5 Years of Ntha Foundation | WCID 2024 Keynote


Our host, your Excellency, Ambassador Rune Skinnebach, the entire EU Delegation to Malawi, the Minister of Tourism, Honorable Vera Kamtukule, and all representatives of the Malawi , the United Nations Resident Coordinatorall representatives of the United Nations present, Members of the Diplomatic and Development Communities, Creatives, Innovators, guest all protocols observed. Good evening.


Allow me tonight to tell you a story – a story of one young Malawian lady.

It is 2016, and she is finishing her Bachelor of Social Science at the University of Malawi. She gives her mother a call, and alerts her that she will not be moving back home to Mangochi… She will be moving to Lilongwe because that is “Malawi’s creative scene”.

She arrives in Lilongwe, and she is writing her first book, titled: “By the End of Your Teens”. She does not yet have a job. She makes a living blogging – creating content in tourism, documenting her gorgeous country, Malawi. She starts networking, and it immediately hits her that the “Creative Scene” she had in mind is not really a creative scene. There is no creative industry. There is no scene.

She meets Q through some friends, and she asks him to be her creative mentor. He likes her writing, and she is amenable to his criticism.

As a young creative and a trained social scientist, one of her greatest desires is to be able to converge two of her  interests: creativity, and advocacy. She goes to the gym, and she tells one of her peers that she would love to work in development. He advises her that if that is her aspiration, she needs to start attending conferences, and he immediately invites her to one.

At the conference, one of the issues raised is that “the youth are lazy, and they do not want to work.” She waits it out, and eventually she takes to the mic, stating that the youth, are in fact not lazy, but are not given the opportunities to showcase their skills and talents.”

At the end of the event, She runs into the Country Representative of UN Women, and she is advised to send in her CV. She is offered an internship, and here begins her career in international relations. After her internship, She leaves, and joins the Malawi Government as a revenue officer. She continue creating travel content on the side, and She meet Alex Kachepa, then working for Sunbird Hotels. They have a great working relationship, and they start thinking of what more we can do together.

As time passes, She still has the burning passion for advocacy work. As she has a bit of a digital presence, and shares often on her milestones, fellow young people graduating from Universities start reaching out for mentorship. She is well-aware that she does not have enough knowledge or capacity to serve them all, so she reaches out to a few peers, and they establish establish a non-profit organisation.

Their mission is simple: to bridge Innovation and Creativity to Advocacy work. They create the “Nyenyezi Fellowship”, with focus on training Entrepreneurship, Creative, Digital and Advocacy Skills. They work comes to the attention of the World Bank, and they are made aware for a call for bids to implement the Digital Malawi Project. They apply, and they are awarded $250,000 to operationalise the “Digital Malawi – Digital Skills for All” project.

If you are still with me, by now you know that I am telling my story. My name is Nthanda Manduwi – with many titles and a few achievements to my name, but above all, I am a writer and a storyteller.

In 2022, I was hired by UNDP, through the UNDP Graduate Programme. This was the first cohort, where 38,709 people applied, and 20 young people were selected. I have spent the past two years living in New York City, and one of the most difficult questions I get asked by fellow young people who want to invest in Africa is “what does Malawi innovate / export?”

As of June, 2023, we celebrated 5 years of the work of Ntha Foundation, and this entire year, we have been celebrating 5 years of working together to build this incredible dream, and serve Malawians. The Ntha Foundation is an education trust which fosters the use of creativity and innovation for Development through advocacy. 

In just five years, we have made remarkable strides towards realising this vision. We registered as a non-profit company in Malawi in 2020, laying the groundwork for our operational activities. Through strategic partnerships with organisations such as the World Bank, the European Union, and GIZ, we have secured close to $400,000 in funding to establish two innovation hubs in Lilongwe and Mangochi. These hubs serve as beacons of creativity and innovation, providing young people with the resources and support they need to thrive.

Our impact goes beyond infrastructure and funding. We have trained over 1,000 youth in digital, creative, advocacy, and entrepreneurship skills, equipping them with the tools and knowledge to navigate the challenges of the modern world. Our efforts have not only empowered individuals but have also contributed to the socio-economic development of our nation. We are presently innovating an online learning system – “Digital Skills for Africa” – an accessible platform that will be used to train millions of Africans in basic and advanced digital skills, contributing to the closure of the digital divide.

As of the 6th of March, 2024, the Ntha Foundation was incorporated in the United States, marking a significant step towards globalising our work. This milestone opens new doors of opportunity and allows us to extend our reach beyond borders, amplifying our impact and advocating for change on a global scale.

As we commemorate the “World Innovation and Creativity Day”, I ask you to join me in the celebration of “5 years of Ntha Foundation”. These are 5 years of incredible sacrifice on my teams part – working often on below-par salaries, spending nights at the hubs; with a shared hope of building Malawi’s creative and innovation industries.

Tonight, we do not only look back on our accomplishments but also look forward with renewed determination and purpose. There is still much work to be done, many lives to be touched, and many dreams to be realised. 

It does need mentioning, that when I joined the United Nations, I was not allowed to work in or represent my foundation. I had to separate myself entirely, and my team has done such an incredible job at not allowing this dream to die over the past two years. The people behind the Ntha Foundation are called the “Kwathu Kollective”, and while I may often be the face of the operation, I’d like to take a moment to invite on stage the people who have sacrificed and given so much to this organisation.

Benedict Sam – Malawi’s celebrated photographer and media producer, who sat with me 7 years ago, as I told him I wanted to become a media mogul, and he spared minutes, and has continued to sit with me many meetings after.

Alex Kachepa – the closest I have to co-founder; most brilliant creative I know. He is the brains behind most of the programmes and initiatives at the Ntha Foundation. He became a best friend from a working relationship, and has continued to serve the mission.

Rhoda Kamwaza – the Managing Director of the Ntha Foundation; the most transparent human I know, and the person who ensures the finances you get to entrust us with are managed diligently and always audited. I joke often that the Ntha Foundation would crumble, if she left my side.

Prisca Kamkhwani – the queen of logistics. If you needed a cow right now, Prisca would tell you she’s got it. If we have an event today, it’s because she is able to tie so many ends together.

Linda Mchawi – whose job description changes every few months; and she remains flexible in her tasks and roles, as a true creative would. She joined us as a Hub Manager for our Mangochi Hub, and now serves as M&E in our projects.

Pride Musemwa – the man behind the cameras, the brains behind ensuring our reporting is not just written stories, but that you get to see the visuals too.

This is the Kwathu Kollective. I told a story of just one young Malawian lady, now imagine if that story was the story of 1,000 Malawian ladies… that is my dream for the Ntha Foundation: to create 1,000, maybe more, “me”s.

I’d like to add that we are young professionals – young creatives, young innovators. We will likely transition and grow into bigger and greater roles, but I ask that the mission of the Ntha Foundation and the Kwathu Kollective remains with you.

Thank you for your unwavering support, dedication, and commitment to the mission of the Ntha Foundation. As we celebrate five years of impact, we look forward to further collaborating with you, and to many more years of transformative change ahead.

And lastly, let me say thank you to His Excellency, Ambassador Rune Skinnebach, for believing so deeply in the transformative power of our work, and opening up his home not once, but several times, so we can bring together the Malawi Creative and Innovation industries. I encourage you to meet and collaborate with someone, and make time to visit us at the Kwathu Creative and Innovation Centre when you get the chance. 

Thank you so much for your attention.



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