The Kagera Region is situated on the northwestern corner of Tanzania, on the western shore of Lake Victoria. That is were Medard was born.
Devoted Catholics, his father was an academician and his mother a medical consultant. Due to his father’s profession he grew up within the grounds of Mzumbe University at the lecturer’s residence. It was an environment that afforded him the opportunity to engage with his peers, playing, dancing, going to church and school together, just like many other kids of the 90’s.
Childhood interests included football, poetry, reading, writing and engaging in philosophical debate. He still enjoys a number of these things in his adult life, especially watching football. In addition he enjoys comedy and documentaries about history, futuristic technology and tourism.
Physically, the place he was raised in is in good shape as the campus has been looked after. However, Medard paints a stark contrast in terms of how people now inter-relate. While when he grew up there, people would interact and there was a real sense of community that is definitely no longer the case. Sadly an all too recurring theme in many places.
A key attribute he feels he has been imbued with from the people he hails from is ‘boldness’, a willingness to take risks and act innovatively while putting the interests and well-being of people and the principals you hold dear above everything else, including profit.
He also cites his parents and the household they raised him in which embraced a communal way of living as one of the key things that have helped shape his outlook towards the common good over personal gain and prestige.
When asked what brings a smile to your face he simply states “when an idea or work has helped change someone’s situation for the better.
He read law at Jordan University in Morogoro, Tanzania and it’s not surprising that his motivation to do so resonates with the values he was raised with. It was a field of endeavour he felt compelled to pursue as he believed it would help him to not only better understand and defend his rights but also the rights of other people.
The university used to be a Catholic seminary, an environment he says influenced personal discipline and living modestly.
Although he had strong motivation to study law, these days it is as an entrepreneur that he makes ends meet while fullfiling his desire to contribute to the greater good. He says “I was convinced that many people in Africa are unable to exercise their rights due to poverty. After learning how entrepreneurship and innovation could lift thousands of people out of poverty, I decided to embrace the idea that I can leverage entrepreneurship to provide life changing solutions/ innovations that will provide employment opportunities and improve people’s lives, thus enabling them to become more self-reliant.”
‘Boldness’, a quality touched on earlier is something from his formative years that he relies on in his entrepreneurial endeavours. However, he cautions, being bold and taking risks is not sufficient without being measured and acting innovatively. Only with innovation can someone see and think outside the box, identify opportunities when others only see challenges, and achieve sizeable objectives with minimal resources.
He feels Reid Hoffman put it succinctly when he said “An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.”
Medard is founder of LeadIndeed Group and also co founder of WorkPlace, companies both based in Tanzania. He envisions LeadIndeed Group as a mother company that will incubate and subsequently scale thriving business born out of entrepreneurial passion, dynamism and vision.
If the scale and scope of LeadIndeed seems breathtaking, the vision that gave rise to WorkPlace is no less ambitious albeit in a more focused manner.
Medard elucidates “it became apparent there is a huge challenge in the area of ‘Skills Development’ in Africa, even though the number of people entering the labor market is huge (800,000 to 1 million people per year in Tanzania alone), over 50% of entrants lack basic employability skills which are both vital for being a competitor in the labour market and with regards to workplace performance.”
Further, even those who have secured jobs have to face the reality of rapid changes in technology, the working environment and practices which they cannot easily leave their jobs in order to upgrade their skills and knowledge to cope. With this in mind WorkPlace came into being to address the following challenges;
(a) Lack of employability skills which are vital in labour markets and workplaces.
(b) Failure of employees to cope with rapid changes in technology, the working environment/ workplace practices, by enabling them to upgrade their skills and knowledge without leaving there jobs.
Medard also highlighted a forthcoming initiative that is on the horizon for the company. ‘JobVersity’, an e-learning initiative through which people with literally no formal education will be able to access courses of their choice to study. All that is required is a smartphone and internet access. On successful completion of their studies they will be awarded proficiency certificates from accredited universities.
He is mindful of the march towards greater use of AI and robotics in industry and the workplace. It is no secret that agriculture and fishing account for the largest percentage of Tanzanian’s in employment. He would like to see the country deepen development within these sectors by leveraging AI and robotics in order to increase efficiency and productivity.
Medard acknowledges that on paper it has become easier for indigines to conduct business in the country. However, he sees as counter productive the policy that allows officers from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to estimate the amount of tax a business should pay above the qualifying threshold.
In fact, this approach has been blamed for discouraging business growth due to unfair tax estimations, with minimal consideration about the actual profit a specific business is making.
On balance it would appear things are heading in the right direction. Economic diversification policies are being backed up by investment in infrastructure and coordinated policy and regulatory reforms. Cash has been poured into Air Tanzania and this has resulted in the purchase of new planes including a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, construction of high-speed rail networks, a new stadium which will be Africa’s largest and construction of the continent’s joint second largest hydro electric dam are some of the landmark projects that give rise for optimisim.
Overall the picture in Tanzania mirrors that of other countries that are steadily making headway across the continent.
Now more than ever, this is a time for practical thinking and bold, innovative ideas over wishful thinking. Tanzania and by extension Africa is definitely on the rise!
© 2019 All rights reserved - Ri Iyovwaye on behalf of African Global Networks (AGN) - September 2019