How Tanzanian- born Makulilo fought his way to secure American citizenship

What you need to know:

  •  Ernest believes traditional avenues to success in Africa are heavily weighted towards academia, education, and formal employment with many pushed to entrepreneurs by necessity, not opportunity

Growing up in Kigoma, Ernest was constantly aware of the nearby refugee camps close to his hometown.

The steady presence of international aid workers, representing a diverse array of races, ignited in him a dream of one day living in the United States of America.

He envisioned education as his ticket to achieving this aspiration.

Ernest is an American citizen now living with his family in Missouri, but his journey is a clear definition of seizing all opportunities available in life.

Ernest attended the University of Dar es Salaam for his bachelor’s degree during a time when internet access was not yet widespread.

He would connect his TTCL broadband and search the internet for academic opportunities in America.

He got an opportunity to study in Canada, but obtaining a passport from immigration proved challenging.

Ernest believes his hair played a role in this difficulty.

Reflecting on the experience, he said, “I had long, unkempt hair like Wole Soyinka. I think that’s why they didn’t give me the passport.”

Ernest didn’t give up; he cut his hair and kept searching the internet for study information in the US.

Ernest was so well-informed about study abroad opportunities that he felt compelled to share them with his friends at the University of Dar es Salaam.

However, most did not take him seriously, reasoning that if he truly knew so much about studying in the West, he would already be there himself.

That’s when Ernest decided to start a blog, posting all the information he gathered to help Tanzanians with similar dreams find the opportunities they sought.

He credits Issa Michuzi, the pioneer blogger and seasoned Tanzanian journalist, for his willingness to offer invaluable advice and guidance.

“Michuzi told me to concentrate on the education blog because that’s what I was good at, and I did,” Ernest said.

As fate would have it, his first real opportunity to go to the United States came from a post on Michuzi’s blog about the need for Kiswahili tutors in America.

It's a common tradition among many Africans to keep their upcoming travels to Europe or America under wraps, and Ernest adhered to this practice diligently.

Upon receiving his visa, Ernest's dress code changed dramatically; he would always don a tie and look impeccably smart.

Some of his fellow students speculated that he might have secured a job.

On the university campus, his movements were limited to the lecture halls and the cafeteria, as he didn’t even board a bus for fear of getting into an accident.

Upon completing his exams, Ernest wore the graduation gown before the actual graduation ceremony, fully aware that he would not be in Tanzania for the event.

A Fulbright programme opened the doors to the country of Ernest's dreams.

He initially went to the US as a Kiswahili tutor through a foreign language tutorship programme, with the understanding that it would last for one year.

However, Ernest had already envisioned staying longer than a year.

In a determined move, he applied for a master’s degree scholarship at 24 different universities, hoping that one would grant him the opportunity to continue his studies and thereby prolong his stay in the US.

He returned to Tanzania briefly before embarking once again on a trip on a trip to the United States, this time on a student visa.

Since then, he has resided in the US, carving out a path towards his dreams and aspirations.

Ernest is a staunch believer in the American dream.

Over the years, his study abroad blog has evolved into a comprehensive scholarship and immigration consultancy, showcasing pathways for Africans to realise their aspirations in America, be it through visa lotteries or scholarship opportunities.

In 2022, he registered his service as a business.

He still teaches people how to apply for a visa, what to do when one goes for the visa interview, and more.

To the question, "Is it necessary to journey to the United States of America to achieve success in life?"

Ernest remains resolute in his conviction that the American dream endures.

He postulates that some Tanzanians do not succeed in the US because they venture to ‘the land of the brave’ without a thorough understanding of the American financial system, resulting in frustration and a failure to realise their dreams.

In response to this dilemma, Ernest has penned a book titled “Decoding the American Dream,” slated for publication in September.

This insightful work aims to shed light on the intricacies of the American dream and provide guidance to those seeking to navigate the complexities of pursuing success in the United States.

In his book, Ernest delves into the missteps that immigrants often encounter while navigating the intricate American financial and retirement systems.

He emphasises that these two systems are foundational to the American dream, serving as the bedrock upon which aspirations are built and realised.

Many migrants to the US prioritise achieving high credit scores, often leading to the purchase of cars and homes through loans.

However, this path can result in a cycle of debt that consumes their entire lives, with the burden often extending to their children even after their passing.

Ernest also advises Tanzanians who relocate to America against maintaining the same lifestyle they had in Tanzania.

He provided examples such as urinating in bushes, a common practice in Tanzania but one that could lead to being listed as a sex offender in the US, potentially ruining one's life forever.

Additionally, he cautioned against the dangers of driving under the influence, noting that while it may not result in severe legal consequences in Tanzania unless a major accident occurs, in America, even having an open beer bottle in the car could lead to significant legal repercussions.

Ernest cautions Tanzanian men that in the US, the legal obligation to financially support one's child is strictly enforced, with the government empowered to withdraw funds from your bank account without your consent to fulfil child support obligations.

This stands in stark contrast to practices in Africa, where such enforcement is seldom seen.

He has been advising many African immigrants on how to adjust to their new reality and how to integrate into American life.

Ernest believes traditional avenues to success in Africa are heavily weighted towards academia, education, and formal employment.

He observes that many in the informal sector, like entrepreneurs, are driven by necessity, not opportunity.

Additionally, those achieving significant business success often leverage strong connections and networks.

This reality, he argues, disadvantages ordinary Africans, like Tanzanians, in their pursuit of prosperity.

"Even agriculture is often viewed with disdain; many graduates are hesitant to pursue it as a career path.

Our universities churn out a plethora of graduates; job opportunities remain scarce," he lamented.

Ernest firmly believes that Tanzania must make significant strides across multiple sectors to ensure a brighter future for its youth.

This includes empowering farmers to become proficient enough to directly export their produce to America and Europe, as well as enhancing the entrepreneurial environment.

By fostering an ecosystem that encourages and supports entrepreneurship, young people can view starting a business as a viable and attractive option after completing their education.

Through such measures, Tanzania can unlock the potential of its youth and pave the way for sustained economic growth and prosperity.

A proud American citizen with a Tanzanian heart, Ernest is dedicated to helping young people from his home country access the American dream through scholarships.

He believes that a stronger pipeline of Tanzanians reaching the US will ultimately benefit Tanzania.