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Business incubators challenged to become commercially sustainable.

Business incubators in Malawi have been challenged to embrace alternative revenue models, develop robust business plans, and establish an active incubator network as key means of promoting the provision of their services on a commercially sustainable basis.

Business incubators discussing possible sustainable revenue models during a training session with Zantchito – Entrepreneurship and Access to Finance.

The importance of commercially sustainable incubation models was highlighted in Lilongwe on 17th July, 2023 when Zantchito-Entrepreneurship and Access to Finance conducted a training of representatives from business incubators, which included university-led incubators, social impact organisations, and private companies.

During the training which was led by Bibek Shrestha of Nathan Cadmus, business incubators were advised to adopt various revenue strategies that have been successfully implemented elsewhere in the region, instead of relying on grant opportunities alone.

Sustainable revenue streams that were highlighted include the incubators engaging in commercial activities, such as offering sales and market linkages, charging success fees, and providing consulting, project management and technology commercialisation services.

Incubators were also encouraged to invest in the success of the business they are supporting such as equity, royalty, and seed funding; strategies that are yet to be fully explored in Malawi.

In a quest to address some of the challenges that were discussed during the training, such as access to networks, improving the regulatory environment, and transitioning to sustainable revenue sources, the incubators were advised to establish an active incubator network that would help them to speak with one voice and share knowledge on the challenges and opportunities experienced.

Msekiwa Mlinda (in black hat) participating in a group discussion during the training.

Speaking after the day-long training, Incubation Manager for The Africa Centre of Excellence in Transformative Agriculture Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship (TACE)/Agribiz-Hub at the Lilongwe University and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Msekiwa Mlinda, hailed Zantchito for the training saying it has helped equip business incubators with strategies to become commercially sustainable.

The training was good…it has enlightened us on several areas, especially to do with revenue streams for the incubators. We have learned additional streams aside the usual ones such as rentals, levy, and all that. So, we will tap into those areas.

The training has also challenged us as incubators to have clear business plans. We are offering similar services to entrepreneurs and so we need to have a robust business plan ourselves.”  Mlinda disclosed.

The training was organised to improve the understanding of best-practice incubation models and methods of commercially sustainable incubation, and to align key incubator staff members to the Zantchito methodology and framework for incubation. The training was the first of several activities that Zantchito has lined up, aimed at strengthening business incubation services in Malawi over the next five-year period whilst the programme is implemented.

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