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Gwamaka Kifukwe: Lead researcher and host of 'In Focus' and 'Meet the Leader'.

This is the third in a series of profiles of candidates from the Emerging African Leaders programme organised annually by the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice. So far, we’ve met Jake Okechukwu Effoduh from Nigeria and Rendani from South Africa. Now, meet Gwamaka Kifukwe.

Gwamaka is a Tanzanian civil servant ​based at the Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development​ (the UONGOZI Institute), under the auspices of the Tanzanian President's Office. Uongozi means leadership in Kiswahili. The Institute supports African leaders in attaining sustainable development in their nations and on the continent.

Tell me about your work at the Institute.

​I am responsible for the Sustainable Development Programme. I am also the lead researcher and host the 'In Focus' and 'Meet the Leader' TV interview shows. I work closely with our resource centre to keep it updated and stocked with materials on the topics we cover as an organisation. Beyond these, I give public talks, moderate discussions, carry out trainings, and support speech writing teams.

Meet the Leader has featured a range of prominent Africans including former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, former chairperson of the African Union Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and former president of the African Development Bank Group Dr Donald Kaberuka.

What do you enjoy most about it?

There's always something new going on, either a new wrinkle or a change in the context. So we get a good mix of challenges. We also get to meet and work with a lot of interesting people from across the continent. ​

What do you find most challenging?

Contexts and needs are consistently shifting, and beyond our control. We usually manage to get on top of things in the end, but it can be very challenging to always be on your toes and check that your assumptions and instructions are still relevant.​

Who was the most interesting subject to interview for your show Meet the Leader?

There's no way I can really answer that. Each of the guests have their own stories and ideas that are all very interesting. We sometimes have to edit quite a bit to fit the 25-minute format, so the audience doesn't always get a full sense of our guest. In terms of topics, I enjoy it when our guests reflect on what the sacrifices are in being a leader.

What’s your process like – how do you come up with the questions?

​'Meet the Leader' is quite biographical in that it reflects on the leadership journey of our guest, and their reflections on the subject of leadership itself.​ We get together as a team to get an idea of the person, their beliefs, legacy, achievements, etc. We then meet to work out what may be interesting to share with the audience, or if they have expressed an interesting or different perspective, we try to tease that out. Typically each interview will also have a core question that needs answering - we try to weave this in and out of the interview.

What do you miss about Dar es Salaam when you go away?

​Being so close to the ocean, and the friendliness of the people. ​

What do you think Tanzania is getting right, as a country?

​I think we have our hearts in the right place - genuinely we want to see the nation progress, even if we don't quite know or agree on how to do that. There are always challenges, setbacks and mistakes to learn from, and in that sense Tanzania is no different from other places working to improve the lives of its citizens.​

What do you think the biggest challenges facing Tanzania are?

​We know that poverty is still a problem, and we know that our cities are growing rapidly, along with our population. These are growing challenges that we are working on and preparing for. I also think that Tanzania is on the cusp of major transformation, the likes of which are being experienced in India, in South Korea previously, and in other parts of the world that are or have industrialised. Most things will change - the way we work, socialise, earn money, etc - as has happened in other places. This is a traumatic process, and the fact is we don't know exactly how things will turn out, and what we will become (as a country and as Tanzanians) once we've gone through the process. Getting everyone through this process is another challenge that is not often spoken about, but is equally important. We cannot leave our fellow citizens and human beings behind. ​

What inspires you to keep doing the work you do?

The job is varied in terms of the different types of activities we do and the people we work with. We have a great team, many of us are of similar age so we're all growing up together while we work. It is a job where I am constantly learning and being stretched, which I enjoy and find rewarding as well. On a more personal note, I think I got lucky because I am working in an area that I both believe in personally, and that my studies prepared me for.​

Who are some of your African role models, and why?

I tend to be more inspired by moments than by individuals. There are many individuals I look up to, both historically and in terms of people I've engaged with. I've always liked the story if John Stephen Akhwari, and his iconic moment at the 1968 Olympic Games, and his reflections after the marathon race.

Learn about that iconic moment:

Learn about the Uongozi Institute:

Catch up on Meet the Leader:

& In Focus:

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