mHub Fosters Tech Innovation in Malawi

July 2, 2015

Inside the 236 square metre open space on the first floor of a three-storey building in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city, approximately 15 young people are hunkered down behind computers with fingers tapping frantically at keyboards.

Of the fifteen people in the open floor plan space, only three are women. Two of them, Towera Moyo and Danielle Mvalo aged 18 and 21, respectively, are engrossed in deciphering the code they just wrote for the web design project they are working on.

“We are both studying information technology and are currently working on a project that was assigned to us,” said Mvalo.

The space aptly called mHub is Malawi’s first technology hub and co-working space, aimed at technology entrepreneurs, startups and developers.  The tech hub is taking advantage of the growing use of technology and penetration of internet in the country to create a community of tech aficionados that can build locally relevant applications and technologies.

Since the hub opened its doors in February, it has been attracting a coterie of tech enthusiasts but women have been missing, said the mHub CEO and founder, Rachel Sibande.

“The mHub’s key target group are young people. The hub reaches out to students and graduates to make them members and harness their technology skills whilst building a crop of technology entrepreneurs that is conspicuously missing in Malawi,” Sibande.

It is still early to determine the impact of mHub, which is supported by the Hivos Southern Africa Hub, but Sibande says she is convinced Malawi’s young population and adaptable spirit can create unlikely tech success stories.

According to Vincent Kizombe, mHub’s community manager, approximately twenty ‘techies’ frequent the space on a daily basis.

“The idea is to build a community of tech entrepreneurs, nurture them and turn their innovative ideas into viable business models,” he said, adding that one of the key priorities of mHub is to attract more women to the space.

“Since we started we’ve had a lacklustre response from women, hence our plan to conduct advocacy in schools and colleges targeted at them,” Kizombe said.

Through workshops, accelerator programmes, incubators and mentorship, the hub is helping to building local tech capacity.

“We think by bringing people together, we are building a community centred around technology and pushing ideas together with a group spirit. We are a hub where people come together to try to solve problems and build businesses out of the solutions,” said Sibande.

mHub is currently actively encouraging women developers to build more applications and get more involved in software development projects. According to Kizombe, in the past technology was considered a male domain, but this is fast changing.

“Things are looking better now, more women are enrolling for tech in colleges, they just need proper motivation and encouragement not to drop the subject, and mHub is playing its part in encourage women to be future innovators.”