Lusayo Mwakatika is an Administrative Intern at the African Studies Program and a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also President of Project Malawi, a student organization at UW-Madison, which mainly does fund raising for different organizations in Malawi. He is studying Agricultural Business Management, because he is passionate about agriculture and food equality. Lusayo is part of the first cohort of the King-Morgridge Scholars Program. The program endows six scholarships each year to enterprising, creative young aduts committed to poverty alleviation. Participants are selected from countries in Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean. He likes public speaking, and in his freshman year he won top honors in the UW-Madison CA 100 Speech Contest. Lusayo also does stand-up comedy.
Tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to Madison.
I am from Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. After high school I took a gap year and that’s when I became really interested in Agriculture. I saw that there are a lot of opportunities in the Agricultural sector and that if I applied my efforts in this sector I would make a lasting impact. This is why I decided to pursue a degree in Agricultural Business Management. And mostly I wanted to have a different perspective of the sector so I thought it would be good for me to study in the US which has an advanced Agricultural sector. This is why I ended up in Madison because it has one of the best Agricultural colleges and there are a lot of farmers around the university, which would allow me to get enough exposure and skills in the Agricultural sector.
How did you first get involved with the African Studies Program on campus?
I got involved with African Studies mainly through their round table events where they brought in different people to speak to students about their careers working in Africa, and also through attending Africa At Noon seminars, which are very interesting because you get to learn from different people and their work in Africa.
Tell us a bit about the internship program in Malawi.
The internship in Malawi came about due to multiple collaborative efforts between Project Malawi, ACADES Malawi and the International Internship Program at UW Madison. This internship is mainly focused on helping ACADES Malawi to fill several gaps in the operations of the organization, by getting different perspectives from the interns from UW Madison. ACADES is an Agricultural Organization working with youths in Malawi to alleviate generational poverty by teaching Agricultural Business skills to the youths and helping them find markets for their products. ACADES is currently working with about 3000 youths in Malawi. Hence, the interns will have an enriched experience working with innovative and creative young people in Malawi. They will also get the opportunity to learn more about the culture and help ACADES achieve its
goals by using their skills to work on some of the projects that ACADES is doing. The internship has also been carefully and deliberately designed so that both the intern and the organization are able to benefit from it.
What did you find most helpful in setting up the internship in Malawi?
I found campus resources and networks very useful in setting up the internship program. This is because I needed to have several meetings with the International Internship Program to sort out any issues relating to requirements that might be needed to establish an internship. I also found that working with several professors who have travelled to and have projects in Malawi really helped to facilitate the process. But one big advantage was that relationship I had with the ACADES Malawi. This is because I personally know the CEO of ACADES and he was able to visit on campus and meet our Project Malawi members.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in doing research/internship in Africa?
I think most importantly it is good to look for people or resources on campus that have connections to the particular country you are interested in. There is a lot of research and a lot of faculty that are working on projects in different African countries. So, setting up meetings with such faculty and also doing personal research before hand is key. Because this will help to find local connections that would help to facilitate the process of the internship or research.
What are your current plans for after graduation?
I plan on working in the US for a while after graduation so that I gain more experience in the Agriculture sector here. An ideal job would be the one that can allow me to go back and forth between the US and Malawi. I also plan on going to graduate school to either do an MBA or study Agriculture and Applied Economics. But my main plan is to go back home and implement what I have learnt here to improve the Agricultural sector in Malawi.
What is your favorite activity in Madison?
I have several things I like to do in Madison especially during the summer. I like hanging out with my friends and playing soccer on the University Bay fields. I also do stand-up comedy, so I love performing my comedy at the comedy club on State Street. I also like attending different business and entrepreneurship events around Madison. I am a Christian, so I like going to church and hanging out with my friends at different Christian events.