Meet Festus Malaki, a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship selected candidate, young social entrepreneur, and aspiring author who has dedicated his career to blazing the path for youth to find empowerment through education and entrepreneurship.
His passion for business was born at home in Onyati, a small rural village in northern Namibia. Here, he learned to support his unemployed single mother and grandmother using the power of spare pocket change to buy snacks and resell them at school. The experience helped him flourish both personally and professionally, and eventually it served as the foundation for his eight years in finance, education, business development and youth empowerment.
However, this 29-year old was not satisfied simply remaining a businessman. He wanted to tackle something close to home, and he chose one of the largest problems his country faces — unemployment, specifically among the youth.
“Youth unemployment in Namibia (over 46%) remains critically high, and there are few or no targeted intervention programs that are solving this national crisis,” he explains.
Festus founded the Unique Empowerment and Employment Initiative Foundation (UEEIF), which transforms African youth into opportunity creators through programs that develop personal skills and entrepreneurship. By exposing youth to experiential training tailored to local economic opportunities, participants are introduced to typical employment and income-generating situations that prevail in their given communities, creating sustainable businesses and employment opportunities.
UEEIF empowers youth through training on starting their businesses, managing finances, marketing and branding, fundraising, identifying opportunities and creating networks. The organization also runs acceleration programs that seek to take entrepreneurs from the idea stage to the creation of a sustainable and successful business.
“To date, we have worked with over 1,000 youth as well as over 200 entrepreneurs in over four regions of Namibia,” Festus adds.
Like any true entrepreneur, Festus is already planning the next phase. “I want African youth to have access to quality education through technology. My mission is to make sure quality education is more accessible, equitable, affordable, and fun by a simple click of a mouse.” He is currently working on an EdTech solution called Coachpedia, an online education community that seeks to connect individuals to resources in the form of educational videos, ebooks, audiobooks, and an option for individuals to learn and connect with experts from different backgrounds.
Festus urges fellow YALI Network members to invest in youth using the YALI Network materials, which contributed greatly to his work. As a small organization, he notes, UEEIF tries to utilize any resources at its disposal, and the YALI materials are instrumental to the organization.
Festus concludes, “Entrepreneurship education helps the youth from all socioeconomic backgrounds to think outside the box and nurture unconventional talents and skills. It creates opportunities, ensures social justice, instills a sense of confidence, and stimulates the economy. My future goals are to build a sustainable business that impacts lives in Africa and beyond.”
Are you interested in learning how you can be a mentor to youth? Visit our YALI4Youth page for more tools and resources.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the Network or the U.S. government.