In Lilongwe, capital city of Malawi, the Vice President of World Bank Africa recently watched a video produced by a young man who built a wind turbine in his own backyard to provide supplemental electricity for his family. The young man, William Kamkwamba, also presented the World Bank official with a book about his project, which aims to make residential wind turbines a business enterprise. Kamkwamba’s foray into tech entrepreneurship is being supported by mHub, an incubator for startup businesses in the tiny, developing Republic of Malawi. mHub is the brainchild of a 31-year-old woman named Rachel Sibande, a graduate of the University of Malawi who also performed graduate research at Rhodes University in South Africa.
As a little girl growing up in Malawi, Rachel Sibande was interested in transistor radios and gadgets. She was raised in a Christian family that encouraged her to read and study. In 2006, she started working as a programmer of enterprise software applications. It didn’t take long for Sibande to become interested in how technology solutions could empower developing economies such as Malawi; she started working with a non-profit sponsored by USAID, which is where she was inspired to establish mHub in 2013. These days, mHub stands as the first and most active tech incubator in Malawi. One of the main goals of mHub is to encourage young people growing up with technology to embrace it and become developers instead of being end users. The typical activities conducted by incubators in Europe and the Americas are supported by mHub: hackathons, coding boot camps, competitions, seminars, funding advice, and brainstorming sessions.
Sibande feels that Malawi is moving too slowly in terms of tech literacy and narrowing the digital divide. She believes that getting young people interested in tech development and entrepreneurship may lead to the enactment of government policies to support the implementation of technology education and outreach. For her efforts in advancing technology in Malawi, Sibande has been presented with the Borg Award for Outstanding Computer Science Students, a recognition bestowed by Google. She was one of four African recipients of this award, which is given to 40 computer scientists from around the world.
Sibande has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the most promising entrepreneurs on the Continent. She has delivered TED talks about the implementation of technology solutions to advance farming, the most active industry of Malawi. She has also worked with election committees in her country as well as in Tanzania and Zambia; her focus in this regard has been on using technology to ensure voting compliance and transparency.
In her spare time, this tech genius enjoys trying out new recipes and keeping up with fashion. One of her favorite books is Lean In by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg.