Someone once said that the difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will. Now, I am delighted to share a success story; a truly compelling one. It is the story of a hero, an African hero.
January Yusuf Makamba is a Tanzanian CCM politician and Member of Parliament for Bumbuli Constituency since 2010. He is the Current Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology. He is a go-getter and an innovator with a formidable drive. Makamba is a politician that believes in action and less talk. His hatred for corruption has become a common knowledge. Just recently, he launched a new text message anti-corruption campaign, a global naming-and-shaming project. He believes this will be a sure way to nip corruption in the bud and then make sure the unseen but extremely deadly monster will never be able to rear its head in Tanzania again. In his words “Only 6.9% of corruption cases are currently reported. We want to solve the problem. Almost everyone in Tanzania has a mobile.” Now this is how it will work; “At a hospital you are asked for a bribe. You have a USP code, you enter the location and details of the bribe and send it to a web platform: it will appear as a dot on a map so everyone can see that at a certain hospital a bribe was asked for.” Really interesting right?
Well, this great wisdom and initiative didn’t just happen to the first class politician; they are clearly dividends of hard work, devotion and selfless service.
January Yusuf Makamba was born on 28 January 1974 to Josephine and Yusuf Makamba; his mother was nursing course trainee while his father was a vibrant local government functionary. For Makamba, growing up was not an easy affair, it was a period of lack, helplessness and endless difficulties. Remembering those days has only made him stronger and more devoted to fighting the right cause. Makamba and his little brother were sent to live in their village, Mahezangulu Lushoto and then later they were sent to live with their grandmother in kyaka, which was about 20 kilometres between the border of Uganda and Tanzania. For Makamba this was his most trying and instructive moment.
Events took place in quick successions for the boys, it was one trouble after another until the most traumatic and unexpected happened; the little boys couldn’t have envisaged the impending doom. In a few months, they became helpless refugees hoping for a chance of survival in displaced people’s camp. But in the midst of so much pain, confusion and uncertainties, the young lad only grew tougher and stronger, refusing to be moved by the torrents of fear and hopelessness that rapidly blew others to ruin. I know you remember the saying; “When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going”. This was the case of little Makamba. Soon Makamba’s resilience won through, an opportunity presented itself and the boys where moved out of camp. In truth those were his days of little beginning.
Despite the troubles and huddles the young man faced , he never relented in his pursuit for success; in a few years, he gained admission into Forest Hill High School, after which he embarked on a journey or to put it better, a trek of adventure. The trek eventually ended far away from home, in the remote village of Kasulu, Kigoma; well this was not only a land of adventure like he thought, it was also his promised land.
Soon events took a different turn for this man of purpose, in a short time, he got a job as a registration clerk; a job that earned him respect, an opportunity to leave alone and of course a salary. His enthusiasm and dedication to his new job attracted the attention of his employers and within months he was promoted to the position of a distribution supervisor and again to Assistant Camp Manager in Mtabila Refugee Camp. This was a major turning point in Makamba’s life. He recounts; “I was young- 21, 22, 23, with a lot of authority, a good salary, a driver and most importantly a UHF radio handset, a real symbol of status in the refugee camp. It is at this stage that I started making friends with international people”. Now Makamba was able to make some money to pursue a higher education at St John’s University, a prestigious college in Minnesota, USA. To him, the change was very rewarding and fulfilling.
Somehow I am able to imagine the degree of distress and deprivation that threatened this beautiful dream; but the interesting thing? Makamba was able to rise far above them, with his mind made up and his eyes fixed on his goal.
For this great man the things he suffered did not in any way make him feel inferior or handicapped, instead he saw the difficulties as propelling forces that cleared the path to his success, making him the fine politician that he is today. In his words; “The most rewarding experience was living with my grandmother”. The daily routine was testing –” I’d wake at 5am, walk 8km to school, come home at 3pm and go out to herd goats.” This gave him, he feels, the “empathy needed for good decision-making”.
In 2009, President Kikwete introduced him to Barack Obama, who was much taken by his dynamism, observing that he was the sort of politician likely to help transform the fortunes of the continent. Makamba is determined to liberate his country and indeed Africa, from reliance on aid. He set up The Bumbuli Development Corporation to borrow $10m from Wall Street philanthropists, and then invested in bonds with dividends to be spent in his constituency. According to him; “We decided not to find an NGO to help us but start our own – and not make it a charity. We have had a flurry of NGOs with little impact. This corporation would be a driver for development and private enterprise. It would be a social business with huge potential.” The corporation money is already funding community projects. he tries to explain further, “Fifty per cent of our fruit and vegetables used to be spoiled before going to market.”
This is the story of a hero, one that had reasons to give up and stop dreaming but didn’t, instead he rode on them and succeeded greatly. Now my friend, what is your excuse?