Mike Mlombwa
Mike Mlombwa, the owner of CountryWide Car Hire, began his fame and fortune in the slums of Mwanza. As a child, Mike grew up in homes all around the village because his mother couldn’t afford to raise him. Friendly neighbors paid for his education, and in exchange he would work in gardens and tend to the cattle.

Humble Beginnings

However, after completing his primary education, Mlombwa was unable to find anyone in the local village to further fund his education. As reported by BBC news, as a teenager,  Mlombwa walked 50km (30 miles) to the nearest industrial city, Blantyre, because he could not afford bus fare.

In the commercial capital of Blantyre, Mlombwa found refuge in the church, where he stayed and began a part-time job that paid for his secondary schooling. Eventually, Mlombwa made enough money to buy his first car, allowing him to travel and buy stock in Zambia, South Africa and Mozambique. Shortly after Mlombwa acquired several cars and CountryWide Car Hire was born.

According to How Africa, Mlombwa remembers thinking, “the business became flooded [by competitors], especially from India…So I sat down and thought: What should I do?” He concluded that he would need a loan in order to expand his company, but the banks were hesitant to give him one due to his lack of prior education.

Yet Mlombwa was persistent, and he turned to various car owners for more vehicles in exchange for 20 percent commission. With a new fleet of cars, his business became profitable, and the banks granted him a loan.

The State of CountryWide Car Hire Today

Today, CountryWide Car Hire has over 80 vehicles and is a well-established service provider in the transport sector and carters for the car rental industry. Mlombwa still sees room for improvement, and he is now seeking to double his fleet. He is also constructing a number of hotels to add to his customer service venue, states How Africa.

When Mike Mlombwa reflects on the impoverished village he came from, he thanks God for the opportunities he was given. Although he was never able to attend college, Mlombwa stated, “I am happy to face challenges and I am happy I became an entrepreneur. And to be honest, I don’t see it as a regret that I did not finish my schooling because now I can employ people with masters degrees.”

Mlombwa acknowledges that now he has a name in the world, and he plans on sharing his success strategies with others. One of the most important qualities an entrepreneur can have is patience, because most entrepreneurs want fame and fortune right away. The key is to start small and grow strong, which is exactly what Mike Mlombwa did.

Megan Hadley

Sources: BBC, Country Wide Car Hire, How Africa
Photo: Flickr

Indian Business Model Can Minimize Food Insecurity in Africa

The US Agency for International Development is attempting to replicate the success of an Indian business in Africa. The effort is part of a three-year program called Africa Lead, which is associated with the US government’s Feed the Future initiative. Africa Lead aims to train Africans in innovative ways to tackle food security issues in their communities. USAID is sending Africans to Fazilka, a border city of Punjab in Northern India, to train with Zamindara Farm Solutions (ZFS). The company attempts to serve as an all-needs agricultural supply company, and its business model is unique and groundbreaking.

ZFS leases farm equipment with trained operators. This allows the owners of smaller farms, which are extremely prevalent in both India and Africa, to avoid taking out loans to make unnecessary investments inexpensive equipment. As a banker from Uganda who took part in the training program, Nicholas Abenda, observed, “Owning machines in not mandatory” for smaller farmers in Africa. The company also sells new farm equipment and provides maintenance and parts. It also offers education on the most efficient farming methods and on farm economics. It currently has operations in roughly 500 villages in India.

The ZFS business model has multiple advantages. It allows small farmers to avoid going into debt to purchase expensive equipment. Many farmers who make these types of investments are ultimately unable to repay their loans and become overwhelmed by debt. The ability to have access to the equipment without going into debt improves farmers’ financial stability. This allows agricultural production to become cheaper, which can increase farmers’ profit margins and decrease the price of food. Additionally, this business model encourages more farmers to use yield-boosting technologies that they otherwise may not have access to. USAID sees this business model as an innovative way to minimize food insecurity in underfed African communities.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: The Hindu, The Times of India, Africa Lead
Photo: The Hindu