Each year, Engineers Without Borders (EWB) provides ten-15 leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa the opportunity to participate in the Kumvana Fellowship Program.
Fellows participate in training sessions through an online course before partaking in leadership workshops at EWB’s National Office in Toronto. Following these training sessions, fellows connect with university or professional chapters across Canada.
The word Kumvana – meaning “unite so we may discuss and understand” – comes from the Chichewa dialect from Malawi.
The Kumvana Fellowship Program gives fellows an opportunity to unite with professionals across Canada to discuss future pathways for their business enterprises.
The program also provides students an opportunity to connect with African leaders to better understand the vast amount of opportunities for innovation that exist in Africa. This year, the UW Chapter was honoured to host two fellows in the first two weeks of March – Kabwela Malupande and Prince Agbata.
Kabwela is a Zambian entrepreneur who is passionate about creating inclusive development through business in economically marginalized communities in rural Africa. He co-founded a cleaning company called Spotless Africa, which works to address sanitation issues while providing employment to women in underprivileged communities.
In the past year, Kabwela has shifted his focus to a new start-up called Food We Love. This business works to eliminate existing barriers between smallholder farmers and markets in Zambia. Additionally, the business works to promote the growth of indigenous crops and strengthen the relationship between these communities and their cultural heritage.
During his stay, Kabwela was impressed by the vast amount of resources available to students who wish to launch their own start-up.
He enjoyed meeting with faculty at UW and social entrepreneurs in the greater Waterloo Region, who helped him expand his knowledge in the agricultural sector. One of the highlights of his stay was visiting the Waterloo Indigenous Student Center, where he learned about the history of Aboriginal Canadians and their connections to the spiritual world.
Agbata is a Ghanaian software developer who founded Coliba Recycling. Coliba Recycling uses a mobile application to manage the growing problem of plastic waste in Western Africa. Waste management in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, is largely done by individual waste-pickers who carry the waste from one’s doorstep to the landfill.
These waste-pickers then sort through the landfills for recyclable materials, which are sold for a very small profit. Agbata recognized an opportunity to improve this waste management system while providing better working conditions for the waste-pickers. Coliba allows residents to request a waste-pickup for a standardized fee, similar to requesting a ride through Uber.
The system matches the resident with a nearby waste-picker who then transports the waste to a sorting facility, encouraging better wages and working conditions for the workers. Coliba is currently operating in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire with plans to expand to other countries in Western Africa.
Agbata enjoyed his experience meeting with professionals in the Waterloo Region, and expressed an interest in returning to Waterloo in the upcoming years to pursue his master’s degree. Society is often hindered by the media’s representation of Africa as a nation.
They tend to emphasize its problems, instead of bringing light to those working on solutions. While there may be many innovations sprouting from Silicon Valley, there are many impactful technologies that have come from Africa in fintech, healthtech, agritech, and more.
By providing African leaders with equal opportunities in leadership and networking, EWB is fostering the leaders of tomorrow. As the businessman Nido Qubein once said, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.