Allen Ezekiel Kimbelwa was born in September 1986 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He grew up with his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. Allen attended Mtendeni Primary School and completed his secondary school studies at Loyola High School in Dar. While in high school, Allen met an amazing teacher from India, Mr. Faizan, who inspired him to pursue a degree in Information Technology (IT).
Due to the University of Dar es Salaam only offering Computer Science, which required a background in mathematics and physics, and not offering Information Technology, which did not, Mr. Kimbelwa attended Makerere University in Uganda. He completed his IT degree in 2010. In 2011, he started his first full-time paid position as an IT/Computer Teacher at Power Computers Training Center in Dar. He wanted additional training in his field, but at the time no university in Tanzania directly offered a Master’s in IT Management.
Mr. Kimbelwa was pleased when he learned that he could earn the degree he sought through Tanzania’s Ministry of Finance’s Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA) which had a collaborative agreement with Coventry University in the UK. The arrangement was wonderful because it enabled Mr. Kimbelwa to continue working at his job while taking IT Management courses for his MBA program at IAA’s Dar es Salaam campus, with Tanzanian and UK faculty.
In 2013, the year he started his MBA program, Mr. Kimbelwa also founded the organization Tanzania Young Leaders–Empowering Vijana (TYLEV), because he felt that there was more that he could be doing to assist those in his community. Through his organization, Allen Kimbelwa works with and empowers disadvantaged youths including street children, school drop-outs, unemployed youth, and young people involved in drugs and alcohol. He provides training in leadership, health, planning, social entrepreneurship, and general confidence building so that the young people understand their talents and potential to go further in life.
Mr. Kimbelwa completed his MBA in 2014 while running TYLEV and working at Power Computers Training Center. That same year, Mr. Kimbelwa, along with more than 50,000 others, applied to be one of 500 people awarded a prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship. Although he did not secure a fellowship that year, he reapplied after some encouragement from Chikulupi Kasaka, who had secured one of the spots as a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow.
By 2015 TYLEV had supported over 1,000 youths. The organization had also started to build a community center that will serve over 3,000 youths, by offering classes, computer labs, studio art space, a kitchen, playground, and more. After reapplying, Allen Kimbelwa was one of 21 Tanzanians to receive a 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship. He was hosted with 24 other Fellows from across Africa at Tulane University and completed a six-week program in Civic Leadership.
Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Mr. Allen Kimbelwa been so successful in his undertakings?
Some key characteristics come to mind:
Mr. Kimbelwa is PASSIONATE about what he is doing. He loves to see young people develop their potential and to make their communities stronger by reducing or ending alcohol and drug use, and discouraging membership in gangs.
Mr. Kimbelwa recognizes the importance of MENTORS and COLLABORATORS. Few highly successful people get to where they are taking a solitary approach. When Ms. Chikulupi Kasaka told Allen that he had “high chances of winning, so you should reapply [for the Mandela Washington Fellowship]” he did. The two went on to collaborate on several youth engagement projects. When Mr. Kimbelwa secured his own Mandela Washington Fellowship he met others with whom he will be able to collaborate.
Mr. Kimbelwa understands the value of a good ROLE MODEL. He personally was inspired by the late Dr. Myles Munroe founder of the Leading Edge Leadership series who encouraged people to help others and not merely pursue private ambitions. Mr. Kimbelwa in turn helped Mr. Gabriel Msabi, a university student at Mzumbe University in Morogoro, establish the Tanzania Empowering Students Organization which is modeled somewhat after TYLEV, but is for the empowerment of university students to become change agents in their communities. The university students assist those that are less fortunate to obtain school supplies and to identify schools with effective programs that can be replicated. Mr. Kimbelwa also hosts a blog about being an agent for positive change and has served as a mentor to others participating in the Young African Leadership Intiative (YALI), of which the Mandela Washington Fellows program is a part. His good work has been featured on the Tanzania Broadcasting Network (TBC).
By Heidi G. Frontani
Heidi G. Frontani is a Professor of Geography at Elon University in the USA. She has taught classroom-based and study travel courses in the USA, UK, China, Ghana, and Kenya, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. She has numerous peer-reviewed articles on development and the social aspects of natural resource management near wildlife parks. Her most recent research interests include sustainable health sector aid to Africa, aid assessment, and Africans’ effective development initiatives in Africa. She writes weekly on Africans’ successful development initiatives in Africa on her blog.