At the age of 28, married with one child, Kondwani Kossam is one of the young men who said no to a white collar job.
“My dream to become self-employed started after being shortlisted to study electrical installation at Dapp Mikolongwe Vocational School in 2010,” says the Lilongwe-based entrepreneur.
In 2013, Kossam graduated and started working as an apprentice at Safintra, a roofing and steel company in Lilongwe. Within a year, the company recognised his prowess and offered him a full-time job. It was after this promotion that a thought of becoming an entrepreneur filled his mind.
“It was in 2016 that I first attempted to start up a business with colleagues, but it failed. In 2017, I teamed up with other friends to establish a company called Central Electricals and Solar Services and the progress has been good,” he says.
As they say, every rose has a thorn, it has not been an easy road for Kossam. He is frustrated by lack of financial support to grow his businesses.
“Banks need collaterals to give out loans and as up-and-coming entrepreneurs; we find it hard to get capital through loans. This has frustrated many entrepreneurs who could have changed Malawi,” explains Kossam.
While many others in sush situation have gone into extinction, Kossam and his team continue to soldier on with the little they get. They are working hard and the company is growing slowly.
Currently, they are offering electrical installation and solar services. In future, according to Kossam, they want to venture into plumbing, carpentry and welding.
“This will create new jobs because we need individuals who are experts in these fields for the company to succeed,” he says, adding that their priority is to create jobs for the youth in rural areas.
But this dream will remain a far-fetched if government does not create loan facilities with soft conditions for entrepreneurs such as Kossam.
In an earlier interview, Indigenous Businesses Association of Malawi (Ibam) president Mike Mlombwa lamented lack of a friendlier environment for entrepreneurs in Malawi.
He asked government to come up with special policies such as an indigenisation policy aimed at encouraging local investment and entrepreneurship.
This has the potential to create more new companies and jobs. According to World Bank, unemployment rate is still at six percent and the labour force continues to receive scores of graduates every year. However, most of the graduates spend years at home waiting to be employed.
Development Aid from People to People (Dapp) Mikolongwe vocational school Principal Augustus Kaliati says they are delighted when beneficiaries of their vocational training programme turn into entrepreneurs after their studies.
“As an institution, we are very proud of our graduates when they venture into vibrant businesses be they small or big. This is a positive sign that we are contributing to the development of the nation through youth empowerment,” he says.
Kaliati says they decided to attach entrepreneurship training as a supplementary course to all programmes in its vocational training schools to give students knowledge of the business sector.
“Apart from offering entrepreneurship skills, we motivate them that every course they decide to pursue can also be a business. This has influenced most of our graduates to go into entrepreneurship after studies,” he said.
For the past four years, government has promoted vocational skills training among youths through the community colleges initiative, which is a supplement to technical colleges, to encourage entrepreneurship.
However, financial constraints have failed many graduates and others yearning for entrepreneurship. This, however, frustrates the global goals, particularly Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and goal 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) respectively. Goal 8 promotes sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. The United Nations agreed that promoting entrepreneurship and job creation can help every nation to attain this goal.
Thus, Malawi like any other country subscribed to these goals needs to find ways of promoting entrepreneurship and job creation and create a friendly environment for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. As suggested by Kossam and Mlombwa, a deliberate policy that empowers entrepreneurs to compete favourably in business and have access to loans to boats their ventures, should not wait more than now.