products have been launched through the programme reaching up to 30,000 consumers within and outside the Country. German Financial Cooperation is aiming at value chain development as well as product development initiative which is Consistent with the existing Malawi policies and strategies such as the Malawi Vision 2063, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS III), and the National Export Strategy (NES).

Speaking during the cohort five unveiling, Rugare Mukanganise Operations Manager of UNDP Malawi, expressed his sadness seeing how young people continue to be unemployed since the private sector is still not sufficiently developed to create enough job opportunities for all. UNDP appreciated the existence of the Growth Accelerator Challenge and how it has complimented the Malawi Government’s effort to expand opportunities and address such challenges “since 2018 The growth Accelerator Program has helped in creating 500+ jobs for the youth the productions made by the different ventures”.

Malawi currently has a clear roadmap for embedding the youth in its transformation strategy starting with MW2063 and the recently launched 10 Year Implementation Plan. The plans describe the collective aspirations of the people of Malawi to achieve inclusive wealth creation and self-reliance for economic independence.

The Growth Accelerator provides financial support to its beneficiaries by offering them access to a maximum of $40,000 in financing. The programme works on a model that allows entrepreneurs to request funds within the range of $10,000 to $40,000 on the condition that they match with 30% of the value in cash. Further to that, the programme offers to the entrepreneurs several options of matching such as bank loans, self-matching and/or investment partners. In terms of technical support, the programme allows beneficiary entrepreneurs to participate in six months of cohort-based technical assistance, followed by six months of mentorship and peer-to-peer learning. Subsequently, the programme monitors venture growth for 12 months.

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Creating social impact with a yoghurt business

Kombeza Foods is a dairy company that produces drinking yoghurt. Kombeza Foods joined the Growth Accelerator programme in 2019 producing 400Litres of drinking yoghurt a day and working with a little over 20 low-income farmers in the Blantyre area. Mdingase Chirwa, the founder of Kombeza Foods had always had a heart for the farmers. Her parents were also dairy farmers and she was aware of the struggles of dairy milk supply in Malawi. Her personal experience thus motivated the decision to purchase a majority of Kombeza’s milk from low-income dairy farmers.

Kombeza Foods took a step and made an initial community meeting with a group of dairy farmers in Blantyre to familiarize with the dairy supply chain. This meeting was the birthplace of Kombeza’s community support programmes such as farmer savings schemes and animal husbandry trainings. This has since improved farmers’ economic and social welfare. With only a year in operation and support from Growth Accelerator Malawi, Kombeza has a supply chain of 110 farmers in Blantyre and surrounding areas; and they plan to grow even further.

Growth Accelerator supports ambitious entrepreneurs who have a heart for working with their community and improving the socio-economic status of individuals in the low-income bracket. Kombeza is a business that celebrates their farmers and wants to grow with them.

Grow Malawi. Grow Your Business.

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