“People are effective and creative because there is trust and engagement”

Nechavava Rawlings Mbiru from Zimbabwe is honorary speaker at this year’s Swedish Institute diploma ceremony. Learn more about his experience as a Swedish Institute scholarship holder.

Before coming to Sweden I was a process engineer at a big bakery in Zimbwawe. I had a Bachelor in Engineering and as a side project I ran a laundry business, an electrical installation company, and before that a real estate company. I started my first business – a vegetable shop – at 11. Some of these companies have done very well and some only lasted a couple of years. But I guess one can say that I have an entrepreneurial mindset, I enjoy trying!

I thought about applying to a University in South Africa. But in my area of engineering – supply chain management –is happening more in the US and Europe. So I looked for English speaking countries in Europe that seemed open to people from other countries. Sweden came up as the most interesting one!

I’m on a two-year master’s degree at Lund University and the programme has really lived up to my expectations. It combines engineering and entrepreneurship very well. It’s very intensive and the competition is high. We are students from seven different countries and all high achievers so it is challenging, but I really feel that it is worth all the work we put in.

What I’ve enjoyed most during my time here is of course meeting new people. The first experience was within my class and I made good contacts with them. Aside from that I made a lot of friends through the local student organization. I wouldn’t have made all these new friends from different countries if I had stayed in Africa, let alone Zimbabwe.

I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of the working community and I really enjoyed it, especially the flat structure. Back home there is an apprehension because we think that there need to be hierarchies and fear to make people effective. Here I learnt that it is not so. People are effective and creative because there is trust and engagement. My best tip for new scholarship holders is to express your talents and ambition. There are so many different opportunities and you might find that something you have been looking for all along.

The application process for the SI scholarship was interesting and sometimes frustrating, for instance with the references. Most people who could reference me had left their jobs. The waiting felt long and the application fee was high but eventually it came through and I was so happy to get the results.

Although I knew it would be a little cold the weather was a shocker. And little things in the day to day living surprised me; like that everybody sits in a row on the bus, and preferably not next to anyone else. The swedes like their space.

I will be an honorary speaker at the diploma ceremony which is a fantastic chance for me to express what this opportunity has meant. I want to highlight how we can leverage on the SI scholarship to further ones career. We must add all our previous experience and use what we learnt to develop our countries back home.

Being here has opened up unique opportunities for me. I joined Opibus, a Swedish company doing electrical vehicle conversions, only months after arriving in Sweden.The company started operations in Kenya in April 2018 and now we’re full up and running. We have vehicles on the market and we’re growing. We do research in Sweden and production in Kenya and in a few years we will approach the European market.

I think the biggest challenge we face is to make sustainability affordable to everyone, including in the developing world because we see more of the effects of climate change there, already.

Find out more about the SI scholarships.