Malawi, 18 May 2015: UNICEF and partners launch an innovation hub in Blantyre
18 May 2015, BLANTYRE, Malawi – Over 100 young and aspiring innovators today came together in Blantyre, where the final touches of the innovation hub were being made. The room in which they are gathered has been completely renovated and is currently being transformed into a space for nurturing youth engagement to elaborate fresh ideas that have the potential to change the lives of children.
The innovation hub has been set up by UNICEF in partnership with the University of Malawi, the Polytechnic. The Hub will be hosted within the Polytechnic’s Chichiri campus, with UNICEF providing the necessary financial support to make the hub operational. At the launch, Prof. Nancy Chitera, Vice Principal of the Polytechnic, expressed her appreciation for the partnership:
“We are already working with UNICEF on various other projects and were pleased when they approached us for the innovation hub. This is a good timing for so many young people who are doing amazing things but have no place to go. Innovation can be a driver for effective thinking and this innovation hub will benefit every one of us.”
UNICEF also entered a partnership with mHub, a local organisation that last year launched Malawi’s first innovation hub in Lilongwe. mHub is currently supporting young innovative techpreneurs to start up a businesses and will be providing technical support to the new innovation hub in Blantyre.. Rachel Sibande, founder of mHub, explains:
“Malawi has so many unemployed young people, so many potential and talent that must be harnessed. They need platforms where they can be coached and have physical space to catalyse their ideas. We aim to help people become social entrepreneurs through sustainable business models.”
The innovation hub will offer new opportunities for more young innovators like Joshua Ngalande, who has designed an nsima cooker to reduce on women who mostly undertake the arduous and sometimes dangerous task of preparing the nation’s favourite meal.
“People gave me that crazy look when I announced at the age of 15 that I wanted to design a nsima cooker,’ Joshua smiled. But he persisted, committed to craft innovative solutions for Malawi’s problems, big or small. What started with a saw and hammer which Joshua bought with the little pocket money he had, evolved into a tangible project. Joshua is now working with an Australian company to produce a cooker that meets market standards.
Speaking at the launch, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative Ms Roisin de Burca said,
”UNICEF is seeing young innovators around the world who are pushing boundaries towards a future in which all children can enjoy their rights. In Malawi, young people are increasingly finding sustainable solutions to the problems faced by women and children. UNICEF has prioritized innovation globally and within Malawi to identify and scale up practices that strengthen UNICEF’s work.”
The audience at this soft launch mainly consisted of curious students, who are enthusiastic to finally have a platform where they can contribute to the growing innovation revolution.
UNICEF is already supporting a number of innovations in Malawi. These include the use of mobile phone technologies such as Rapid SMS and Anthrowatch to support neonatal care, early infant diagnosis and monitoring of malnutrition, as well as scalable and durable designs for school desks, based on locally available materials and common manufacturing tools.
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