The Journey of Bernard Mtaki

Bernard Mtaki from Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo : George Kamau
Bernard Mtaki from Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo : George Kamau

Youth are a great resource for the development of any country; they are energetic and can contribute to different sectors of the economy. However, they remain underutilized, causing a high unemployment rate. In Tanzania, for example, of the estimated 60 million people, more than 50 percent are under 18, and over 70 percent are under 30.

Access to finance remains one of the major challenges youth in Tanzania face. According to Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Tanzania, 33% of youth are excluded from the financial system. Nevertheless, through our partner Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA), We Effect has empowered young people with financial, vocational, and entrepreneurial skills to improve their livelihoods.

Bernard Mtaki, a 30-year-old youth (Tanzania’s youth, defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 35) and a father of three children from Nyamwilolelwa in Mwanza, Tanzania, epitomizes how well young people can be engaged to transform their lives. He is an excellent example of teaching a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

Immediately after his high school education, he faced uncertainty regarding further education and therefore did not have much to do with his time; instead of succumbing to the despair that often grips the youth, TAHEA implored him to mobilize young people within his community and form a youth group.

Bernard Mtaki from Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo: George Kamau

In 2014, together with other young people, they established the Vijana Mhonze group consisting of 21 members aged between 22 and 30. TAHEA, in partnership with We Effect, spearheaded a youth apprenticeship program focusing on vital skills like financial literacy through Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs), driving, carpentry, and welding.

“I was after that supported with two welding machines to support and train other youths,” says Bernard, additionally explaining, “It is at this point that my dream started to take shape through determination and the support of TAHEA in partnership with We Effect.”

Bernard Mtaki from Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo: George Kamau

Armed with newly acquired entrepreneurship and leadership skills, he established his own welding business, offering employment opportunities to fellow youth in the area.

In my business, TAHEA has been a crucial link with homeowners in Nyamwilolelwa, helping expand my clientele base; they link me with homeowners, schools, dispensaries, etc., to provide my welding skills. Additionally, I have found myself running a business and serving as a role model for other idle youth in the community.

“I am happy that I have a business to report to every day and do something meaningful for myself and the community,” he says, adding that “while others waste their time in unproductive activities like gambling and substance abuse, I and my team are busy building a better future for themselves and our families.” He mentors young people, guiding them toward establishing small businesses and farming; however, the biggest challenge has been that the youth want to avoid engaging in challenging tasks.

Bernard Mtaki from Mwanza, Tanzania. Photo: George Kamau

My business sustains me and helps me pay school fees. Bernard further explains, “With his business thriving, he has embarked on another ambitious project—building his own house. Through the group’s Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), he borrowed TZS 400,000 (1,613 SEK) to build his house, which is still at the foundation level; it is a testament to his determination and perseverance.”

Youth access to financial products and solutions offers a great opportunity to unlock and improve their livelihoods through job creation and income generation.

“I am so thankful to We Effect and TAHEA for developing these highly impactful VSLAs to organize youth to save and invest in productive and rewarding investments with their savings and empowering them.” After paying back the VSLA loan on time, he hopes to borrow an additional amount from the group, which will be used to complete the remaining parts of his house construction.

To expand their group’s vision, they have also sought government support for a TZS 75 million grant for youth groups to invest in a fish farming venture. If they qualify, the venture will see them farm fish inside a segmented part of the lake. With the loan request, they aim to address the high fish demand in the lake town, further empowering the youth members economically.