Lilongwe-based agro-dealer Fannie Gondwe has scooped the 2017 Female Biosciences Business (FemBioBiz) Acceleration Programme Award.
Gondwe will join other top performers who will have the opportunity to meet investors, business experts and potential mentors and visit Cape Town to participate at the 2017 South African Innovation Summit.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad)’s Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio with support from the BioFisa II Programme will fly Gondwe to South Africa in July 2017 to represent Malawi at a continental competition.
FemBioBiz Programme was launched in February 2017 by New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad)’s Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) with support from the BioFisa II programme.
The major objective of the programme is to develop leadership, technological and business skills in female-owned businesses in the the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to support deal-making and business acceleration in the Biosciences arena.
BioFisaII chief technical advisor Marja-Reetta Paaso said at least 15 female entrepreneurs entered the competition by submitting their business proposals for funding to SanBio and its local partner – Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar).
Paaso disclosed that through scrutiny of all the proposals, Gondwe’s outsmarted the rest.
She said: “This programme aims to empower women entrepreneurs. We have female entrepreneurs who are working in the areas of health, nutrition, animal health services and products, among others.”
She said the best performer will receive a grant of R250 000 to move the business forward and a trip to attend Europe’s leading start-up event Slush 2017 in Finland, where international opportunities await.
Paaso expressed optimism that the programme will significantly contribute towards the growth of the economy in the long run.
Luanar acting vice chancellor Professor Emmanuel Kaunda described Gondwe’s success as a landmark achievement in the world of female entrepreneurship.
“This [competition] was advertised the whole continent from South Africa. But to think that these women could see the call and provide their own proposals; and then, get selected, is a huge achievement,” said Kaunda.
He added that all the contestants were articulate about their proposals, which means they are passionate about them.
“They presented proposals, which were not refined. Yet, they are able to say what they want to say and the potential markets for their proposed products/services. This means they know what they are doing,” he narrated.
Gondwe said she was excited to be selected winner. She said she would now work towards polishing her proposal so that “I can impress at the international competition in South Africa”.
“I won’t let Malawians, SanBio and Luanar down. I will deliver my best,” she promised.
The competition is open to women from SANBio member countries – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
By providing opportunities to women entrepreneurs, the acceleration programme fits into the SADC industrial strategy and SANBio’s objectives to address gender inequality in the region.
The SADC industrial strategy encourages gender participation in the industrialisation process, notably by improved access to finance, skills development and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) support programmes, and livelihood skills of women.
WRITTEN BY WATIPASO MZUNGU
STAFF REPORTER – THE NATION, MALAWI
27 May 2017