Like a warrior ready for the fight, the then 9 year old Alex Mbise stepped into a head teacher’s office, determined to end the poverty that characterized his life. He lacked shoes, uniform, school fees, writing materials…all a child needs but all he wanted then was to go to school. With this striking note of determination, he enrolled himself in a local primary school and was the oldest child in his class but that still did not discourage him. Sometimes, he walked barefooted and hungry to school but that still did not discourage him. His tenacity was indeed striking!
And each time he thought of his situation, he was fuelled by an ardent wish to reverse his trend, to provide a better future for his children and for disadvantaged groups in his community. In this interview, he reveals that during his long walks to school, he visualized a great future and meditated upon it day and night and explains how he transformed his stumbling blocks to stepping stones.Read on…
- Tell us more about yourself;
Alex is an energetic individual with great interest and passion about youth, leadership and community development at large. He is a YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa Alumni who has completed a Civic Leadership Course from Kenyatta University as part of YALI RLC EA. As a young leader, public speaker and social entrepreneur, he is the founder and Executive director of Tanzania Small Entrepreneurs’ Network (TASEN), a non governmental organisation committed to empowering youths to promote faster economic growth in social entrepreneurship and labor intensive sectors, including agriculture by using positive community development approaches to empower Tanzanian youths and educate them with viable business options in fast growing economies, focusing the income generating potentials across agricultural and other value chains and facilitating access to information , skills and opportunities to ensure successful business startups and self employment. The organisation has so far empowered more than 1000 youths with access to information and skills for social entrepreneurship and technical skills on business start-ups, groups formation and financial literacy. The aim is to train as many youths across Tanzania as to fight poverty.
Alex is also a ROI Africa Global Youth Ambassador which is a social enterprise committed to meeting the community’s social needs and developing young dynamic leaders who will close-up Africa’s leadership deficits and redefine the future of the continent. He is also a member of Global Shapers Community; a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change to the communities across the globe.With all these, he has also a clear plan of running for office as a Member of parliament in Tanzania general election 2025
- You demonstrated courage at a very young age when you stepped into a head teacher’s office and asked to be enrolled in school.What motivated you then?
One day, Alex got tired of the poverty at home and walked to a local school and straight to the principal’s office alone to register himself for standard one. At the tender age of nine, he had a drive that was stronger than his age. The motivation behind him was poverty in his community .
He believed and still believes that education is a crucial tool to transforming communities and creating solutions to societal problems like poverty. He believed that through education,he will be able to fight poverty in the future. That is why he decided to register himself in school although none of his family members understood the importance of education.
3.At what point in your life did you decide to serve your community?
I have always had the interest to serve even before I was 9, but owing to the poverty at home and my community at large, I found it difficult. My daily meditation was: how can I Improve my living standards at home and even that of my neighbours? I started trying to figure out what I can do to serve my family while pursuing my goals. I believed that if I went to school and became educated, it would be much easier to use my knowledge to transform my community towards fighting poverty. Therefore, I decided register myself in school. Although I faced challenges getting the necessary basic items like shoes, uniform, school fees and even writing materials, that did not stop me. In order to support my family and meet my school needs, I ran small businesses; mainly selling plastic bags and boiled eggs in open air markets twice every week . I saved the money and used it to invest in the rearing of chicken and goats. This was how I paid for my Primary and secondary school education but also I was able to feed my family. I was able to buy uniform and books and school needs. Skipping school to look for money wasn’t fun, but it got me where I am today. While at the University, I founded TASEN to empower communities through entrepreneurship skills so as to fight poverty.
4.Tell us a bit more about your organisation,Tanzania Small Entrepreneurs’ Network (TASEN)?
Tanzania Small Entrepreneurs’ Network (TASEN) is a community based organisation committed to empower youths to promote faster economic growth in social entrepreneurship and labor intensive sectors; including agriculture by using positive community development.
approaches to empower Tanzania youth and educate them with viable business options in fast growing economies.We encourage youths to focus their income generating potentials across agricultural and other value chains and facilitate access to information , skills and opportunities to ensure successful business startups and self employment. The organisation has so far empowered hundreds of youths with access to information and skills for social entrepreneurship and technical skills on business start-ups, groups formation and financial literacy. The core aim is to fight poverty across Tanzanian communities.
5.How have living conditions in your community improved thanks to your works?
TASEN has been a positively transformative organisation as it has improved the lives of many community members to create self employment but also employment for others. As an organisation, we have received a number of recognitions and honors from the community thanks to our efforts of improving living standards. It is with from these feedback,recognitions and respects that we understand our impacts to the communities. Appart from various entrepreneurial training that we conduct on a monthly basis, we are currently mentoring 13 groups of young entrepreneurs on agribusiness.
- What challenges do you face?
Our biggest challenge is financial.We can hardly mobilise funds to cover training costs. However, we are trying to partner with other organisation which share our vision to ease the operation of our activities. Otherwise, though we are non profit organisation, we are trying to create a system that will finance the organisation so that we can depend on ourselves and not always on donors.
7.What would you call your biggest success story?
My greatest success story is my life story; from selling plastic bags in an open air markets to running an organisation.From walking to school barefoot to being a resource person,helping others in my community.In short, I can say my dream has come true.
- What are you currently working on?
I am currently investing my effort to empower and educate youths with viable business options in fast growing economies; focusing the income generating potentials across agricultural sector. As an organisation we believe that the agricultural sector has potential to create employment more than any other sector. Many youths can create self employment through agribusiness.
9.How do you see your organization in the next 10 years?
In the next ten years, I see my organisation playing a greater transformative role and positively impacting more lives in my country. In the near future , we plan to establish Innovation centers across the country that will speed up transformation for young entrepreneurs but also to host various entrepreneurial trainings.
10.Your advice to African youths.
African youths should become problem solvers in their communities. If youths in Africa would remain silent or neutral in the face of moral conflicts in their communities, then there is a great place in hell reserved for them. As africans we are facing a number of challenges; poverty being the leading problems.These problems have persisted because youths have not been active enough in finding solutions. Instead ,some have worsened these problems in their communities.by