Allan Kholophethe cannot appear anywhere near the list of business tycoons in the country.
He is, however, happy that he has successfully deleted his name from the heavily-loaded list of Malawians living below the poverty line [of less than a dollar per day].
“I’m very contented that I’ve secured myself a place among a minimal number of countrymen who are comfortably living above the poverty line,” says Kholophethe.
The humble-looking guy is among a few successful entrepreneurs in the city of Blantyre.
He was introduced into the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in 2003 by his deceased brother.
At the time, Kholophethe was a bricklayer, but his levels of destitution grew determinedly.
It became apparent to him that the profession would not sustain him, let alone meet the financial needs of his family.
“I had to diversify or vanish with the sinking ship,” narrates Kholophethe who dropped out of secondary school.
After a thorough introspection, Kholophethe opted for the SME industry.
With the assistance of his late brother, he raised K50 000 ($125) as a capital with which he opened a hardware shop at Chirimba Market.
For years, there were no returns. But Kholophethe did not close shop, hoping that the business will improve some day.
Ten years down the line, one would be inclined to think the soft-spoken entrepreneur inherited wealth from his parents judging by what he has achieved in life.
Kholophethe is a proud owner of a multimillion kwacha New Idea Hardware at Chirimba Market, Blantyre.
He also operates New Idea Bar a few meters away from Chirimba Market.
“There is a misconception in Malawi that young people can’t succeed in business. Others have even argued that the youth can’t do or own anything worth pointing at unless they inherit from their parents.
“Maybe that’s true, but not with me! I’ve achieved all this on my own through perseverance and hardwork,” he explains.
New Idea Hardware employs five shop attendants while the bar has 15 workers, according to Kholophethe.
By creating 20 jobs for Malawians, who would otherwise be jobless and hopeless, the entrepreneur has empowered a substantial community, thereby contributing to the reduction of poverty-induced crimes among vulnerable youths in their desperate attempts to put food on the table.
But Kholophethe challenges that the fight against the country’s poverty will remain foreign to most Malawians unless government introduces deliberate mechanisms for empowering citizens with enabling resources and business environment.
He discloses that although there is huge interest among people to engage in entrepreneurial activities, [lack of] capital and government support remains their major setbacks.
Explains the entrepreneur: “Without collateral, they can’t dream of asking for a loan from a bank although they may have well-thought out business plans. By not investing in business talents, Malawi is wasting human resource that could’ve reversed the economic misfortunes of this nation.”
He also worries that the environment is not conducive to local entrepreneurs.
He discloses that most local businesspersons enjoy less or no support from government and its cooperating partners.
For instance, Kholophethe says despite selling his products at relatively cheaper prices than foreigner-owned shops, government has never given him a tender to supply goods and services.
“Government and its development partners ought to put in place deliberate mechanisms that turn to favour local small scale entrepreneurs. This will, in turn, help us create more jobs for fellow Malawians. I believe I could have created more jobs if government supported me,” he enthuses.
Kholophethe further challenges government to address the shortcomings of the informal economy in the country.
“I’m just a mere beneficiary of my own perseverance. Otherwise, government has not done much to foster entrepreneurship as a critical means to build a prosperous and sustainable future for us all,” he sums up.