Done deal; NPC Director General Thomas Munthali (2nd right) witnessed the signing of the MoU
* Already, the institution’s design lab is training young innovators from various communities
* One innovation can trigger off power from an ESCOM transformer if one pole falls off during a rainstorm
* The transformer then cuts off power from buildings in a bid to avoid fire through electrical ripple effects
* Another from Kasungu innovated a portable electrical powered water dispenser without touching it
By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi has a high population of unemployed young people but have very innovative ideas which are being taken away from them without much benefits or the government gaining from it.
Taking cognizance of this, Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) has partnered with Technical, Entrepreneurial & Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) to identify and train community innovations that can be commercialized.
At the signing ceremony of their memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Thursday at MUST Campus at Goliati in Thyolo, Vice-Chancellor Address Malata said this initiative is to produce skilled workforce that will support and advance the MW2063 industrialisation agenda.
“This partnership comes at an appropriate time for the nation, more especially as we look at science, innovation and technology as a vehicle for advancing creativity and design — particularly through commercialization of community innovations programme.
“The programme has been designed to make sure that MUST and TEVETA are working jointly with District Councils in identifying innovations that can be commercialised,” she said.
Already, the institution’s design lab is training young innovators from various communities — who showcased their innovations to the invited guests that included Thomas Munthali, Director General of formulators of the MW2063, the National Planning Commission (NPC) as well as directors of science, technology & innovation in the Ministry of Education and of technical & vocational training in Ministry of Labour.
One of the young trainees impressed the guests with his innovation which can trigger off power from an Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) transformer if one pole falls off during a rainstorm cutting off power from buildings in a bid to avoid fire through electrical ripple effects.
The guests were told that ESCOM has already visited MUST to appraise the innovation to technologically advance it further.
Another from Kasungu innovated a portable electrical powered water dispenser without touching it after he noticed that during these trying times of CoVID-19 people are at a risk that they may be carrying the virus on their hands but when they have finished washing their hands, they risk re-carrying the virus when closing the tap on which they had left it there when opening the tap.
Through the training with MUST, the innovation has been advanced to be operated by a rechargeable battery that can last a longer period of time.
There were several innovations on display at the design lab which shall be patented in the innovators’ name for their benefit when they shall be commercialization.
Acting TEVETA chief executive officer, Modesto Gomani said there are many other innovators in the country’s rural communities but unfortunately they have no capacity to patent their work.
He said through the partnership with MUST, they will continually engage with various stakeholders, including those from the local communities, industry and government to grow and sustain the innovations together.
“With innovativeness, as one of our values, we will strive to promote creativity and adoption of new technologies across the country as our commitment to participate in attainment of the MW2063.
“The MW2063 agenda advocates industrialisation and at the time recognises the need for promotion of home-grown technology designs, let alone education programmes that promote this from early stages of learning.”
Gomani gave an example of the old-age innovation in the rural areas of the local lamp called ‘Koloboyi’, which was simple but many of the most learned citizens of the country used it profitably to study at night and achieve their academic dreams.
He also talked of William Kamkwamba, who harnessed the wind and created a windmill for his community’s irrigation system. Kamkwamba’s innovation attracted global attention that won him a scholarship to the US and has travelled across the globe as a celebrity.
In his remarks, the NPC Director General, Munthali said it was such an honour that MUST and TEVETA are harnessing the MW2063, saying this initiative will deliver on the common aspirations of an “inclusively wealth and self-reliant industrialized nation”.
He quoted page 20 of the MW2063 that says ‘Our industrialization shall be driven by research, science and technology development in order to become and remain productive, innovative and highly competitive at regional and global levels. Our education system shall be re-designed to respond to the current and future skill needs of the manufacturing industry and sectors that support it. Advances in science, technology and innovation shall be promoted and leveraged’.
He went on to say science, technology and innovation (STI) is a “key enabler to Malawi’s vision of an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation, anchored by three main inter-linked pillars of Agriculture Productivity and Commercialization, Industrialization, and Urbanization”.
“We will never be competitive amongst global economies if we ignore STI. It is hence good to know that MUST will be taking TEVET graduates to advance their skills.
“Talking of which, we are working closely with Ministries of Labour and Education to conduct a skills audit so we guide our institutions of higher learning and training institutions on the skill sets required to deliver on the MW2063’s three pillars and seven enablers.
“I am sure that TEVETA and MUST will be an important stakeholder in this noble task,” Munthali said.
The initiative’s implementing team is being led by David Mkwambisi, who is Director of MUST Institute of Industrial Research and Innovation. He holds a PhD and MSc in Environment & Development from Leeds University and East Anglia respectively and a BSc in Agriculture from the University of Malawi.
Mkwambisi, who is an expert in environment and development in general and specifically in advancing innovation system management, has worked with multinational companies including Monsanto, Pannar Seed and Unilever.
He has experience in environmental education, innovation and entrepreneurship and has designed. He implemented several innovative research and development programmes in collaboration with local, regional and global partners.