In Chichewa there is an idiom that literary translates as when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. This idiom connotes trouble when giants are in conflict with each other. By implication there ought to be progress when two giants are in coalition with each other. This is the kind of optimism that has engulfed the Malawian MSMEs sector following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (SMEDI) and National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM).

What is in this MOU?
The MOU establishes a working relationship between the National Youth Council of Malawi and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Institute (SMEDI). National Youth Council is mandated by an act of parliament to coordinate, promote, stimulate and support youth’s programs in Malawi. On the other hand SMEDI is mandated to promote the creation, development and growth of SMEs through capacity building and provision of other business development services.
The MOU aims at ensuring that capacity is developed for the youth owed enterprises in areas of entrepreneurship and agribusiness skills. Furthermore, the working relationship attempts to increase number of youths owned enterprises accessing markets, entrepreneurship mentorship programs and access to finance
What is on the ground?
It is an open secret that most Malawian youths lack business skills and experience needed for them to succeed in life. For example there are youth groups in Mwanza, under the district youth Officer that received juice making machinery and plumbing machinery in 2013. However, due to limited skills the machines have not been utilized since Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda donated the machinery to the groups. It is only this year when TEVETA started organizing and mobilizing stakeholders within and outside the district so that the groups puts start using the machinery. This example best describes the state affairs among most youths in the country. There may have opportunities but lack the skills and inspiration to turn such opportunities into money making enterprises.
Besides there are studies that have been done in the country that highlight challenges youths meet and the potential the youths have to contribute more to the economic growth of this country. For example, the Malawi MSMEs FinScope Survey of 2019 established that out of 1,141,784 Malawian enterprises about 42% of them are youth owned. The same study isolates lack of business skills as a stumbling block to the growth of most of these enterprises. Therefore any form of organised working relationship aimed at skilled development in the sector is a welcome one.

What has happened so far?
For the MOU to be effective it needed representatives of the two institutions to document their working relationship. A colourful signing ceremony of the MOU was held on 5th May 2021 In Lilongwe, with the Chief Executive Officer of both institutions appending their signatures. Since then the two institutions with support from other partners have held networking dinners for youth owned enterprises in Lilongwe and Blantyre.

SMEDI CEO (right) and NYCOM CEO (left)

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