Malawi is struggling to grow its economy due to declining export earnings from tobacco.
The situation is made worse by absence of aid (due to suspension), which previously accounted for 40 percent of the country’s budget.
More than half of Malawi’s young people are either unemployed or working low wage jobs, the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently said.
But in the face of challenges, some are willing to shine.
One Malawian bodybuilder Yasin Ichocho Suwedi has set up a local gym in the densely populated, notorious slum of Ndirande to help young people spend time in more positive ways and make a living.
Many of of the shanty towns 200,000 residents either do not have jobs or work hard but make little.
Ichocho hopes more support can be given so help can reach more people.
27, and a bouncer and professional bodybuilder, he dropped out of school and spent some time on the streets as a before turning his frustration to his current day job.
“This sport demands and instils discipline. You can hardly commit crimes. I used to be a trouble-maker in the past, but am completely changed and helping others,” said Ichocho.
Training at Ichocho Heavyweight Gym is free for members who work with Ichocho on short-term contracts as bouncers or as security guards, from which he takes a cut.
He has trained over 50 young people who have been able to move on and find work elsewhere or pursued weightlifting as a sport.
“Some of them I have trained are out working in different places. Some are in South Africa. It saddens me that many school leavers are just idle due to the high levels of unemployment.”
Ichocho is considered one of the country’s top bodybuilders and often participates in local and regional contests. To many of the young people he trains he is a role model and evidence that anyone from Ndirande can make it.
“Ichocho impresses me a lot. He should continue training more young people. It also is my wish to hear that Mr. Ichocho, one day, he makes it to England or America make our country proud like Mike Tyson,” said Alick Mzee, a resident of Ndirande, Blantyre.
Analysts consistently argue that unemployment threatens to derail Africa’s economic growth alongside other key factors like corruption, and poor infrastructure.