Mbowe: A go-get­ter from an early age

The East African - - MAGAZINE -

Khalila Mbowe, 29, is a so­cial en­tre­pre­neur and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Un­leashed Africa, a com­pany she founded in 2015. The pe­tite mother of two — Raphael, 8, and Belle, 3 packs a ball of en­ergy into her tiny frame.

After com­plet­ing her sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion at St Mary’s Sec­ondary in Dar es Salaam, she started do­ing odd jobs and landed her first real job at the age of 18, back in 2006.

“It was sur­real. I got a call at 4pm and was asked to at­tend an in­ter­view at 5pm. The com­pany was FCB, an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, a sub­sidiary of Lowe SCANAD group. Two weeks later, she was hired, and worked as a copy­writer for two months be­fore be­ing pro­moted to an ac­count ex­ec­u­tive han­dling a promi­nent telco’s ac­count.

By 2008 she had saved up enough money to en­rol at Tay­lor’s Univer­sity in Pe­tal­ing Jaya, Malaysia. She grad­u­ated in 2010 with an ad­vanced diploma in mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, spe­cial­is­ing in mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing.

A fam­ily cri­sis stopped her from pur­su­ing a de­gree course. Lucky for her, her ear­lier cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence made it easy to get con­tracts to work for Air­tel brand­ing, then a man­age­rial po­si­tion for Buddies, a TV pro­duc­tion com­pany from Uganda that was look­ing to fran­chise in Tan­za­nia.

“In the cap­i­tal­ist econ­omy, com­pa­nies be­lieve in the bot­tom line, and this is why I am pas­sion­ate about so­cial en­ter­prises. In this frame­work, ca­pac­ity build­ing en­cour­ages so­cial en­trepreneur­ship. The bot­tom line can­not just be about money be­cause for com­pa­nies to thrive, peo­ple need to be able to spend,” says Khalila.

It’s this be­lief that pushed her to reg­is­ter Un­leashed Africa, which cur­rently em­ploys over 20 staff. As a com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­pert, she has worked with sev­eral ma­jor com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Vo­da­com, To­tal TZ, Uon­gozi In­sti­tute, TED Global and Sera Project.

Re­cently, she was a speaker at the Aga Khan De­vel­op­ment Net­work’s Youth En­trepreneur­ship for So­cial Im­pact con­fer­ence. Khalila is a self-taught chore­og­ra­pher who has worked with Ali Kiba, a renowned Bongo Flava mu­si­cian.

She is the first to con­fess that the jour­ney to self­em­ploy­ment is not an easy one. At one point after she had started her own com­pany, she had to give up her home and ve­hi­cle and lived in a friend’s guest room with her son. Her vi­sion is that ev­ery­one has a call­ing to solve a prob­lem.

Ear­lier this year she be­came a mem­ber of the Women in Fi­nance net­work funded by the Graca Machel Trust.

She’s cur­rently study­ing for a long dis­tance de­gree course in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion with a bias to­wards en­trepreneur­ship at the Univer­sity of the Peo­ple in Florida, US. -Caro­line Uliwa

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