By Chipambano Mbewe
Students For Liberty (SFL) Malawi chapter, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that advocates liberty thinking amongst young entrepreneurs, is encouraging young minds in Malawi to start developing innovative business ideas to help them pass through COVID-19 pandemic and life thereafter.
Students For Liberty is an international nonprofit organization with the mission to educate, develop and empower the next generation of leaders of liberty across the world.
Just recently, the SFL Malawi chapter held an online conference to entice people to apply to be trained as local coordinators to increase the number of them to, at least, 150 for the next cohort.
Held under the theme ‘Spreading Liberty Amid COVID-19 Crisis’, national coordinator John Nyangulu said the virtual meeting equipped 50 youths that participated with knowledge about liberty thinking and SFL history in Africa and Malawi.
Held in conjunction with Centre for Economic Thinking with financial support from Atlas Network, it targeted at giving an insight on how to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic and life thereafter.
“Liberty gives people the freedom to be innovative, self reliance and free to do whatever they want including trade and political affiliations,” Nyangulu said.
“So as SFL, we understand that there underlying dynamics that are affecting young people’s positive contribution to both personal and national development.
“Many factors such as changes in demographics, technology, economics and politics limit their abilities but through the exercise of their fundamental freedoms they can become the agents of change for a freer future for all where everyone is free to trade with anyone even during these pandemic times and life thereafter,” he said.
He added that if young people are aware of their freedoms, they will be empowered to take charge of their lives and contribute positively to the national development by opening up businesses to employ others and so on.
“The key point is innovation. The pandemic will allow them to be innovative and adapt to better ways of doing business now and after COVID-19.”
Matt Warner, president of Atlas Network, a nonprofit grant making organization committed to supporting local NGOs in more than 90 countries, said in a recent interview with www.medium.com that the World Bank estimates that COVID-19 could push over 70 million people globally into extreme poverty.
“We can’t let that happen, but we need a new approach and in order to end poverty for good, we have to radically shift how we view our role, as Westerners and as outsiders in the process.
“Property rights, free markets, and the rule of law supported by democratic institutions are the reason poverty has declined as much as it has.”
But to build an institution that lasts in support of lifting people out of poverty for good, Warner says locals must take the lead and though this might sound obvious to many but historically, this has not been acted on globally.
In his remarks, one of SFL Malawi chapter coordinators, Frank Kamanga — who is also Board member of Centre for Economic Thinking and Development — said the maiden online meeting was a success and they are determined to accomplish their main agenda of producing students and entrepreneurs with liberty mindset.
“We are committed to produce young liberty thinkers who are geared to survive in every economic aspect of the society for personal and community growth, especially in times like these when there is dire need for new and innovative ideas to have businesses up and running,” he said.
He added that the liberty concept allows flourishing of free market institutions, which are the best social arrangement for progress and prosperity, as freedom to trade with others provides the opportunity for innovation and the incentives for entrepreneurs to continually make a better world.
Kamanga said SFL Malawi chapter has been in existence for about nine years but due to leadership successions, the organization was not active up until the past two years when a new and dedicated leadership took over.
The new leadership is becoming effective and SFL is implementing its activities in conjuction with partners like Centre for Economic Thinking and Development.
“Many young minds in Malawi did not find the importance of joining SFL because they did not understand the organization’s mission, vision and membership benefits.
“This affected the whole process of recruitment of local coordinators and volunteers in Malawi.
“Most Western countries such as USA and Germany were developed on principles of liberty and we help instill such principles of liberty in social and economic fields in the youths so that they can be creative and self reliant.
“In particular we want them to learn capitalism principles such owning property rights, free marketism and respecting for the rule of law.
“If the students can understand such principles they can make good use of programmes such as MEDF and build wealth for themselves.”
Kamanga agrees with Matt Warner, president of Atlas Network, that COVID-19 could push millions of people globally, including Malawi, into extreme poverty and the Malawi chapter thought of building capacity in young minds to avert this trend.
Going forward, Kamanga said they going to make sure that the ideas that were discussed during the meeting are put into fruition and will mobilise more resources with stakeholders both locally and internationally so that they implement more activities in the near future.
The offices for Students for Liberty and Centre for Economic Thinking are based at the Catholic University in Chiradzulu and they reach out to youths through workshops that are held in universities and colleges as well as through online meetings and trainings.
The global SFL network was founded in 2008 by student leaders and has thousands of groups globally.
According to its brochure, ‘Learn Liberty’ is an online resource for exploring the ideas of a free society produced by the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.
“Learn Liberty programs tackle big questions about what makes a society free or prosperous and how we can improve the world we live in.
“We don’t have all the answers — but we’ve got a lot of ideas. By working with professors from a range of academic disciplines and letting them share their own opinions, we help explore new ways of looking for solutions to the world’s problems,” says the brochure.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira