Dar e Salaam. Being passionate about combining knowledge, art and striking personal stories to build digital solutions, two young Tanzanians – Gerald Mukama and Emmanuel Mtera – took on the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic and turn them into opportunities that are already benefiting many youth.
In 2020 when the pandemic started ravaging economies across the world, forcing many business operators to count loss after loss, the two young graduates soon found themselves jobless.
But, as sages have said down the ages, every cloud has a silver lining… and challenges do come with opportunities. The two young men – who studied together at the Unique Academy College about five years ago – decided to partner in a venture that would lift an untold number of young people out of joblessness.
The two – Gerald Mukama and Emmanuel Mtera – now own a digital platform dubbed ‘Vijana Tech’.
The digital product trains people on digital marketing, a skill that helps them to set up various platforms from which they can earn an income.
In 2018, Mr Mukama, 20, secured a certificate in Information and Technology from Unique Academy. Thereafter, he embarked upon setting up the Vijana Tech platform with the aim of helping other young people to also make a living.
In due course, he met with different people – and he found himself expanding his ideas and skills and, eventually, being able to make better use of his tech during the Covid-19 woes.
Basically, Mukama was the founder of the Vijana Tech platform. But he soon identified a suitable partner in the name of Emmanuel Mtera.
Their common goal was to put their ideas and skills together so that they could achieve the noble objective of helping fellow young people to get rid of the idea of salaried employment and, instead, use their knowledge to employ themselves in income-generating activities.
The Vijana Tech operators told the SMEs Digest that their platform deals with capacity development for the youth in various technological skill sets.
In that regard, they focus on awareness creation through organized training sessions; online training; mentorship programmes and the supply of opportunities for the purpose of helping the beneficiaries scale up in their career activities.
They target youth with different backgrounds both in school and out of school who are passionate about acquiring technological skills.
“We offer programmes in digital marketing, graphics designing, web development, software development, software and hardware to RPA” (Robotic Process Automation), Gerald says.
In the relatively short time that Vijana Tech has been operating, more than 100 young people have been trained and were able to open their own income-generating platforms while continuing to look for salaried jobs, he says.
“Vijana Tech is an innovation scheme whereby we look at some of the most pressing problems in our community, and solve them from the perspective of technology. In this regard, we have founded several side projects, some of which will become operational soon enough,” Mr Mukama says.
“We encourage our beneficiaries to use digital skills to create jobs, and not to depend on being employed – which are very scarce nowadays. We also provide free online resources. We provide our online courses at zero charge to our ‘customers.’ You only need to be passionate to access our online courses and sessions,” he told SMEs Digest.
“I am the founder of Vijana Tech, a project that deals with capacity building and development for youth in various digital skills,” Mr Mukama says.
“In this, we focus on awareness creation through organized training sessions; online training; mentorship programmes and supply of opportunities for the purpose of helping our beneficiaries scale up in their careers.”
Mr Mukama adds: “The two of us are long-time friends and have common interests. We conceived this idea five years ago when we were at school – and, after we graduated, we started implementing it in all seriousness. I started, then my friend (Emmanuel Mtera) came on later. The exposure and mentorships I gained from experienced people helped us a lot to start easy.”
Through its activities, the Vijana Tech initiative helps youths to recognize the diverse opportunities which are available in the digital economy, and cultivates in them the skills and confidence needed in enabling them to take advantage of those opportunities and related possibilities.
Stressing that the training is free, Mr Mukama said that “the only prerequisite to join Vijana Tech is a passion and curiosity to by aspirants to learn about practical technology.
“Connected to my desire to lead communities in positive transformation, Vijana Tech also encourages the youth to apply what they have learned in effectively addressing the pressing challenges that impede their progress,” he explained.
“To-date, I and my colleague at Vijana Tech have run two online training sessions that reached more than 100 youth across Tanzania. From web development to computer programming, the youth who finish the training are able to freelance full-time – or do so while looking for formal employment!”
The Vijana Tech’s team also oversees a number of community projects on the side, such as ‘Find my Hostel,’ a search platform that helps university students to successfully track down quality student accommodation at an affordable price.
“My passion for building solutions led me to orient myself on different digital skills, including web development, robotic process automation (RPA) and digital marketing. In 2019, I was one of the 23 Africave Fellows selected out of over 800 applications from 26 countries.
“In 2020, I was proclaimed ‘National Change Maker’ by We Make Change-Tanzania. Later in the same year, I became an ‘Africode Fellow:’ a capacity development fellowship for African Tech Talents,” Gerald shares his experience with SMEs Digest.
“In 2020/2021, I graduated from #DOTYouth Street Team Programme – a programme which provided me with business skills and funding. Early in 2021, I graduated from Founder Development Bootcamp by Startup Réseau. I am the ‘Tanzania Emerging Youth Awards’ winner under the Innovation Category.
“Apart from tech activities, I am a musician who plays drums -- and am also a vocalist. I am passionate about combining my knowledge, art and striking personal story to build digital solutions for Africa,” he says.
Impact, and future plans
Currently, the ‘Two Gentlemen’ of Vijana Tech earn an average of $400 a month from serving people individually, giving tech solutions services, providing web development, app development, software development, graphic designing, digital marketing and RPA services.
“In nurturing my entrepreneurial, problem-solving mindset, Vijana Tech also tackles challenge of youth unemployment… A challenge that was experienced first-hand by me and by my peers. Like most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has a large youth population. This means there are more young people looking for jobs than there are job vacancies to fill.
“Formal, salaried jobs are scarce in Tanzania; it’s a big employment crisis. I wanted to help young people from hoping to depend on formal employment and teach them the soft skills needed to help them become self-employed – and create jobs for others.
“In the future, I plan to expand Vijana Tech into an academy, and reach an even greater number of youth who can then effectively tackle the increasingly complex problems using technology.
“Just as I found and harnessed the opportunity in the digital economy, so too can others. Vijana Tech is going to make sure of this,” young Gerald Mukama told SMEs Digest, oozing confidence!