Malawian who built scrap metal helicopter becomes first Chichewa speaker at TEDx: ‘I believe I can fly’

Harold Kapindu – Nyasa Times

What started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, ‘Technology, Entertainment, Design’ (TED), a non-profit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading, has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives.

Malawian Felix Kambwiri sits in the cockpit of the helicopter he built out of scrap metal and fibreglass in his garage on February 19, 2016. Amos Gumulira/AFP

Malawian Felix Kambwiri sits in the cockpit of the helicopter he built out of scrap metal and fibreglass in his garage -Amos Gumulira/AFP

Today, TED shares ideas from a broad spectrum from science to business to global issues in more than 100 languages.

Malawi on Saturday became one of the countries having a first time vernacular speaker at TEDxLilongwe as innovator Felix Kambwiri, a 45 year old welder from Dowa who built a helicopter delivered his captivating Chichewa presentation at Crossroads Hotel.

Kambwiri dropped out of school in standard 8 and studied at MEDI obtaining a Welding and Metal Works certificate. He has built a helicopter with nothing but imagination and determination.

“I remember when I started building it people called me so many names. They thought I was mad but I never gave up because I had a dream and my only goal was making the dream come true. I am currently raising K360, 000 ($500) to buy a 175 CC engine to finish the helicopter so that it can take off,” disclosed Kambwiri.

His ambitious plan dates back to when he was a boy and saw Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the president at the time, flying around Malawi to get to campaign rallies and to visit remote villages.

Kambwiri, who is married and a father of seven children, also credits his enthusiasm for flight to watching war movies and listening to radio shows.

Among the speakers, Dr. Gama Bandawe, a Malawian medical scientist, holder of a Master’s degree in molecular and cell Biology and a PhD in medical virology from the University of Cape Town also highlighted the economic benefits and importance of industrial help.

In his presentation “Amazing hemp, a savior for Malawi Agriculture”, Dr. Gama stressed the difference between Marijuana and industrial hemp.

“Industrial hemp has no or less THC levels. No matter how much one consumes industrial hemp they can never get high. Hemp and Marijuana are in the same crop family but they are different. I like to draw similarities between Hemp and Marijuana and “Thobwa” and “Mowa wa masese”. “Thobwa” and “Mowa wa masese” are both in the same family but are different in the sense that “Thobwa” does not get people drunk,” he highlighted.

Gama further called upon government and the general public to seriously consider growing industrial hemp to diversify the economy and foreign exchange earnings.

“The demand for tobacco is low, thanks to the anti-smoking campaign. In addition, we are facing competition from other countries.  In industrial hemp, we have a window of opportunity and let us not let this opportunity pass by,” Dr. Gama appealed.

One of the TEDxLilongwe organizers, Rachel Sibande described the event as successful and colourful.

“A better Malawi is possible as you have seen speakers from different professions sharing innovative stories, highlighting problems and providing solutions. The event was successful and colourful, thanks to our partners and everybody that came to support,” Sibande stated.

TEDxLilongwe, Malawi’s first ever TEDx conference took place in Lilongwe, Malawi on 25th May 2013 at Crossroads to a packed auditorium with 13 inspiring individuals share their ideas and experiences.

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From the World

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Masozi Mwenifumbo

God bless you and make your vision come to its fruition.

Malcolm Kyle

The day Felix flies his helicopter for the first time should be made into an International Holliday for the whole of mankind. The world will gather behind their tv screens and computers to watch Malawi’s Richard Branson take his place among the greatest people on our planet.


This Man is a genius and so innovative, if Malawi could have just a thousand out of many millions of such…….


If anyone has contact details of the helicopter man, please share. I want to talk to him and possibly support him. $500 is not too much an ask.


contact the writer of this article


contact nyasa times malawi

More From Nyasatimes