Alumni Spotlight: Farai Mubaiwa
By Sarah Koedijk
This month’s Alumni Spotlight focuses on Farai Mubaiwa who graduated from King’s College London’s Department of International Development with an MSc in International Development. Farai co-founded Africa Matters, a youth-led organisation committed to empowering young Africans to change the narrative through leadership development, capacity skills building and community-impact projects. Next to running Africa Matters, she is a Junior Project Manager at The Aurum Institute, a leading African TB and HIV research and implementation institute.
What is your vision for Africa Matters?
Africa has 226 million youth between 15-24 years old. Africa’s emerging youth boom calls for numerous interventions to ensure that the boom is an economic opportunity, rather than an economic burden. Interventions include education and skills development, strengthening social systems and protecting women and children. Africa Matters focuses on the former. Africa Matters is a youth-led organisation committed to empowering young Africans to change the narrative through leadership development, capacity skills building and community-impact projects. We currently have ambassadors in South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Our vision is to have Africa Matters Ambassadors in each African nation. These ambassadors are committed to upskilling those around them and using youth-developed solutions to solve complex African problems.
You founded and ran Africa Matters while you were still at university. How were you able to balance your academic work and business responsibilities?
Balancing a rapidly growing organisation and academic work is undoubtedly challenging. However, it is possible to maintain a balance with a reliable co-founder and decent time-management skills. Reanne Olivier and I are co-founders of Africa Matters. We have a complementary style of work with various strengths and weaknesses that, when combined, strengthen Africa Matters. We split the workload and have open lines of communication. And we take on a heavier burden when one partner can no longer balance the workload.
Time-management also ensures that responsibilities can be balanced. Reanne and I schedule everything, from check-ins, to meetings, to grant application writing, to essay due dates, and work commitments. Time-management is even more important today since we both work full-time, run Africa Matters and try to live our lives as youth.
How has studying International Development at King’s College London helped you run the business?
My studies at King’s College London gave me a great insight into challenges faced by countries in the Global South. It also provided me with a better understanding of the role that youth can play in solving these challenges. The insight did not only stem from the classroom, but from engaging with my peers outside the classroom. My peers were from diverse countries including Malaysia, Liberia, Iraq, Botswana, Turkey, Syria, Pakistan and so many other countries. Our conversations about development, trade, youth, governance and democracy deepened my understanding of their countries and also facilitated my understanding of Africa’s shortcomings and Africa’s successes.
What’s next for Africa Matters?
Africa Matters continues to grow rapidly and we are both excited and anxious about it’s growth. We have two main programs, the Africa Matters Ambassadors Program (AMAP) and the Schools Leadership Development Program (SLDP). The inaugural AMAP developed 9 leaders from Kenya, Botswana, Namibia and Rwanda this year. Early next year we will launch the second AMAP targeting another 4 African countries. Our hope is that this program will continue to grow until we have a strong network of Ambassadors in all African countries. The SLDP already has schools lined up for 2019. This is exciting and speaks to the importance of our programs in schools where we focus on leadership, soft skills and social entrepreneurship.
In addition to our main programs, we have partnered with Sparknews and Total for the Total Startupper Challenge. This Challenge supports social innovation projects in 55 countries. Moreover, through our fundraising events such as Networking Evenings and the Towards a Better Africa Summit, we are able to foster dialogue and learning among Africans about Africa’s development and the role we each have to play. Africa Matters is on the rise. And to achieve our mandate, we need mentorship, technical support and financial support. If you would like to get involved please email us!
What advice would you give to students/graduates who want to work international development or start an organisation themselves?
International development is a challenging and fulfilling field because you address the world’s most complex issues. Subsequently, there are numerous organisations that one can work for. The perception among students is that to work in international development, one must work for the United Nations or the World Bank. But this is not the case. I am working for the Aurum Institute which is a leading African TB and HIV research and implementation institute. Aurum’s work is in the international development field since it focuses on public health across Africa. And there are direct links between health, education, poverty, equality and employment.
I also encourage youth to start their own organisations if they have a different way of tackling an existing issue. The state of the world demands active change-makers who commit themselves to going beyond to truly make a difference. Reanne and I started Africa Matters in our 3rd year of University. We did not have a clue of how big the organisation would become and where it would go. We only registered Africa Matters as an NPO this year when we realised that it’s growth meant that it needed proper governance and structure. So if you are passionate about a topic, and have a way to solve it, then surround yourself with people who are passionate about the same topic and start a movement or an organisation. Please listen to my TEDx talk encouraging youth to be active. Because we are the one’s we’ve been waiting for.