CFED-Malawi was founded in July 2015 by Albert Sharra who at the time was working as a journalist at Nation Publications Limited. He approached Gremson Swart, Albert Bisalom, Leshina Tapani and Litness Chaima who accepted to support the idea. Unfortunately, they all quit after two months citing slow progress and unpromising future of the initiative. Albert re-approached Gremson and recruited other volunteers to ensure the dream lives on. Although many people are happy to work with CFED, the fact that all contributions are voluntary, affects individual commitment. This reveals that voluntary services cannot sustain a serious organization like CFED. The reason is that voluntarism is not the culture among Malawians. Due to this, the organization continues to lose its members. However, Albert has made sure the organization continues with its work and that volunteers are compensated where necessary.

Who is Albert Sharra?

Albert Sharra-CFED founder and director

Albert Sharra is a Malawian citizen. He is currently based at the University of the Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. He was at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa where he pursued a PhD and and worked as a Sessional Lecturer. He is a multi-award- winning journalists and was named Malawi’s Journalist of the Year three times in four consecutive years (2016-2019). He left the newsroom in 2019 to pursue further studies after spending 10 years publishing with Nation Publications Limited, publishers of The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday newspapers. His last post was Investigative Journalist for Solutions Journalism.

At the University of the Witwatersrand, he taught two modules, Comparative Politics and Conflict Stability and State Building in Postcolonial Africa. Albert has received several scholarships and research grants. He has published widely and presented his work at various international conferences. His research interests intersect between politics and journalism with a bias in communication for social change, African studies, social media, and digital activism.

He runs CFED-Malawi on part-time basis and his signature project is Tiwerenge (Let us read) which distributes free newspapers to primary and secondary schools in Malawi. He says the idea comes from his own experience when he was in high school. He used to walk 10km to access newspapers at a NICE library.

The first donation was made in 2017 when he donated 75% of his prize money received from Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Malawi Chapter Annual Awards after his news article recieved two awards: The Best Pediatric and Adolescent HIV Story of the Year and also the Overall Best Article, beating all submitted entries for the annual awards. He also donated his prize money from the similar awards in 2018 and 2019.

In 2021, he used his birthday to fundraise. Between June 1, his birthday to June 30, he raised close to $1500 which was used to subscribe 38 schools to weekly newspapers. They have been receiving a copy of the Weekend Nation newspaper and the funding is renewable. Among the donors were Prof Boniface Dulani, Dr Titus Divala, Dr. Doreen Marley, Dr Christopher Chikhosi, Mr. Undule Mwakasungula, Mr. Kondwani Munthali, Mr Moses Chitsulo family, Mr Blessings Phumisa family, and Mr. Daniel Kabunduli Nkhata. Most donors prefer being anonymous.

Albert says he wants to reach all the 28 districts of the country with the initiative and is the target for the next fundraising exercise. Currently, the project is in 19 districts.