Entrepreneur, ICT enthusiast, Social entrepreneur, spouse and mother of 3.
Rachel Sibande balances all that as she heads, as CEO, Malawi's first technology and innovation hub, mHub. mHub, operating under the philosophy of social enterprising, was set up after Rachael’s career with USAID-funded development projects where she served as Deputy Country Director and Country Director. She started her career as a programmer developing and maintaining accounting packages.
mHub champions the development of technology solutions as its main lifeline. The hub invests its profits in social good programs that build capacities of children, girls and youth in developing technology applications. The hub also mentors young tech entrepreneurs and offers them training in technical and business skills, and recently was behind the success story of young Panashe Jere who won the TNM’s Smart Kid Challenge. mHub has currently reached over 3,000 youths in Malawi, and has trained over 93 girls in mobile application development and entrepreneurship. Over 66 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 17 have been trained in developing mobile applications, games and animation. The hub also incubates over 15 emerging startups and hosts the Lilongwe Pitch Night Platform. Lilongwe Pitch Night offers a wide range of entrepreneurs beyond the technology space the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to the public and would-be investors. The platform has so far exposed over 46 entrepreneurs in agribusiness, media, catering and the arts, among others.
Rachel was listed in Forbes Magazine as one of the 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs of 2016. She is an alumnus of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative Programme. In her quest to augment passion for innovation and information sharing, Rachel became the first Malawian to hold a local TedX license and she continues to get recognition for the work she is doing in Malawi and beyond, enhancing innovative technologies and building entrepreneurs. Rachel says she hopes to see a generation of young people that can embrace careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in order to harness the power of science in unraveling global challenges. She envisages a world where young people can transcend job seeking to job creation for themselves and others.
mHub has so far developed a range of technology solutions such as Malawi’s first online fashion store, Lilly Alfonso; a citizen engagement platform called Mzinda that allows citizens to send SMS reports on service delivery of essential services such as water, electricity and waste collection to promote accountability of service providers. Malawi’s constitution is also now available on a mobile application, courtesy of mHub, and can be accessed here. The hub has also extended its reach beyond Malawi to support and manage technology deployments for enhanced democracy and governance in Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Life and Career
Born on 9 January 1986, first of five children, Rachel grew up with her parents telling her she could do ANYTHING she puts her mind to. And so she did. Her deep curiosities about how things work cultivated her passion for tearing things apart so she could understand them better. From an early age, she wouldn’t let being a girl take over as a restraint from surpassing limits. Her interests were firmly grounded in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Rachel has a BSc. in Computer Sciences from Chancellor College, University of Malawi, an MSc. in Information Theory, Coding and Cryptography from Mzuzu University and now reads for her Ph.D in Computer Sciences at Rhodes University in South Africa. In spite of her grounding in ICT, she has accumulated 8 years of experience applying these skills in transforming the agriculture sector, an important sector in Malawi’s economy and its people’s livelihoods. One of her notable accomplishments here, during her tenure at Technology for Extension to Smallholders (TEXTS) project, was the Ministry of Agriculture’s adoption of web-to-SMS extension as a complimentary extension service to Malawi’s farmers.
Rachel believes that the future of Malawi and Africa is in its youth and she is passionate about building a generation of critical thinkers and entrepreneurs. In her free time, Rachel spends time with her family and experiments with spices and recipes in the kitchen.
Her advice to the youth, ‘The best way to start is to start now, start with what you have and where you are. Believe in yourself because there may come a time when no one else believes in what you do. Remember that you may fail along the way but failure is just an ingredient to success!’