If it were not for his ingenuity and determination, life would be tough for Lusungu Mkandawire, a 29-year-old who has come up with his own version of a pop corn machine in Blantyreâ€™s Chirimba Township.
Mkandawire went into pop corn business after he looked for employment for long time without success. He had earlier lost a job as a clerk.
He went to Blantyre and Limbe to buy the machine, but returned home disappointed as he was told the machines are imported from South Africa. He tried Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu, but there was no shop stocking the tool.
â€œAt first, I was devastated as I saw the idea of selling pop corn crumbling. But it later dawned on me that something could still be done about it.
â€œI decided to find someone with the machine so that I study what it was made of, how it works and what needed to be done to improvise one,â€ he said.
Though Mkandawire has never seen the inside of an engineering classroom, he understood the â€˜anatomyâ€™ of the machine and using locally-available materials such as wood, coils, wires, glasses, small transformers and motors and came up with his own copy of the machine.
He said when people saw him picking wires, metals and other things, some scorned him, others thought he was out of his head.
But his hope and determination to come up with a machine for his pop corn business was not dampened. If anything, it was inflamed.
â€œI was not discouraged by what people were saying, I knew what I was up to,â€ said Mkandawire.
Piece by piece, wire by wire, he started building the machine and when it was done, he tried it. Alas! It worked perfectly well.
When people saw this, they started flocking to his house with their pop corn machines that had broken down to be fixed.
â€œSome come from Mozambique to seek my services and I serve them to their satisfaction,â€ said Mkandawire.
The father of two, Temwa and Penjanani, has gone full-throttle into the business of making and selling pop corn machines. Each machine costs K40 000.
â€œThe good thing with my machine is that it is strong, durable, works long hours and consumes little oil compared to imported machines.
â€œIf you use my machine, with only half litre of cooking oil, you can make five kilogrammes of pop corn,â€ he said.
Mkandawire sells his pop corn inside Chirimba Market and on a good day he makes a profit of K1 500.
â€œThis is enough money because it is tax free. When I was working, my salary was K28 000 before tax. So, you can see that I am better off now than then,â€ said Mkandawire who is married to Mercy.
Mkandawire did his primary education at Chirimba Primary School and secondary education at Astep in Luchenza and New Era in Ntcheu.
He passed his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) with 28 points in 2000, but was not fortunate enough to book himself a place at the University of Malawi. So, he went to Tutorial Shipping at Trade Fair grounds in Blantyre where he did a diploma in shipping. Thereafter, he proceeded to do a certificate in computer programming at Xerographics.
He worked briefly for Blantyre City Council as a computer operator and Terrastone as stores clerk before he found himself in the cold again, knocking at the doors of most companies in Blantyre with his curriculum vitae, looking for employment, but to no avail.