Karen Chinkwita Kumakanga: We call it ubale – partnership that is helping young Malawians into work

Karen Chinkwita Kumakanga, Executive Director of Jubilee Enterprise who is visiting Scotland from Malawi
Karen Chinkwita Kumakanga, Executive Director of Jubilee Enterprise who is visiting Scotland from Malawi
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Ubale, as it is known in the Malawian language Chichewa, means “partnership”. Partnership and camaraderie are the principles on which Scotland and Malawi are built and which led to the unique set-up of the Scotland Malawi and Malawi Scotland Partnerships, fostering this collaboration that was initiated hundreds of years ago.

In 2013, research in Malawi showed that in a climate of dwindling employment, there was no deliberate initiative to assist the growing number of young people to find alternative work.

In response, a local social enterprise organisation, Jubilee Enterprise, was founded in 2014 to assist the youth of Malawi to start businesses that ­benefit the community. Our goal was to help them to know about entrepreneurship, and walk with them on their journey to employ themselves and others. We founded a drop-in centre in August 2014 and were awarded support by the British Council to deliver entrepreneurship training. In three years we reached more than 750 young people across Malawi directly and 1,500 through other media.

Jubilee Enterprise is the first Malawian business development service provider to the country’s youth, directly involved in activities that build their capacity as leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

We wanted to equip our youth and women to use entrepreneurship to deliberately create social change. In Malawi one can only register as a non-profit or a for-profit entity, while the entities we needed to build were those that would trade and address a social cause.

Jubilee’s theory of change for the economy was to produce businesses that create a value chain of sustainability. We did not, however, have the material or the experience to build up entrepreneurs that way. Little did we know that in Scotland a movement had been brewing towards the same direction of creating social change through business principles! Leading the capacity-building of the people implementing that movement is the Social Enterprise Academy.

The academy has been in existence for 12 years, perfecting four pillars of learning in social enterprise, leadership, social impact and facilitating learning. Since 2007 the academy has also been working with school ­children to enable them to set up a social enterprise linked to social issues they care about.

Since the launch of our partnership with the academy in 2017, we have created eight jobs in Malawi to support the implementation of ­programmes.

We have built the capacity of entrepreneurs, individuals and organisations to start social enterprises (as distinct to non-profits or businesses). We now can proudly point to three separate social enterprises, which have led to the creation of a waste management system in the town of Zomba, produced a farmers’ market in the city of Blantyre and trained and financed 150 women in rural Lilongwe. Most importantly, we have been able to mirror the work that Scotland has done to strengthen its civil society, where empowered communities are efficient and have sustainable and tangible development.

As we closed our first year of ­operations in March 2018, through a regional partnership we were able to share the lessons learnt to becoming sustainable with more than 50 ­Malawi non-profits, some of which have begun to implement their ­sustainability plans. Through the Malawi and Scotland Partnership, this model is now being introduced to our civil society.

Now in our second year, I believe that Jubilee Enterprise will be better positioned and equipped to contribute towards sustainable transformation by building the capacity of individuals and organisations that are in social change. We are confident that we have the tools to enable the growth of our socio-economy one social enterprise at a time.

The Social Enterprise Academy, has benefited from the lessons learnt in setting up the Malawi hub and have now continued through their Africa office to open two more hubs in ­Zambia and Rwanda. The demand for this capacity building is still high with interest from other African countries to learn what has been ­perfected in Scotland – community-led development.

We look forward to working more with the Scotland Malawi Partnership as we stand to learn a lot and mutually benefit from each other. We commend the Scottish Government’s support. In the words of Mel Young, founder of the Homeless World Cup: “When you have something good you have a responsibility to share it.”

We value the two-way dignified sharing between Malawi and Scotland.

Karen Chinkwita Kumakanga, executive director of Jubilee Enterprise, who is visiting Scotland from Malawi.