Making fortune out of football chat time in Karonga 

It’s a sunny morning at Nyungwe Trading Centre in Karonga.  Outside one of the shops, a medium height and black in complexion young man is seated on a veranda with rough pink desk in front of him. He receives a K200 banknote from a lady in exchange for a mobile phone airtime voucher. Within seconds, a similar process is repeated with five more people.

Waleke Ng’ambi selling mobile vouchers at Nyungwe Trading Centre
Waleke: Inspirations in life come in different ways, some in weird forms that defy any logical sense

This is how Waleke Ng’ambi, 26, from Mchekacheka Village in Traditional Authority Mwilang’ombe is transforming his life at the trading center.

Ng’ambi used to spend time discussing international soccer competitions such as the UEFA Champions and English Premier Leagues, clubs and their players.

After dropping out of school due to financial constraints, Waleke was staying with her mother and had nothing else to do for a living.

“All I was doing was to play social football, watch European games on TV and spend time here discussing football with friends,” he says.

A fan of Chelsea Football Club, Waleke did not know that just a bit of motivation and guidance could make a difference in his life despite quitting school.

He had never thought that the trading centre would be a source of his fortune until when World Vison Malawi introduced Action for Adolescents Project in the area with funding from UNICEF.

The project led to the birth of a youth club called Hope Youth Ready Club which Waleke joined with the mentality of passing time.

He did not know that the project meant serious business and would later turn around his life through the Village Savings and Loans (VSL) concept that was introduced to the club.

“When I joined the club, I learnt we were supposed to start saving money. We met every Monday and Tuesday and, on each day, every member was supposed to bring K500.

“If you didn’t have money, it was not a crime, members would understand you,” he says.

With Hope Youth Ready Club, members were also required to engage in any business and Waleke opted for growing and selling tomatoes.

He borrowed money from the club’s VSL to buy fertilizer and pesticides.

From the first sales of his tomatoes, Waleke realized K60, 000 and thought of investing the money into the business of selling mobile phone airtime.

He topped up the capital with K35, 000 borrowed again from his VSL group and within a week, his business took off with an investment of K95, 000.

Since then, Waleke has never looked back. Business is good and the returns are promising. In every two days, he makes an average profit of K5, 000 which translates to K75 000 per month.

With such earnings, Waleke can stand toe to toe with diploma graduates working in white collar job in some institutions.

Meanwhile, Waleke says he dreams of expanding his business and not to get employed by anybody.

“I have bought a piece of land where I will build medium-sized houses for rent,” he says.

With his business, Waleke is also supporting his siblings and recently, he provided his young brother money to start his own business.

“He wanted to start a business of selling goat meat and I gave him K40, 000 as his startup capital,” he says.

For Waleke and many other youths in the country, it is not easy to attain tertiary education. Between 80, 000 and 120, 000 youths leave secondary schools every year and there is stiff competition for limited space in public universities.

Karonga District Youth Officer Jessie Mwansambo says the district’s high school dropout rate results in alcohol and substance abuse and early marriages. Unemployment also remains a major challenge.

“There is need for capacity building in different fields. The youth lack guidance and counselling on many issues such as entrepreneurship,” Mwansambo says.

She commends A4A Project for playing a role in transforming lives in the district but said there are more youths that need similar support.

“Action for Adolescents Project is a vibrant project and is tackling most challenges the youth face.

But very few people are being reached. Only four youth clubs have been directly reached; two in Mwilang’ombe and two in Kilipula. The whole Karonga, we have 149 youth clubs and four youth NGOs,” Mwansambo says.

According to the Ministry of Youth Sports and Manpower Development, young people in the country, who constitute 70 percent of the population, continue to face challenges on the labour market.

The ministry’s principal secretary Joseph Mwandidya said last year that youth unemployment in the country was at 23 percent while national unemployment was at 21 percent.

World Vision Malawi Technical Programmes Manager for Education Florence Pwele, says the project which run between 2016 and 2017 aimed to empower adolescents, especially those who dropped out of school to become self-reliant.

Pwele describes the project as a gateway for youth to unveil their potential of becoming productive citizens.

As Waleke has set the pace, one can only hope that many unemployed youths will graduate from dependency on their parents and guardians to financial independence through the project and other similar initiatives.

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