ASA-fellow shares first highlights from supporting SEED in Malawi
My name is Insa Jülich, and as one of this year’s ASA fellows with SEED, I am spending three months in Malawi, where I support SEED’s activities while working with the local Business Development Support+ (BDS+) providers. I am part of the ASA-Program, a unique scholarship program which targets young people interested in development cooperation and trains them to address multi-cultural and complex social and political issues. The subprogram I am participating in consists of training seminars, an internship placement in Germany and a placement in a target country.
I have been working with SEED for four months, and I would now like to share my experiences in Malawi with you. Located south of Tanzania in South Central Africa, Malawi is a landlocked country with a third of its area covered by Lake Malawi. Despite its significant economic growth, the World Bank estimated that in 2016, 89% of the population had limited or no electrification. Food insecurity, water scarcity, as well as a lack of access to health care and educational services are ongoing problems. As the country also has an agriculture-based economy, it is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Entrepreneurship in Malawi
It is no surprise that Malawi is referred to as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. Ever since I got here, I have been overwhelmed by the openness and kindness of the people I have met here. Many people I have met – my colleagues, housemates, neighbours and friends – have been open to sharing their own experiences with starting a small business. And often not just one small business but two or three. This includes any kind of services, selling own agricultural produce, owning a little shop or baking cakes for the neighbourhood community. Business opportunities are sought out and explored. This also has to do with a lack of employment opportunities. Although only 6 per cent of the population is considered unemployed, the formal sector is small and provides limited opportunities. However, I noticed generally high levels of enthusiasm to bring individual ideas to life. It is motivating to meet energetic people who have a hands-on approach and open minds.
Most Malawian businesses are small and often remain in the informal economy and scaling up is a challenge to many. As educational programmes are lacking or are very expensive, business development support is highly appreciated. It is motivating to witness how SEED workshops and capacity building tools are meeting the local demand to expand entrepreneurship opportunities and support. My SEED Malawian colleagues are also very competent and great at engaging with the participants. I would say the workshops are especially effective and maintain their high quality through the ability of these SEED workshops to motivate participants and cultivate positive can-do attitudes towards entrepreneurship.
Transformation to eco-inclusive entrepreneurship
Participants of SEED’s business development support are aspiring entrepreneurs with a specific vision. The SEED Replicator and Starter workshops support enterprises that have social and environmental aspects in their business plans. To combat the problems Malawi is currently facing, the main sectors most applicants are focusing on are sustainable agriculture and waste management. The combined environmental, social and economic effects of entrepreneurship in these sectors can be especially impactful to collectively transform the economy. A heavy dependence on the agricultural sector and high population growth has led to environmental degradation. Protecting the livelihoods that rely on this environment means to prevent any form of further environmental damage. A range of promising ideas has caught my interest in the workshops. Examples include the production of biomass fertilizer and briquettes, tiles made from plastic bottles or up-cycling businesses.
But the impacts of eco-inclusive start-ups like these do not only refer to environmental protection. In a society based on strong community ties, I consider such locally-led, participatory initiatives and businesses promising for Malawi to move towards inclusive forms of economic growth. I applaud each workshop participant and team striving to provide solutions to the country’s problems while focusing on responsible means of production and contributing to sustainable development. Their energetic entrepreneurial spirit in the workshops is truly inspiring and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from inspiring entrepreneurs.
ASA-Program Interns at SEED
The ASA-Program is a dynamic learning program based in Germany which trains young people who are open-minded and interested in development cooperation and social and political issues. The ASA-Program promotes exchange and learning about our One World through personal experience. It supports young and dedicated people to expand their skills and to contribute to sustainable global development based on respect for human rights and cultural differences. The program aims to make an effective contribution to connecting young people from Germany and partner organisations in developing countries to foster global learning partnerships and fruitful collaboration between the German Federal Republic and emerging economies.
SEED has hosted ASA-Program interns since 2016. Past interns assisted with the implementation of SEED projects in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. ASA-Program interns at SEED spend three months in Germany followed by a three months experimental project internship in a country in Africa. After ASA-Program interns return from their three-month placement, they carry out global education activities in Germany. During these activities, former interns share their understandings of global interdependencies while lobbying for fair and sustainable development.