Mavis Zaina: Slaying From accounting to agriculture

Mavis Zaina is a chartered accountant with over 8 years’ experience in strategic management, accounting and finance.

But beyond her accountancy, Mavis is passionate about the agricultural value chain and its potentially high impact reach for poverty alleviation and development. Driven by this passion, Mavis founded Kanjadza Acres.

Kanjadza Acres is an agricultural enterprise that grows fruits and vegetables together with employing 10 locals. Mavis’ overall aim is to become a world-class entity participating in the end to end agricultural value chain. Through this, she hopes to create jobs and wealth for her community and eventually Africa.


What made you desire to start a business in agriculture?

I have always been fascinated by the agricultural value and the impact and change it has on an economy and its people. Specifically, I decided to focus on horticulture because of its high productivity and value.

With this passion, I launched my agribusiness journey. It has been quite exciting as the margins made are good and the products are often demanded and used daily in my community.

How friendly is the Malawian business environment to young female horticulturists? 

I think the business environment is challenging. The value chain is highly informal so the hustle is real to find market information that drives production and this results in unpredictability.

You have to be as strategic as possible and also very resilient and tough. Males dominate marketing and supply and many assume that as a young female, you are naive and vulnerable.

I once harvested a lot of cassava, and cassava must be sold or processed the very day it’s harvested or it changes colour and customers shun it. I went to the market once I was done the harvesting. Knowing it was my first time, buyers undermined me and started changing the agreed prices.

Refusing to bow down, I took a chance and went to offload at a new market. My risk paid off as I was able to sell all the cassavas. Although, since I stayed much later, I had to hire security as thieving gangs often disrupt women-led businesses. This is price men don’t have to pay.

My biggest mistake was doing too much too soon. I tried to build Rome in a day and lost money and time Click To Tweet

 

How can the business environment be improved for young entrepreneurs?

For the business environment to improve, we need clear and functioning value chains and infrastructure.  I also believe in mentorship and so having agribusiness incubators and accelerators is key.

These two accompanied by financing options would really do wonders for the environment.

Has collaborating worked for you? And why do you think it’s important for women?

I love collaborating because synergies created through collaboration can be very transformative. But just like any worthwhile relationship, it requires a good amount of work to find good collaborative partners, not just because we are in the same field, or because we are friends.

Collaboration should be done objectively and soberly. Otherwise, most end up in turmoil and discord.

 

Are they any women that have helped you in your journey?

I look up to many women in my life. My mother, for example, has provided me with the drive, determination and support system to be able to pursue my dreams. Another woman who supported me is Ngaba Chatata.

As a fellow farmer, Ngaba has advised me on horticultural production. It was after I visited her farm that I realized she was living the life I wanted. This challenged me to go an start my own business.

Overall, the women in my life have motivated me and provided me with a support system that has kept me going. They keep reminding me that with diligence and focus I will be successful.

What mistakes did you make in business and how can other women avoid that?

I made and still make lots of mistakes. They make me grow and redirect me. So first, realise that mistakes can be lessons.

My biggest mistake was doing too much too soon. I tried to build Rome in a day and lost money and time. So learning to be patient and work one step at a time is one great lesson to learn.

Secondly, it is important to draw up a plan, do research and map your journey. Although plans change, having one will grant you focus and purpose. With this, you will also be able to track progress.

Lastly, stay in your lane. Do not compare yourself to others. Journeys differ and comparison has a way of killing off your motivation and making you ungrateful.

Work on your hustle and keep your eyes ahead. - Mavis-Zaina Kanjadza Click To Tweet

 

Any final words to our Motherland moguls?

Find out what you want to do and do it. Know your purpose and pursue it militantly. You can do anything but only with clarity of purpose and hard work.


Facebook Live with Deliwe Makata: How to run a startup while completing your studies (Sept 13)

Getting an education should not be a barrier to pursuing your dreams early in life.

Com’on, we’ve gone past that time where we had to wait for graduation to start a business, master a new skill, or even start making trips to the bank…

Deliwe Makata is a living example. Currently an undergraduate, she founded Women Inspire, an empowerment and capacity building network for young women and girls in Malawi.

Deliwe has trained over 250 Malawian girls and conducted over 50 face to face mentoring sessions with girls, about issues relating to personal development.

You can start your career or business while in school. Learn how. Click To Tweet

Join us on Wednesday, 13th September, as we host a Facebook Live Chat with Deliwe, who will be sharing her advice on starting a company and pursuing her passion while completing her studies.

Register below to have access to this opportunity.

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Founding a company while in school
  • How early self-development has helped Deliwe to train young girls in Malawi
  • 3 keys to balancing your studies and side hustle

Facebook Live Details:

Date: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Time: Lagos 1pm // Lilongwe 2pm // Nairobi 3pm

Where: facebook.com/sheleadsafrica/

Watch here:

“She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Deliwe makata – Founder of Women Inspire, Malawi. How to run a startup while completing your studies. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!”

Posted by She Leads Africa on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Watch the first part of this video on our Facebook page.

About Deliwe

Deliwe Makata is a writer, speaker, and highly ambitious leader, with aspirations of getting into international public policy-making. She is the founder and executive director of a women empowerment organization called Women Inspire.

Women Inspire is dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls, both locally and internationally. Through training & mentoring women and girls in the areas of education, human right advocacy, capacity building, leadership and decision-making positions.

As a speaker, Deliwe has inspired many through her motivational appearances with international organizations, such as AGE Africa.

Deliwe is also an exceptional final year student currently pursuing her undergraduate degree with the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, studying Arts in Humanities.

Sharon Kadangwe: No competition without innovation

Sharon Kadangwe
You won't find anyone else who will be as honest with you as you are with yourself Click To Tweet

Model….. what comes to mind is the svelte size zero figures, catwalks, high fashion and of course the G_L_A_M_O_U_R! And usually when we talk about Runway Fests, its all about the gorgeous models working the runway and less of the amazing superstars behind these events. With that said we decided to challenge the norm and spotlight a poet, writer, model and entrepreneur from Blantyre, Malawi who goes by the name Sharon Kadangwe.

Sharon has a degree in Counselling Psychology but is also passionate about fashion, arts and empowering girls. She has been modelling professionally since 2012 and has appeared in fashion shows in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Sharon has also appeared in several themed photoshoots and adverts for Airtel and Nedbank. 

Her interest in the fashion industry grew beyond modelling over time as she became one of the founders of the Winter Ankara Fashion Expo (WAFE) an annual street fashion show which occurs in Blantyre and started in 2015. 


Is it possible for a teen starting her modelling career to just breakthrough without undergoing a training of some sort?

It depends. In other circumstances some of the best models have just been scouted in the street. Scouted means they are seen by someone who works in the fashion industry and then from there their careers start, they then train as they work. Most international models start their careers like that, locally we have Jack Thunde who was scouted in South Africa.

You then have another group of models who make it because they are hard-working and passionate and they get training. In our industry, it’s not everyday that someone is scouted so you would have to train and practice if you want to find jobs as a model.

What makes WAFE different from other festivals?

Everything about WAFE is unique. The name is unique, where it occurs is unique and how we do it is unique. We are the first fashion show in the history of Malawi to be held on the street. The Winter Ankara Fashion Expo  (WAFE) is an event that we created after we realized that most fashion shows in Malawi were centered around the capital city and the summer season.

We hold it at the end of July, which is the end of the cold/winter season in Malawi and we have it on Victoria Avenue. The reason why we chose that particular street is because of its history and the significance it has in the present day. We also wanted to have an event created by Blantyre, for Blantyre that anyone could enjoy.

Sharon Kadangwe

Which is the most important, strong headliners or strong supporting acts?

Great question.

Being someone who’s been on both sides (attending and planning an event) I would say headliners are important but supporting acts can also make or break the headliner. The tricky part is in finding both strong headliners and strong supporting acts at one event.

Sharon Kadangwe

The aim of WAFE is also to promote youth entrepreneurship within the fashion industry. Is it going according to how you envisioned it?

Yes. It has. Response from the event so far has been positive not only from the attendees but the designers. We have been able to provide a platform for different types of designers, especially upcoming ones. Models we have auditioned and trained have gone on to parade in different shows and campaigns all over Malawi.

That’s what we wanted to do; give people a platform to people so that they grow and develop with the skills they learn and empower others to do the same and that chain keeps going until the industry expands and grows and I believe with time that will happen.

You can't have competition without innovation - Sharon Kadangwe Click To Tweet

How competitive is the industry?

It’s competitive, challenging and slowly responds to change. I believe most of the competitiveness comes from selfish ambition and greed. If we had a lot more people willing to collaborate with others to grow the industry things would move at a faster pace.

But at the same time you can’t really call it competitive when people don’t come up with their own creative ideas they just copy what others do. You can’t have competition without innovation.

You’ve had much experience with festivals now. What seems to get easier with time?

Hahaha, I wouldn’t say 2 years is a lot of experience but I have definitely learnt a lot about myself, what I can do, how people think, how to work with others and how to talk to people from all walks of life. The only thing that becomes easier is seeing where you made mistakes and being willing and able to fix them. We have had a lot of disappointments and setbacks over the past 2 years and being able to pick yourself from that and forging ahead is also something that comes with time.

What doesn’t get easier is the same thing; experiencing a setback, making a mistake and getting disappointed. It goes both ways. Managing events is an unpredictable industry. You can plan everything to the last second but anything can happen. Nobody ever expects bad things to happen, but they do. What matters is how you deal with them

Sharon Kadangwe

Can you share with us your greatest work related accomplishment

I have a few accomplishments that I’m proud of but at the top of my list would have to be featured on africa.com, I was given an opportunity to talk about WAFE and all the things I do.

I also performed poetry and gave  a talk to female students at the S.H.E empowered retreat for girls last year. It was amazing to have such an opportunity, when I was in school I hoped for such events to happen and so I’m really glad I was able to share my story and my art to other young ladies.

Fun question! Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?

I really laughed out loud at this question so that’s one sign. Doesn’t everyone talk to themselves? I talk to myself everyday, all the time. Sometimes I might ignore someone and have a conversation with myself in my head.

It’s usually about my day, I ask myself questions, try to figure out if I did something wrong and how I fixed it or I’ll think about music I’ll listen to or I’ll come up with a poem or I’ll think about my past and my future.
It helps to talk to yourself, you won’t find anyone else on earth who will be as honest with you as you are with yourself.

What do you want Sharon Kadangwe to be remembered for?

On my birthday last year my mum wrote me a letter and she asked me a similar question, she asked what I would want written on my epitaph and I’ll use the same response I gave her
“A passionate believer who aspired to live the life of purpose which God intended for her. Romans 12:2”


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Pempho Chinkondenji: Do not let what you do not have stop you from pursing your dreams

Pempho Chinkondenji
Pempho Chinkondenji co-founded Loving Arms Malawi to create a safe space for girls/women Click To Tweet

Co-founder of the Christian nonprofit Loving Arms Malawi, Pempho Chinkondenji is a bright and inspiring #MotherlandMogul committed to public service and to championing women’s rights. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Cross-cultural and International education at Bowling Green State University.

An avid volunteer, in May 2016, Pempho became a member of a non-profit organization known as the Pan-Pacific and South-East Women’s Association (PPSEAWA-USA). At the end of 2016, PPSEAWA USA appointed Pempho to be their youth delegate to the United Nations.

SLA contributor Uloma Ogba caught up with Pempho to learn what ignited her passion for volunteering and social entrepreneurship.


When most people finish university, their first thought is usually how to land that high-paying job, but you chose to start an NGO instead. Could you tell us what inspired you to do so and what your NGO is all about?

I actually co-founded Loving Arms Malawi in July 2014, a year after I graduated from undergrad.  I have two friends, Livinia and Sungani, who share the same passion and desire to reach out to girls in our communities. Together, we co-founded Loving Arms Malawi.

As a first-generation college graduate, when I got to college I learned the importance of having educated female role models who I did not have when I was younger. Also, my friends and I grew up in communities where discussions about abuse were considered taboo. Yet a lot of girls were going through the experience and suffering in silence.  After college, my friends and I started talking about the issue of girls lacking role models, and the need to deal with the problem.

We also talked about the sexual and physical abuse happening in our communities right under our noses. In our country, the problem is not regarded as a health issue, hence the lack of counselling facilities to help the affected girls.  After a lot of discussions, we decided to start Loving Arms, as a haven that provides free counselling, educational support, and spiritual mentoring to young people, especially girls that have been abused.

We do outreach programs to boarding schools, communities, and churches to support adolescents who have been through these experiences, or just need support.  We identify educated role models to speak to the young people and work with survivors of abuse to share their stories with the young people.

How active are you currently in the leadership of Loving Arms Malawi? What lessons would you say you have learnt from running an NGO that you have been able to apply to other areas of your life?

I currently serve as a Co-founder for Loving Arms and also as the Program Director for the educational support project.  There are a lot of things that I have learned through my experiences at Loving Arms. I have learned how to be optimistic, how to build a good rapport with others, and how to develop a “go-getter” attitude.

During our first outreach program, we were going to a boarding school that had over 800 girls and we were bringing them some cake for dessert. Since in boarding school, the food is not as great, and you do not get cake, we thought of giving them a treat.  We had about 40 volunteers, and our church community was very supportive of in this program.

But this was the first time I was going to present at such a big event with this audience.  I was nervous. Not only about my speech, but was wondering if what we shared with the girls would make a difference in their lives.   Also, I was worried about whether I would be able to connect with the girls and get them to open up about issues that they normally would remain silent about. To my surprise, the event was a great success.  I could talk openly with the girls, and it was amazing to see how they responded and wanted to engage with us!

You are now completing a Master of Arts in Cross-cultural and International education in the US. What led you to choose this major and how do you see it contributing to your future career goals?

My interest in education developed because of my experience with Loving Arms.  Since we seek to provide girls educational support and get them to realize the importance of education, I started to develop interest in this area.  More specifically, my interests centered on female education and development.

I was enrolled into the Master of Arts in Cross-cultural and International education where I learned a lot about educational policies and systems across the world.  Because of my professional interests, I developed a self-designed cognate called Education Policy and Development. I have learned a lot about how the issues of gender, education and development interact.

My goal is to develop a career in education policy, especially for developing countries in the Sub-Saharan African region.  I hope that the skills and expertise that I attain will not only benefit Malawi, but I will be able to contribute to other parts of the world.

Pempho Chinkondenji's goal is to develop a career in education policy for developing countries Click To Tweet

You are now an active member of the non-profit Pan-Pacific and South-East Women’s Association (PPSEAWA-USA). Could you tell us what this organization is all about and what role you play in the organization?

I am an active member of PPSEAWA-USA.  I currently serve as the Chapter President for our Toledo Chapter, and as one of the Youth Delegates to the United Nations.  PPSEAWA is an international organization that strengthens peace by promoting better understanding in the Pacific and South-East Asia.

It also promotes cooperation among women in these regions to the improvement of their social, economic, and cultural condition.  For example, PPSEAWA-USA provides scholarships to girls in this region to enable them obtain an education.

IMG_2527

PPSEAWA USA recently appointed you to be their youth delegate to the United Nations. What an amazing achievement. What has this experience been like? What are some of the pressing issues you have been able to discuss at the UN meetings?

It was a great honor for me when the PPSEAWA-USA national President appointed me as one of the Youth Delegates to the UN.  Through this position, I was able to attend the 61st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) at the United Nations Headquarter in New York in March. At the CSW61, PPSEAWA co-sponsored a few side events.

Some of the issues were on challenges and opportunities of migrant women’s economic empowerment, and empowerment through education.  This position also gives me the opportunity to attend Briefings at the UN that are sponsored by the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI).

Why do you think it is important for more young women to become actively engaged in volunteer work, especially with causes and organizations that work towards the advancement of women’s rights?

I think that volunteering is one way for young women to learn, gain on-the-job experience, and advocate for the rights of other women. Through the professional jobs that I have had, I was not able to fight for the causes that I am passionate about or be the voice for the voiceless in the communities around me because the focus of these organizations was different.  I did not let that be the reason for me to just sit down and do nothing.

Through volunteering and community service with nonprofits and international organizations, I have been able to be part of local and global movements that seek to promote girls’ rights to education, promote equity and equality despite gender differences, and empower women and girls to reach their full potential.  I would highly encourage young women to become part of the causes that they believe in. If they are interested, they should be able to go out and pursue volunteer opportunities that will give them the opportunity to become change-makers.

With the Girls

What women have been the biggest influencers and role models in your life?

My mother is my biggest role model and the biggest influencer in my life.  I can confidently say that it is because of her that I have became the woman that I am today.  She is a woman who is fearless, strong, and God-fearing.  She came from a poor background, with no role models around her to inspire her to stay in school. Yet she did not succumb to the pressures around her that tried to stop her from going to school.

Even after my siblings and I were born, she went back to school to further her education. Her life story inspires me, that is why I have always desired to also help other girls find role models who will help in shaping them in their careers and personal lives.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young women reading this, what would that be?

The advice I would give young women reading this is;  Do not let what you do not have stop you from pursing the dreams and aspirations you have in your heart.

Search for opportunities, and do not let negative responses bring you down. Trust, hope and press on until those aspirations become a reality.


To learn more about Pempho’s story, you can contact her via email, follow her blog or check out her LinkedIn page.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Fatsani Banda: Self-ship is the enemy of leadership

Fatsani Banda
Fatsani Banda's passion comes from the desire to leave the world better than she found it Click To Tweet

Fatsani Banda is a young woman carving a path for herself in the world of global health. Born and raised in Malawi, Fatsani studied journalism and worked in a number of organisations before gaining a fellowship at the Global Health Corps (GHC).

During her GHC fellowship year, Fatsani worked as a Procurement and Logistics Coordinator at Partners in Health stationed in Malawi. She helped manage a $500,000+ budget for the purchase and delivery of clinical items as well as the construction of new surgical wards. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF, Fatsani helped implement an electronic stock management system for tracking drugs and essential commodities.

Following her fellowship, Fatsani remained with Partners in Health Malawi as an Operation Manager for two years. When Ebola hit Liberia, Fatsani was spurred to action and joined the Partners in Health team in Liberia, working as an Operations Manager to support in strengthen the country’s health systems


In a former life, you worked at a bank. We’re always inspired by bold career moves, but tell us -why did you make the switch to global health?

My main drive in life comes from the desire to leave the world better than I found it. Global health is a platform for me to give back to this world.

Only healthy people can contribute to the development of society – even those who work in the bank have to be healthy to render their services.

Global health is a platform for me to give back to this world - Fatsani Banda Click To Tweet

When most of us think about health, we think about doctors and nurses. How are you leading efforts to solve global health challenges despite not having any medical training?

When I stepped into the health sector as a Global Health Corps fellow in Malawi in 2012, I had a similar perception. Over the past five years, it has become very clear to me that factors beyond medical training are important determinants of health and access to healthcare.

Fatsani Banda shows that you can have a career in health despite having no medical training Click To Tweet

There are remote areas in developing countries that have a good number of physicians, but patients still do not get the essential drugs they need to prevent and treat disease because there is no functioning system to make this medicine accessible. This is where I fit in. My job is to collaborate with medical personnel and vendors to bridge these gaps and strengthen supply chain systems.

Fatsani Banda 3

In the aftermath of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, many people moved away from the region. What motivated you to leave your home country of Malawi to help with relief efforts in Liberia, one of the hardest hit countries?

Just as I did nothing to earn decent health services throughout my life, those born in Liberia with a dearth of health resources similarly did nothing to deserve such conditions.

Perhaps because of my undeserved good fortune, I feel an obligation and a desire to help rectify inequity. It’s been so rewarding to serve the people of Liberia, whose health system was in shambles before the intervention by Partners in Health (PIH).

The Ebola situation has calmed down, but you’re still working on rebuilding health systems. What does a typical day look like for you?

Most developing (and even some developed) countries have entrenched health problems, and Liberia is not spared. Working with PIH to strengthen the health system in Liberia has been quite thrilling in many ways.

On a daily basis, we see our interventions impacting, and often times saving, people’s lives. We provide modern healthcare options and supply essential medicine in communities which are far from the capital.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work as a health equity leader so far? What’s been the most challenging?

Progressive service delivery is what makes me happy. As part of PIH’s Operations department, I work with a team that is the hub of all functionalities of the organization. Seeing patients getting the lifesaving drugs they need in the rural facilities that we support really keeps my heart at peace!

The flip side of this is the challenging part –Liberia’s road network, especially in rainy season, is very poor and is often the cause of delays in operations. Accomplishing our planned tasks becomes hard in this situation, but we have to carry on.

Fatsani Banda 2

It seems like your work, by nature, is very collaborative. What it’s like to join efforts with people across sectors and borders to improve health outcomes?

The greatest ideas are the ones that are dreamed up by teams of people. When two or more people gather and brainstorm around a challenge, the probability of getting an excellent outcome is high.

Fatsani Banda: The greatest ideas are the ones that are dreamed up by teams of people Click To Tweet

I find the nature of my job very thrilling as it involves cooperating with other people who have different perspectives from mine. Together we think up and implement solutions to the difficult challenge of strengthening the health systems of Liberia.

You also supervise and mentor other young health equity leaders who are following in your path. What’s the best piece of advice you share with them?

Everybody has a role to play in this work. Title and rank do not matter as much as people think –anyone can step up as a leader and come up with an idea.

The supervisors and managers in any work environment depend highly on their subordinates. I usually share with my team that we need bottom-up efforts, collaboration, and a commitment to long-term change to be successful.

The world feels very chaotic right now, and new health and development challenges are emerging every day. What motivates you to keep working for a brighter future?

We all hope for the best, but the best cannot happen whilst we are just seated. We have to have our minds focused on making good health a reality for all at all times.

Whilst new health challenges are cropping up, building equitable systems is what will allow us to deal with them. I constantly remind myself that change is possible and celebrating progress keeps me motivated.

What three words would you use to describe the best boss you ever had?

The best boss I ever had was supportive, hardworking and a team player.

What is one leadership mantra that you live by?

Self-ship is the enemy of leadership.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Kuwala: The African continent isn’t simply inspiration for Western designers

kuwala

It’s never easy connecting with emerging businesses half way across the world but Malawians Freeda and Veronica, founders of Kuwala, make it look simple as cake. Both women want to share their connection with Africa through heritage and fashion.

Their brand, Kuwala focuses on vibrant African prints like the chitenge and their goal is to encourage ethical production methods. Kuwala achieves this by partnering with select fashion brands and designers that have unique messages to share.

We had a chat with the friends turned business partners on how they promote high-quality fashion designed in Africa and they promote high-quality fashion designed in Africa and about how Africa can be more than just an inspiration for Western designers, but a fashion hub for creativity and manufacturing.


Who are Freeda and Veronica? How did you both decide to start Kuwala?

We are Malawian women who share a strong connection with the African continent through our heritage and fashion. Both our families had been close friends for some years. When Veronica moved to Toronto, the same city as Freeda, we further connected as friends.

Interestingly, while discussing our life and career goals, we realized we had similar goals for business, fashion and staying connected to Africa. After months of researching and planning, Kuwala was launched in January 2014 and the rest is history.

How do you identify socially responsible fashion brands for Kuwala?

First, before agreeing to partner with brands, we consider their online presence and the message they share on their website and social media. Today, it’s almost impossible to have a business without some sort of online presence.

From there, we email people we intend establishing a partnership with and negotiate terms that are mutually beneficial.

Also, when we can, we also travel to the countries where the designers are based to further connect and review their operations. We think Africa has the potential to become a fashion manufacturing hub.

In summary, through Kuwala partnerships, we want to encourage and promote ethical production methods across Africa.

kuwala bags

Who is the ideal Kuwala shopper?

Simply, our ideal shopper is a woman that’s interested in rocking African inspired fashion in her everyday life. She understands Kuwala’s mission and is interested in spreading the stories of the brands we work with.

Typically, her wardrobe is full of vibrant colors and unique prints. She simply enjoys standing out in a crowd and not conforming to trends.

Most people are familiar with the wax prints of West Africa or the Ghanaian kente cloth. Do you work with Malawian fabrics?

Of course, the most commonly worn fabric in Malawi is the chitenge. This cotton cloth comes in a variety of vibrant prints and patterns.

It is also known as ankara or kitenge and is most popularly worn in Southern and West African countries. Most of the clothing on kuwala.co is made from this print.

How is Kuwala redefining African fashion abroad? Tell us about your new model to connect fashion designers in the Diaspora.

Basically, through Kuwala, we aim to promote the idea that beautiful and high-quality fashion can be designed and made in Africa. We want to dispel the idea that the African continent is simply an inspiration for Western designers.

Whether it’s in-person or on our website, we try sharing stories of the designers and brands we work with.

Also, with our new model, we’re working on facilitating partnerships with designers in the Diaspora.

kuwala bazaar 2

Kuwala works in Canada, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and the United Kingdom, how do you manage this? Have you started manufacturing on the African continent?

We manage everything through technology. From social media to emails and phone calls, technology has really helped us to better manage Kuwala effectively.

In the past, it’s never been this easy to connect with emerging businesses half way across the world. We manufacture in Africa through the brands we partner with that are based on the continent.

Also, like with most businesses, running Kuwala has had its share of ups and downs. However, this whole process has been a learning experience and we learn from the past mistakes made.

kuwala bazaar

You and Freeda have visited many African countries, what is your top advice on travelling the continent?

Veronica: My advice for travelling in Africa is eat everything! No matter how different or “strange” it is.

Be open to tasting the many delicious dishes that are available across the continent. It’s okay to not like it, but at least you’ll be able to say you tried something your friends back home haven’t eaten.

Freeda: I am not as adventurous as Veronica in the food department. I would say, be prepared to have some of your preconceived ideas and assumptions about Africa dispelled.

In addition, remember to also appreciate the beauty and diversity because that narrative of Africa is often overshadowed.


Interested in collaborating with Veronica & Freeda? Reach out to the dynamic duo at hello@kuwala.co. To stay up-to-date with what’s going on at Kuwala, follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Tshepy Matloga: Recognition is the best motivator

tshepy matloga south africa malawi

South African journalist Tshepy Matloga started making frequent visits to Malawi in 2014 when she noticed the lack of business magazines with Malawian content. Tshepy jumped at the chance to address this gap by launching Inde, a business and lifestyle magazine aimed at Malawian women.

Here, Tshepy shares tips on setting up shop in another African country and speaks on being voted a top South African inspirational youth.


You’re South African, why did you decide to start a publication in Malawi?

More than a year ago I became a frequent visitor in Malawi. I was charmed by how serene and peaceful the country is compared to the hustle and bustle of South Africa. As a journalist by profession myself, some of the things I collect are magazines and it baffled me that I could not find a single publication that was about women and the business landscape in Malawi.

Yes, there are so many publications in Malawian shops but they are all South African publications coming here packaged with South African content. I also met my partner here who happened to be in the media too. When I ran the idea past him, we both decided to bring to life Inde magazine in March 2016. “Inde” is a Chewa word meaning “yes”, Inde Magazine is Malawi’s only business and lifestyle magazine.

What is the business climate/culture like in Malawi and how is it different compared to South Africa?

The business landscape in Malawi is extremely different than the one in South Africa. I am used to a fast paced business environment and I have found Malawians to be very relaxed, there’s no hurry here whereas in South Africa time is money.

With that said, I think my biggest challenge was having to slow down my normal work pace so that I didn’t become too overwhelming. I however like the Malawian walk-in policy, you can just rock up at a company with no appointment and request for a meeting and if the person is available they will make time to hear you out. That part has made things easier for me because I came here with no business contacts.

inde magazine

What tools do you use to extend the reach of Inde magazine?

Social media has been very helpful in this regard. Then, Malawians are generally friendly people and it being a small community, word of mouth also goes a long way. I have also been trying to partner with local events so that the brand is exposed even more

What other projects do you engage in outside Inde?

My public relations firm, Chronicles Media Group is present in both South Africa and Malawi. Outside Inde, Chronicles Media group also offers PR services such as corporate communications, social media management, brand management and events.

Besides PR and the magazine, I blog for a South African organization called Leadership2020 where I write about my life journey, from growing up in the village of Botlokwa in the northern part of South Africa to running my own company.

You recently made Youth Village’s list of the top most inspirational youth in South Africa, how does that feel?

Recognition is the best motivator. To be young and know that in the few years that you have been on this earth you have impacted lives is a sign that you are going into the right direction. Everyone who knows me well knows that I have struggled to get to where I am today.

From Botlokwa, packing my bags and going to university even though I knew very well my mother could not afford the fee; to struggling to find employment, and when I eventually did find one I did not like it; to starting my business with a few thousands I have saved from freelancing jobs. I have to admit it was a curvy road. So with that said, it is things like such recognition that remind me that the journey was and is worth it.

What advice will you give to young African women looking to start a business in another African country?

I’d say the beauty of venturing into another country is that you are new there so it makes it easier for you to identify gaps and thus fill them up. Africans are generally friendly people therefore making it easier for a new person to just get lost into the communities and be part of them.

But, I have to say markets are not the same. In another country you might find yourself having to adjust your prices and make them lower to make your services/products affordable to the locals.


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Becoming a leader from the inside out

The Growing Ambitions CoFounders_Lusungu Kalanga, Chikondi Chabvuta & Umba Zalira

Irene Umba Zalira is a women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health advocate. In this piece, she shares the impact of Global Health Corps on her views on leadership and how she engages with her work. 

Global Health Corps is a leadership development organization that places young leaders under 30 from all backgrounds in year-long paid positions. Applications for the 160+ positions for the 2016-2017 class are due February 2nd, 2016. You can apply here


Is leadership something you’ve always desired?

I never wanted to be a leader, never saw myself as one. I took on small roles throughout my primary and secondary school life but nothing too serious. At least that is what I thought. I didn’t know these small roles were preparing me for bigger leadership roles that I would take on later in life.

Last year, I spent a year serving as a Global Health Corps fellow at the Ministry of Health in Malawi. Prior to being a Global Health Corps fellow, I shied away from leadership positions, aiming for roles with  less responsibility.

From your experience, do you think leadership skills can be taught? Or is it simply an innate skill?

People who know me now would never believe I once shied away from leadership roles. I truly believe my Global Health Corps experience molded me into the leader I am today. None of the leadership workshops and trainings I ever attended mentioned the need to work on your self-esteem.

Everyone spoke of leadership as something you did on the outside: how you talk, how you influence people and how you convince people. No one mentioned self-acceptance and confidence are the source of leadership. And because I was struggling on the inside, I couldn’t see myself as a leader.

What has been the greatest inspiration for you?

I remember being at Yale University in a room full of 127 young amazing people who had done extraordinary things in their lives: 127 change makers. There was one specific story that stuck with me.

One of the program participants had lived in Vietnam, and taught kids in the village how to swim because there had been a lot of drowning incidents during the rainy season. It made me think: ‘wow, I don’t even know how to swim!’

Global Health Corps

There were people younger than me who had already started organisations and initiatives in their own communities. That was definitely not me!

But there is something about being in such a space, a safe space with peers, where you can be vulnerable to say: ‘I am scared’. ‘I don’t know how I am going to do this.’ ‘Hell, I don’t even know how I got here!’ But, by the end of those 2 weeks at Yale, I was ready to own the GHC slogan of ‘change maker’.

The sessions with GHC staff and my peers, helped me see myself as a leader. I started working on my fears, passions, abilities, strengths and even weaknesses.

That must have been a huge inspiration for you. What did you then do with all that fire?

I got back to my country and I was ready to serve! I was serving before, but this time around, it was different. I was more than willing to lead initiatives and own the title of a change maker. I was one of the founding members of the Rotaract Club of Lilongwe and served as the Director of Community Services in the first year.

The Rotaract Club of Lilongwe is a service club of young people between the ages of 18-30 from different professional and educational backgrounds. We use our diverse skills and resources to improve the communities we live through the implementation of various projects and programs.

We understand you’ve been involved in different projects. Tell us about them.

Two friends and I started a community initiative in Kauma, a peri urban area on the outskirts of Lilongwe City, Malawi after we noticed teenage pregnancies was prevalent, resulting in high school drop out rates for girls. Initially, the plan was to go through the project a local church in the area had started to address the issue, to talk to the girls and encouragement them, then move on with our lives. But my drive to make an impact didn’t let me be. When you start doing something you are passionate about, you have to see it through.

So 17 months later, we found ourselves as co-founders of an organization called Growing Ambitions. We are currently supporting more than 20 girls with school fees and school materials. We recently enrolled one of our girls, Esther, a 19-year-old mother of a beautiful baby boy, into Stella Maris, a prestigious catholic secondary school.

Our mission is to help girls make informed decisions through mentoring and career guidance. We envision a Malawi where girls, regardless of their socio-economic status or negative experiences, take charge of their lives and thrive.

Growing ambitions

Tell us more about Growing Ambitions

Growing Ambitions primary target group are girls and young women who have dropped out of school due to unplanned pregnancy. We re-enroll them into schools and provide support to ensure they stay in school. We conduct monthly sessions on different topics ranging from sexual reproductive health, human rights, feminism, gender, time management based on the girl’s interests.

So far, the initiative has been self-funded along contributions from well-wishers. But, seeing that we’re growing, there’s going to be need for an alternative source of funding. Currently, we are in the process of getting registered as a non-governmental organization with the Malawian Ministry of Justice, and look forward to serving more girls and young women in Kauma and beyond.

What inspires you to keep the initiative alive?

It’s been a new, and sometimes arduous journey for me, my co-founders and the girls as well. These girls and young women live in communities where their rights are disregarded and they’re treated as second class citizens. But every small step in the right direction ensures more girls complete their education, and knowing that keeps me going.