Rachel Sibande is the founder of M-Hub, Malawi’s first technology hub. It is an incubator for technology startups with a special focus on building young tech entrepreneurs by offering them training, skills development and mentorship. “M-Hub champions the development of technology solutions as its main lifeline. The hub invests its profits in social good programs that build capacities of children, girls and youth in developing technology applications. Ultimately, M-Hub wants to be the prime software solution provider in the nation and beyond, employing skills of young Malawians.”
Girls and Their Toys
Rachel’s interest in technology started in her school days when she found herself playing with different gadgets, radios and anything tech she could find. Later on, she studied computer science at Malawi’s Chancellors College and then sparked off her career as a programmer before diverting into lecturing and teaching. “Growing up I had a passion for gadgets. I was just curious on anything techy. I actually thought I would be a lab scientist. But I guess with time, my passion moved to computers.”
Still filled with a passion to use technology to change lives, Sibande then found herself working with development agencies like USAID, FICA and GIZ. It was around this time when Rachel got involved in rolling out Malawi’s first web-to-SMS service for the malawi’s smallholder farmer industry.
Malawi’s first Tech hub
After seeing the impact technology was making in Malawi’s agricultural industry, Rachel then developed a conviction to grow this impact to other sectors.
In 2012, While on a fellowship under Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Programme in the United States, Rachel was introduced to the concept of technology hubs. It was then that the conviction birthed a new vision, an incubator and cutting edge space that would be customized to suit the Malawian context. “I wanted to see that there was a space where young technology enthusiasts were nurtured with technical and business skills through mentoring and facilitation of the hub and its members,” she recalls in one interview. “Youth are the future change makers and this is why special focus is put on training and mentoring youth entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. ICT skills can equip young entrepreneurs to become job creators to decrease unemployment. More ICT projects should be coordinated and implemented to improve infrastructure development and I believe once youth are equipped with these skills, they’ll see the vision and they’ll be the driving force behind change and development. It is very important that youth know their potential and are empowered to ensure that the future prosperity of their nation and continent is secured.”
When she isn’t working Sibande says she still innovates in the kitchen, “ I enjoy spending time with my three bundles of joy. Apart from that, I am always experimenting with recipes and spices in the kitchen.”
Sibande, who is working to expand the innovation hub into various districts in Malawi, says one of her biggest hopes is to see “a generation of young people that can embrace careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in order to harness the power of science in unraveling global challenges. I envisage a world where young people can transcend job seeking to job creation for themselves and others.”