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Youth skills programme ignites youth entrepreneurship

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By Vincent Khonje

A new era is about to dawn in Chiradzulu, where hope has been offered to young people who never considered starting an enterprise.

Like in most other parts of the nation, the district’s youths live in poverty with hope fading quickly.

A new story is beginning to unfold, as young people are rising and taking advantage of an opportunity that has heightened expectations.

Guided by COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited’s Youth Skills Challenge (YSCS) Programme, young entrepreneurs in Chiradzulu are forging their paths, transforming dreams into reality.

James making a tin

YSCS is a programme which COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited, through the Social Support for Resilient Livelihood Programme (SSRLP) Tidzidalire, is implementing in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth and Technical Entrepreneurial and Vocational Training Authority (TEVETA).

Rabson James, 25, from Jekete Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mpama and a member of the Mwaiwathu COMSIP cluster, symbolises the spirit of seizing the opportunity.

Reflecting on his past, James said he grew up in impoverished conditions, struggling to find food and decent shelter.

Relying on piecework, he could not even dream of a brighter future someday.

He was, however, blessed with a little knowledge of tinsmithing, but he was not fully skilled to earn from it. Furthermore, he had no tools.

“I always had the ability for tinsmithing, but without proper training and equipment, it remained just a hobby,” he narrated.

In 2018, he was enrolled in the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme, a sub-component of SSRLP Tidzidalire where the ultra-poor households are provided with monthly cash to address their needs.

James’s journey was one marked by hardship and uncertainty, but as beneficiaries of the programme, they were introduced to savings and loans by COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited.

However, through COMSIP, an opportunity arose to participate in the YSCS programme, and James seized it with determination.

“Being chosen for the programme was a game-changer for me,” James said.

“Through the programme, I have not only honed my skills but also gained invaluable knowledge in business management,” he added.

For four months, James underwent training in tinsmithing and, after completing it, he was not only armed with newfound expertise but also given tools for his trade.

Chisale (standing) attending to a customer as Maulana looks on.

The trainings are conducted by TEVETA-certified craftsmen from the communities the youths come from.

After the training, James embarked on his entrepreneurial journey and, today, his tinsmithing business thrives.

“Life has taken a turn for the better,” James said. “I am standing on my own two feet, providing for my family and contributing to the economy.”

He is now running a tinsmithing business which fetches over K20,000 a week and he can give quality life to his family of six.

Rosicky Magombo’s narrative is reminiscent of James’ in its tenacity and willpower.

Through the YSCS programme, Magombo found a lifeline – a chance to pursue his passion for welding and fabrication.

“The programme opened doors I never thought possible,” he reflected, “For the first time, I had access to proper training and equipment.”

Magombo, just like James, is from a poor background, struggling to find food and other necessities.

The news about the YSCS programme to Mombezi Cluster, which Magombo belonged to, was welcomed by the young people who realised hope had come.

“It was like a dream come true because I knew I would hone my skills in a trade that I have wanted to do,” said Magombo.

He also underwent four months of training, coming back fully equipped with skills in welding and fabrication, on top of being given start up tools for his trade.

Since opening his shop in January 2024, Magombo has seen his business steadily grow, providing a stable income for his family.

“For me, this business is more than just a source of income,” Magombo shared. “It is a lifeline and a pathway out of poverty. With hard work and dedication, I believe I can build a better future for myself and my family.”

He said in the first month of his business he made about K22,000; however, he said he was hopeful that the business would be established.

The story of Gloria Maulana, 29, and Tiwonge Chisale, 23, provides a new dimension to Chiradzulu’s young entrepreneurs’ tale.

Enrolled in the SCT programme, they still faced difficult challenges in their quest for a better life.

When the opportunity arose in the form of the YSCS programme in their respective Ntchema and M’bawa Clusters, they also embraced it.

They chose hairdressing as a skill to be very well conversant with and underwent training for four months.

After COMSIP gave them start-up tools, precisely on December 18, 2023, the two girls pondered on a partnership to enable them to grow before they could pursue solo businesses in the future.

“Partnering with Tiwonge to establish our hairdressing salon was a dream come true. With the skills and equipment provided by the programme, we have been able to build a thriving business, supporting our families and empowering ourselves,” said Maulana.

Chisale echoed her partner’s sentiments: “We have come a long way from where we started. With hard work and purpose, we have been able to overcome our circumstances and build a better future for ourselves.”

Their hair-dressing business made K58,100 the first month and they are happy they can support their families’ needs.

The stories of the four young people are a testament to how young people in Chiradzulu have taken entrepreneurship after being equipped with the YSCS programme.

COMSIP district coordinator for Chiradzulu, Chisomo Selemani, said the youths under the programme have done very well and picked up different trades and skills.

Selemani said most of them have also received equipment and set up their small businesses that are doing well.

“Those that have started their businesses are progressing and able to make money that they are also saving in their COMSIP clusters. Their lives have taken a new turn, which shows improvement to lives,” said Selemani.

According to COMSIP development communication officer Mercy Kayuni, among other things, the young people are learning about cosmetology, tailoring, tinsmithing, bricklaying, plumbing, carpentry and welding, and by the end of the SSRLP in 2027, COMSIP would have trained 4,300 youths under this initiative.

Kayuni said upon finishing the skills training, the youths are supported with start-up tools and financial linkages where they get support for loans to kick-start their businesses.

“Those that are getting start-up tools are getting loans averaging K300,000 from COMSIV Limited, a finance subsidiary of COMSIP Cooperative Union Limited, to establish them in business and are signing community bonds to be operating their businesses within their communities,” she said.

The first trained cohort had 721 youths from Chiradzulu, Blantyre, Phalombe, Balaka, Dedza, Lilongwe, Dowa, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Nkhatabay, Karonga, Rumphi and Chitipa, and the second cohort targets 1,789 youths.

YSCS is implemented under the SSRLP Tidzidalire with funding from the World Bank and Social Protection Multi-Donor Trust Fund.

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