Started off Selling Charcoal

By Tuyishime Jeanpierre

When I came to Malawi in 2003, I ended up at the Dzaleka refugee camp, where life was full of hardships. Since life was so difficult, I tried to learn how people survived in a place where there are thousands of people and no job opportunities. I came to know a businessman called Tingashane. Because he was my neighbor, it was easy for me to observe what he was doing. He started a small shop that sold charcoal for cooking.

It is an amazing thing to see people make a new life for themselves from scratch. I am always inspired by these kinds of testimonies. Tingashane is a man that every refugee in Dzaleka looks up to when it comes to business. He arrived at the Dzaleka refugee camp in 2001 after leaving the Mtabira refugee camp in Tanzania. He left Tanzania because of the insecurities that were felt among the refugees at that time. His neighbor seduced his oldest daughter, and she ended up dying. He realized that it was not safe for him to stay in such a place or else he would lose his other children as well.

He had a friend who knew about the Dzaleka refugee camp. The friend advised him to go to Malawi since it would be safer there for him and his family. Tingashane was not opposed to the idea because all he wanted was to be in a place where his children could grow up out of harm’s way. In the summer of 2001, he set off for Dzaleka refugee camp. When he arrived, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees received him together with his family, and they were registered like the other refugees who arrive there.

Life was not easy in Dzaleka. But Tingashane had an entrepreneurial spirit, and he started a business selling charcoal with the little capital he had. Little by little, the business grew, and he began to sell some other products such as paraffin and cement. Besides having an entrepreneurial spirit, Tingashane also had a wife who worked very hard. Whatever task she was given by her husband, she would accomplish it. This made them a team with the same goal of making it in life.

After six years, Tingishane bought his first car. This made business easier to conduct since he could use the vehicle to go to the capital, Lilongwe, to order the goods himself. The business boomed to such an extent that he bought two other vehicles, and these were used to transport his products to various places across the Dowa district.

Tingashane suffered a major setback when he got into a car accident on his way back from Lilongwe one day. It was a bad accident, and his car was so damaged it could not be repaired. He was admitted to the hospital for almost a month, but he managed to survive. When he returned home, Tingashane kept working hard, but the business was less successful since he no longer had his main mode of transportation.

His hard work paid off because he bought a new three-ton pickup in 2013. He was able to win his market back, and he started to supply his products across the Dowa district again. This time he also made connections with people in the district of Nkhotakota, where he would supply paraffin to his customers. This deal expanded his business further, and he bought another pickup in 2019. He employed a driver to drive the other pickup since he still drove the first car. Together, they supplied paraffin across all of Dowa and Nkhotakota.

Not long after, he entered into a partnership with Airtel Malawi. He now owns the Airtel branches that people use to send and receive money in Dzaleka refugee camp and the surrounding villages. Tingishane’s hard work has paid off, and he inspires me to become a successful businessman one day.

3 July, 2023