Saturday, April 16, 2016


Imagine getting a chance to meet Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and owner of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. A man sitting at the helm of conversations between and about over 1.5 billion people. Mark is one of the top 6 richest men in the United States of America. Imagine that He further adores you and even posts about you on his Facebook page.

Well, this is no longer an imagination or a dream for 10 year old Panashe Jere from Area 49 in Lilongwe, Malawi. It is reality. Panashe met Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook Headquarters, Menlo Park in California. Zuckerberg later posted on his Facebook page; a photo of him talking with Panashe captioned “This guy started coding earlier than I did.” Mark seemed to acknowledge that Panashe has started doing wonders in computer programming at a much early age than He, Zuckerberg. Panashe met Mark alongside the grand F8 conference organised by Facebook that brought together thousands of developers from across the world. Panashe got a ticket to travel from Lilongwe, Malawi to the Silicon Valley after winning a coding competition supported by Malawi’s mobile network operator TNM through its TNM Smart Challenge Competition. TNM sponsored coding workshops, prizes in the form of smart phones for all finalists and a trip to the Silicon Valley for all winners. The winners visit Facebook, Google and Stanford University among other high tech institutions.

Panashe developed a mobile application that allows children to input text and then converts it to voice so children always have someone to talk to; as he describes it.
It wasn’t just Panashe who got to shine at the F8 conference; three other young Malawians; Daniel Mvalo, Thandie Magasa and Walter Moyo were at it as they got recognition from Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook Chief Operations Officer; Sheryl Sandberg. The three developed a mobile application called Maternitech. The mobile application provides information on maternal health and family planning.

But, where is this technology revolution in Malawi starting from? The place is called mHub. It is Malawi’s first technology hub. The hub runs a Children’s Coding Club, where Panashe had his first and eight other lessons on how to develop computer programs that could even run on the cell phone and do amazing things like converting text into voice. The club has so far trained over 30 children aged between 8 and 16. The hub also runs the Girls coding club where girls are taught basics of computer science and how to develop technology applications. The tools that these children and girls are taught on include high tech platforms such as Scratch and Google’s MIT App Inventor. Scratch is a special developing platform developed by MIT and Google to teach Children block programming using drag and drop.

The hub also trains young entrepreneurs on basics of entrepreneurship. And serves as an incubator and co working space for emerging technology start-ups.

mHub was founded by a young female technology enthusiast; Rachel Sibande. Hers is a story of focus and determination against the odds. She is a Google Award Winner and has been recently named one of Africa’s Next Einstein’s by the Next Einstein’s Fellows Initiative.

It appears that Malawi is right on to a good start on this global technology revolution. Earlier in the year; President Obama launched the multibillion Computer Science for all program in the USA. Through the initiative; American Children will also start to learn basics of computer Science early on in school intimating the fundamental need for incorporating computer science as a cross cutting subject.

It is inevitable that technology is fast becoming a key stimulant and enabler for economic growth and development. Careers in technology are becoming more lucrative. And Malawi seems to be taking good steps so far if these success stories are anything to go by. However, the need for private sector entities such as TNM; mHub, Government and the Academia to enhance sustainability of such phenomenal talent is absolutely necessary and can only be emphasised.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

TEDxLilongwe Speaker nominations are open

TEDxLilongwe is calling for interested people to apply or nominate a speaker for this year's TEDxLilongwe event which will take place on 21st May 2016 at CrossRoads Hotel.

Below is the original message posted on TEDxLilongwe Facebook page:

Hallo TEDxLilongwe fans! Now calling for nominations for ‪#‎TEDxLilongwe‬

The team is in full swing working, planning and coordinating. A lot is happening behind the scenes, towards the next #TEDxLilongwe 2016 event slated for May 21. It is going to be great!
Do you know someone with an interesting story/idea that could inspire via the TEDx stage? Please forward the name of nominee, contacts & brief summary of the person to

1. Name of nominated person (you can nominate yourself)
2. Contact details of nominee (email address and phone number)
3. Brief summary of why the person is being nominated

Deadline for applications is 31 March 2016

Many thanks in advance. See you in the next post!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Indiegogo Campaign for Industrial Hemp in Malawi

Hempower Malawi - making Industrial hemp a new cash crop- That is the title of the video accompanying a campaign for industrial hemp in Malawi. The campaign posted by Tanya Clarke, Director and Founder of Invegrow and Kawandama Hills Plantation is raising $50,000 to fund some of the farming inputs, buy small- scale farming and processing equipment, lab equipment for testing, and continue the lobbying and education campaigns.

Tanya says Invegrow has been campaigning for the legalisation of industrial hemp in Malawi since 2013 and it is now the first and only company allowed to conduct trials in Malawi.

This is a pioneering venture and Invegrow finally commenced trials in November 2015 at the Malawi Government's premier Agricultural Research Station. We are also helping amend the relevant Acts with the Government to correctly define iHemp in law. We aim to be growing the crop commercially by December 2016/17 season (rainy season).

According to the information posted on the indiegogo campaign site and the video posted, Invegrow has support from various civil society organisations, government and the private sector. The video features interviews with Joshua Nthakomwa, Director of Malawi Investment and Trade Centre and Parliamentarian Boniface Kadzakumanja, a well known advocate for industrial hemp who supports the campaign.

Industrial Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant that is non-psychoactive and currently grown in 36 countries worldwide including Canada, Australia, Germany, France, and the UK. It's an incredibly versatile crop that is used in sustainable construction, seed and oil production for cosmetics and foods, medicines, and fibre for textiles. It is an age old crop that was bred specifically for industrial purposes, and was one of the most important crops in World War 2 for its strong fibres used for sails and military uniforms.

For the 13 days that the campaign has been running, it has managed to raise $12,338 out of the $50,000 needed. There are still 23 days to go.

Tanya and the team behind the campaign understands the challenges that their campaign will face to convince the Malawian society on the difference between industrial hemp and the other varieties of cannabis that are psychoactive.

Malawi is a very conservative society and more education must be done through the media, radio, and TV on iHemp and its potential. Distinguishing the differences between the varieties of Cannabis in the minds of the people is a challenge that we hope to overcome through a concerted sensitisation campaign.

Photo Credit: Tanya Clarke's Linkedin and Invegrow Website