By Chimwemwe Mangazi:
Children have all sorts of fascinating dreams about what they would like to become when they grow up.
They dream of white-collar jobs such as becoming pilots, doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, engineers and soldiers.
But, as they begin to grow, and face the realities of life, their dreams keep changing, with some fading away naturally.
Every year, over 2,000 students are graduating from the country’s colleges.
However, the market for graduates in Malawi seems to be even narrower than the number of graduates public and private universities are producing every year.
As if that is not enough, the economy is also failing to cope with the numbers of people looking for casual jobs as witnessed by hundreds of people that sit outside factories and companies in the country’s cities, waiting for an opportunity for some piece-work to earn a living.
Authorities and business captains have on a number of occasions said the problem can only be dealt with if the youth embrace entrepreneurship and explore running businesses as a career.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so they say. Lilongwe-based Alexander Chirwa has found treasure in a field most young males could dread—cosmetics and beauty management.
After sitting his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations in 2007 relatives advised him to try either teaching or motor vehicle mechanics.
However, his heart was attracted to a saloon business after he saw a Congolese national who was popular, by the name Amiss. His shop was at a place called Phakamisa in Nchesi, Lilongwe.
In 2012, Chirwa joined Amiss in his shop and started mastering the art of becoming a beautician.
“It was the time Joyce Banda was president of this country and there were many women, including Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament, that were coming to this place to have their nails or hair done by this gentleman. This is the time I realised that women prefer male beauticians to female ones.
“After a while, I opened my own saloon and that is where I got a lot of experience because people could come to me to dictate their designs and I was under pressure to do exactly what they wanted even when I didn’t know it. Being a male beautician, the clients had more confidence in me than they did with other female beauticians,” Chirwa says.
After doing a good job for a number of clients, his network grew and he started receiving calls from ladies across the country to travel and do their hair and nails, on recommendation from previous customers.
Chirwa said, at times, he spent weeks in Malawi Defense Force and Malawi Police Service bounds and banks to beautify women in the service and civilians when there were significant events.
“Within two weeks, I make over K200,000 from an investment of about K50,000 used for buying materials. This amount is enough for me to support my wife and kid and we live happily like a middle class family,” Chirwa adds.
The highlight of his career came in 2017 the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Teveta) put him on a contract to teach other youth the skills of beauty management, which also took him across the country.
Chirwa says he encounters two main challenges in his day -to-day operations.
“One of the challenges is stigma and discrimination as some people call me gay for my job and other clients offer their bodies instead of money when I have finished serving them,” he says.
During an entrepreneurship workshop for the youth in 2016, Managing Director of Business Consult Africa, Henry Kachaje, said the reason the youth do not venture into entrepreneurship is that they do not want to get their hands dirty in that they prefer white-collar jobs to gray collar jobs.
It is the same reason today you find agriculture graduates in banking halls operating as bank tellers instead of establishing farms and putting into practice the knowledge they acquired in college.
There is a need, therefore, that all children in schools be taught basics of entrepreneurship for them to become productive citizens of the country.
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