* Now in its second year, the programme will award seed capital of K10 million to the best pitched bankable ideas among young Phuka incubates for agribusinesses
* The bank’s incubation program aims at empowering small and medium enterprises and equipping them with skills
By Duncan Mlanjira
Standard Bank Plc has launched the second cohort of its award-winning small and medium enterprise (SME) incubation program, Phuka, that focuses on agriculture value chain creation in partnership with the Centre for Agriculture Transformation (CAT) and Synergy Labs.
The program — now in its second year — will award seed capital of K10 million to the best pitched bankable ideas among young Phuka incubates for agribusinesses.
At the launch on Friday in Lilongwe, Head of Business & Commercial Banking, Graham Chipande said the second cohort will be conducted in partnership with CAT, a science, technology and business incubation hub.
Chipande said the bank’s incubation program aims at empowering small and medium enterprises and equipping them with skills and knowledge to propel their business to greater heights.
“Standard Bank is committed to transform the economic landscape through sectors that contribute to the development of the country,” he said. “We believe that together we can create a brighter and sustainable future for the agricultural industry.
“We will continue to be a key driver of agribusiness value chain in Malawi to enable efficiency of every player in the sector. It is our hope that the innovation around our Phuka Incubator Hub will benefit the industry in the long run.
“Our call is for all the incubates to make full use of period to ensure sustainability and growth of their businesses,” he said, adding that this year’s incubates will be introduced to investors to help, gain industry experience, mentorship and receive valuable feedback from industry experts.
CAT Executive Director, Macloud Nkhoma said incubates and other economic stakeholders need to borrow a leaf from Standard Bank’s initiative of forging partnership aiming to unleash the country’s growth potential.
He also called for a shift in mindset by entrepreneurs towards embracing partnerships and profit-oriented joint ventures.
“Experience shows that most small businesses in Malawi fail to progress because of individualism,” he said. “Often SMEs do not want to venture in business partnerships, which is bad for progress.
“This is why I implore upon businesses to consider partnerships because it gives room for more interventions that are successful and sustainable,” he said.
Nkhoma added that the MW2063 national vision prioritizes agricultural productivity, diversification, and commercialization, which require partnerships to actualize, saying: “Partnerships will be very crucial and extremely important to catalyze us to achieve this MW2063 vision so that we become a country that is producing, earning forex and succeeding in all that we do.”
Nkhoma said the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) will open a huge market opportunities and Malawi being an agro-based economy there are several opportunities for entrepreneurs to seize.
Through its partnership with the CAT and Synergy Labs, Standard Bank plans to enroll 70 entrepreneurs for the current cohort. To run for six weeks, the cohort will culminate into a Phuka Pitch Night #AgricEdition where the successful pitcher will win K10 million prize money to use as capital in their venture.
Last year, in its contribution towards towards the promotion of agricultural transformation that will improve the country’s economy, Standard Bank handed over two greenhouses to GGL Farm in Lumbadzi, Lilongwe.
The farm is managed by Inosselia and Greenbelt Authority, which also runs an agricultural training centre near Kamuzu International Airport and Standard Bank also donated furniture.
The investment, worth K23.5 million, is helping smallholder farmers to expand their crop variety within a small growing area and extend their growing season because they will not rely on rain water.
The initiative is engaging young people into modern farming methods that will eventually reduce food prices through increased supply on the local market.
According to Managing Director for Inosselia, Michael Gorelik at the launch of the initiative, the greenhouses produce 50 tons of vegetable commodities a week — tomatoes and green pepper among others, saying most shops in the country import from South Africa, but now they are all importing locally at Inosselia facility, saving forex for the country.
Greenbelt Authority and Inosselia have been producing vegetable commodities for at least two years which have been supplied to Malawi’s major supermarkets.