Historic innovation hub – gateway to Malawi 2063

In pursuit of attaining the agenda 2063, Malawi has made a historical move to invest in a multi-million dollar innovation hub to capitalize on innovations that would assist the country attain its development agenda.

Dubbed, the University Innovation Pod – UniPod – the facility, the first of its kind in Malawi is a joint venture between the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences and the United Nations Development Program.

Chakwera launches UniPod.

Launched on March 6, 2024 by President Lazarus Chakwera, the UniPod stands as a distinctive feature situated on campus providing essential support to local innovative minds.

Aligned with the agenda 2063, the facility offers cutting-edge infrastructure that caters innovation, prototyping and experimentation to facilitate the implementation of goals of the ten year Malawi Implementation Plan (MIP 1).

For some motivation the hub also provides small scale manufacturing platform that holds significant potential for transforming into commercially viable products to provide alternative solutions for export substitution.

Manufacturing workshop.

At the center of the UniPod is also key infrastructure to enhance the entrepreneurial mindset among innovators through business nursery programs and establish the capacity to implement intellectual property registration and royalty programs.

But this isn’t all, because the facility has key spaces aimed at fostering a variety of innovations such digital creative arts, idea creation, designing, electronic fabrication and wood workshop.

For instance, the CNS lab offers room for milling metal components to make nuts, bolts as well as car parts.

CNS Lab (L). 3D Printing machine (R).

A replica of this is seen with the Rapid Photocopying Room which is furnished with high-tech, 3D printing machines with capacity to fabricate materials used in the medical field such as prosthetics.

And it goes on and on, for, the Audio Visual Creative lab also offers virtual reality technology to test solutions for various problems before they are implemented in the real world.

With all it has, the UniPod stands a game changer in addressing innovation gaps to foster social economic development and promote gender equality by boosting women participation in digital innovations.

No wonder, President Chakwera, feels the innovation hub would be key towards the country attaining the agenda 2063.

“The UniPod will encourage innovations by  giving equal chance to the citizenry to explore their ideas and turn them into meaningful solutions to address various challenges which is key to achieving the Malawi 2063”Chakwera says.          

Virtual reality room.

Echoing Chakwera is Thomas Munthali, Director General for the National Planning commission, saying the UniPod unlocks opportunities for Malawi to attain the 2063 agenda.

“Innovation, science and technology are key enablers of the Malawi because they are instrumental for wealth creation. The UniPod is enabling the nation to harness the potential that young people have to create and implement innovations in the shortest time possible that would enable the country to graduate to a middle income economy and achieve sustainable development goals”. Munthali explained.

Besides, Upile Madulu – Computer Technician at the facility praises the UniPod for offering a unique space for Malawians particularly young people to turn their ideas into solutions for problems in various sectors of the economy.

“Young people have a lot to offer, they have fresh ideas and concepts, but they lack the space to turn these ideas into creative solutions. The UniPod is indeed closes this gap.

“The computer lab offers space for and chance for innovators to access different software’s and there is team highly trained to facilitate the use of these software’s. Our focus is to protect people’s ideas so we have a team of lawyers to help innovators develop their ideas and protect them from being copied,” Madula said.

Madulu in one of the workshops (L) Business nursery centre (R).

Equally excited are students at the University, already benefiting from the innovation hub, saying it has made it easier to effectively carry out technical work related to their studies.

According to Mervin Chatuwa, a third year student of business communication the facility is instrumental to achieving audio-visual work related to his field of study.

“I am required to produce information communication materials, the UniPod is equipped with laboratories to enable me come up with futuristic materials for my course,” Chatuwa says.

Echoing Chatuwa is Evelyn Kabondo, a third year student of Management Information Systems.

She expresses her optimism of the facility being essentially helpful in pursuit for completion of her final year project.

“I have many ideas of what to develop for my final project, the UniPod has all machines I need to put my ideas to practice. I also have a small business so this facility is helping me to develop my entrepreneurship skills,” Kabondo explains.

Such is the essence that has come with the UniPod as Edson Nyasulu, a second year student of Information Systems says this is assisting him to master complex technologies essential to his field.

“I deal with programing so the technology at the UniPod is sophisticated, that means I will be well trained to handle advanced technologies when I start working” Nyasulu observes.

And this seems to be shared by students across many disciplines as being shared by Kenneth Gondwe a fourth year student studying Architecture as he praises the innovation hub for providing sophisticated technologies for designing.

“Architecture is all about designing so at the UniPod, am able to collaborate with my colleagues on what type of buildings we can come up with as well as digital programs to make such designs attractive and appealing,” Gondwe explains.

Plastic recycling machine (L) Rapid photocopying machine (R)

Meanwhile, the Innovation has also pleased education minister, Madalitso Kambauwa Wilima who feels it marks a historic moment in Malawi’s journey towards an inclusively worthy and self – reliant nation.

She says, the UniPod is a true aspiration for Malawi towards achieving the agenda 2063 in a world that keeps evolving at an unprecedented space with numerous challenges and opportunities that demand innovative solutions.

‘’This facility is our response to this ever changing landscape, it provides  a podium where thinkers, dreamers  creators, investors and innovators will converge to conceive, develop and implement revolutionary ideas to products, processes and services that will propel  our nation forward through productive  and real sector  economic growth,” Wilima says.

Besides, Associate Professor, Nancy Chitera, Vice Chancellor for the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences says the UniPod has the potential to open up opportunities for entrepreneurs, an important tool in complementing the agenda 2063.

“This facility aspires to cultivate the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs within the university and extend its influence beyond the academic boundaries. It aligns perfectly with our vision as a university which is innovate, create and generate,’’Chitera explains.

Chitera: Innovate, create and generate (L) and Chakwera flanked by Chitera and Wilima (R)

For Ahunna Eziakonwa, United Nations Development Program Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director for Africa, Malawi was singled out as a beneficiary of the project because of the enthusiasm demonstrated by young people in the country to develop various innovations to solve social-economic problems.

“Young people in Malawi understand that their future is in their own hands and that nobody can change it for them, the UniPod is the beginning of prosperity for Malawi, it cultivates a future where everybody has equal chance to realize their potential and contribute to the development of the nation,” Eziakonwa says.

Mechanical workshop.

She adds the goal is to have a UniPod in every African country to solve the disconnect that exists between the vast resources that Africa has and the condition of its people by promoting inclusion to close the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The UniPod is not only accessible to students at the University and members of staff but it is also open to the general public to experiment with their ideas and innovations as means for promoting inclusive growth towards attaining the agenda 2063.

The United Nations Development Program Pumped in over 2 million US dollars while the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences spent over 500 million kwacha towards the project.


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