Jane is flying high, thanks to perseverance

Dr Jane Mpapalika of Repoa. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Jane Mpapalika is a Senior Researcher in the Capacity Building and Collaborations Department at Research on Poverty Alleviation Programme Limited (Repoa)

Her humble upbringing made her set the bar high for her future aspirations. Right from a tender age, she knew she needed to work hard at school and in the workplace and thus she envisioned herself as a woman of substance.

Just last year she won a fifth coveted award when she was named the Most Influential Young Economist (MIYE) in Sub-Saharan Africa.  That was after winning the Oxford University Achievement Award Winner in Oil, Gas and Mining in 2019; UN Young Professional in 2019; Witwatersrand University Post-Graduate Merit Award in 2014 and the Graduate Institute of Geneva/Peking University Award in 2016.

This is none other than Dr Jane Mpapalika, an experienced economist in the areas of fiscal policy, governance, financing instruments (public-private partnerships), gender, climate change and the environment.

She is a Senior Researcher in the Capacity Building and Collaborations Department at Research on Poverty Alleviation Programme Limited (Repoa), Tanzania’s main think-tank mandated to influence policy through evidence-based research and policy dialogues. 

Despite the high standards she set at a tender age, Jane says, “My trust in God made everything else fall into place and that is where I drew my inner strength against all odds.”

Commenting on her latest award, she says it resulted from the most anticipated annual compilation of young, bold and brightest economists, who are under the age of 40 globally.

“The initiative is aimed at celebrating new economic thinkers and rising economists who are influencing positive change in their countries’ economy and the region. The award is issued by the Institute of Certified Chartered Economists (ICCE), a global professional body providing the Chartered Economist designation.”

As for the Oxford University Achievement Award in Oil, Gas and Mining, she says she was asked, as a senior executive, to share practical knowledge, strategic foresight and decision-making skills required to govern oil, gas or mineral resources for a better future.

Jane says the award offered by globally recognised experts has helped to address the core challenges of her role and equip her with intensive instruction and strategy planning experiences.

A key part of the award was to reflect on the ways in which new thinking and new practices in natural resources management can help inform one’s professional challenges.

“This award has elevated Repoa and myself on the international stage, which is worth the hustle. It has also helped to position our institution (Repoa) better in the eyes of our stakeholders,” says Jane.

In her various engagements, she has been involved in surveys, evaluation, data collection, supervision, data entry, analysis and report writing.

Jane has also worked with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and developed country-specific models for Tanzania, Namibia and the Seychelles.

Commenting on the lessons learnt while working with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and how they further developed her leadership skills, she says she had to believe in herself.

This, in turn, widened her knowledge and horizons as far as learning new things is concerned.

Jane adds that Tanzanians, should be aggressive if they are genuinely intent on making an impact on the global stage.

Asked to identify the most successful and impactful projects  she has worked on, she says there are several, including the climate smart agriculture training programme in Kagera Region using the training of trainers approach (TOT). About 500 women and youth farmers have so far been trained, with 15,500 more people being lined up for the scheme in all district councils in the country.

She also launched the East African Hub that consists of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and supported women and youth empowerment through the development of the Strategic Plan for National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC) in Tanzania.

Jane conducted a feasibility study on the transformation of the Dar es Salaam ferry fish market into a competitive and sustainable market, implemented smart farming methods in agriculture (cage fishing, hydroponic fodder and Azolla for animal feeds), as well as providing rapid response advisory services to the Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania through evidence-based research.

Commenting on what has shaped her leadership skills over the years, she believes that everyone has unique talent or skills if given a chance.

“As a senior researcher, I usually to urge women to showcase their potential, no matter how small it is. On the career path, every little step matters. One day, they will finally see light at the end of the tunnel,” adds Jane.

Sharing her professional traits that can help other women to excel in male-dominated fields, she says one should strive to stand out by resorting to self-assessment. She conducts self-assessment on a daily basis since she believes that practice makes perfect.

Jane adds that one becomes better by learning from colleagues and others.

Repoa has given her an opportunity to learn in a friendly working environment.

“Despite all my seniors being males, they encourage me to be an even better version of myself as the days go by.

“I usually strive to see the positive side of a challenge. Turning challenges into opportunities is akin to a person using the stones thrown at them to build a monument. The doctoral studies have enabled me to develop a thick skin by accepting criticism and working on them to improve myself,” says Jane.

On how she uses professional networks to help women climb the corporate ladder, she says helping others gives her much satisfaction. She has supported, connected and shared experiences, success stories and struggles with women around the world.

“At the institutional level and in my capacity as a senior researcher and gender-focal person, Repoa has enabled me to empower hundreds of women in East Africa. The platform that Repoa has provided me with has helped me to build long-term relations and given me a deeper sense of belonging,” Jane adds.

She graduated with a doctorate in Economics at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa in 2018, a master’s degree in Economics at the Leeds University Business School in the UK in 2010 and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Saint Augustine University of Tanzania in 2008.

Jane is also a member of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), UN Young Econometric Society, Economic Society of Tanzania, Econometric Society and South African Economic Society.