Meet Novat Karol, the founder of Elimu Living Lab

BizzAfrica: Tell us about yourself?

 I am Novat Karol, a firstborn in a family of four children of which three are boys and one is a girl. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I did my high school at Bwiru Boys Technical school and secondary education at Sengerema Secondary School in Mwanza city in 2009 and 2005 respectively and the primary school at Kamagambo primary school in Karagwe district in Kagera region.

My education journey has been one of my impossible movements accompanied by a couple of dropping out and back to school searching for school fees.

READ ALSO: Registering a business in Ghana; the basic steps

BizzAfrica: Give us a brief history of your organization. I mean, Elimu Organization (when it started and the reason behind its establishment

Elimu living Lab is non-profit making organization established in 2012. To understand Elimu Living Lab you need to know what a living lab is – an environment or a methodical approach focused on end user-driven open innovation.

In the living lab, end-user communities collaborate with Innovation Stakeholders (public, private, education and research, societal and funding sectors) in real-life settings to co-create innovative products, services, processes, business models or policies, or adapt existing ones, to better match market or societal needs based on a co-design approach with end-user communities.

In essence the living lab is a multi-stakeholder partnership approach to Collaborative Open Innovation.  

Elimu Living Lab emerged as a response to unemployment. The rate of unemployment (especially among youth) in impoverished communities and townships in our local community of Sengerema is alarmingly high.

Most of the youth in these townships have not undergone formal education and have no hope of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and unemployment they are born in. The high rates of unemployment breed a lot of other social challenges turning the communities into hubs of crime, violence and substance abuse.

BizzAfrica: For young entrepreneurs a major startup headache has been the issue of capital. How did you do it?

The startup capital I used was mainly from my students’ loan and the part time jobs I did whiles at the university. I started with seven thousand Tanzanian shillings (7,000/=) but to a large extent I made use of my ability to teach and organize young people with varied abilities with the view of harnessing their potentials to solve the problems that confront our society.

BizzAfrica: How was it when you decided to venture into entrepreneurship instead of seeking employment (how did family and friends react to this decision)?

When I completed the University I got a job with some mining companies and even some Universities as a lecturer but I was not motivated enough to pursue those careers because I loved community service but later I tried to figure out how to make some money through what I loved doing.

My classmates were surprised by the option I chose because I was financially constrained in what I was doing. They thought I was confused or mad. My family couldn’t just understand why I have chosen that option.

They thought perhaps I didn’t graduate. They also thought I had been dismissed from the university because per their estimation every graduate is supposed to be employed. But now both my family and friends are seeing the fruits of the decision I took and they give me all the support.

BizzAfrica: What are you hoping to achieve?

I am hoping my organization will become a model in East Africa and will be able to help the government solve the perennial unemployment problem in our country through our practical modules and approach. We are also hoping to change the educational system in Tanzania.

BizzAfrica: Are you sure you will be able to achieve these objectives?

I am about 90 % sure that we will be able to achieve our objectives. The government is already beginning to realize the role we are playing in the educational sector through some of the initiatives we have taken since last year. Creativity and Innovation is the engine and fuel that drives Elimu Living Lab. We believe those are the tools which will lead us in fulfilling our goals. 

BizzAfrica: We would like to delve deeper into what you do precisely. What exactly do you do at Elimu Organization?

At Elimu Organization we undertake three main activities; training and development, the academy program and the elimu open school. The training and development program is managed under the Elimu Academy.

The Academy is designed to offer an inspiring and innovative programme in Entrepreneurship, Digital Minds, Leadership and business incubation for young people between the ages 18 and 30.

The programme is offered to young people who are passionate about business, personal development and improving their digital skills but who are struggling to do so due to financial, academic and social challenges.

The Academy program seeks to make a difference in Tanzania by providing a stepping-stone for the youth to get back into the job market, run businesses and be leaders of our country.

The Academy offers a six month programme that runs twice a year: from January to June and from July to December. The Elimu Open SchoolFocus on secondary education, vocational education, adult and continuing education for primary and secondary school drop outs who missed education opportunities 

BizzAfrica: What kind of people do you work with?

Elimu Living Lab is a mutually inclusive such that everyone from 12 to 35 years can enroll and get services according to their needs. But mostly youth and women are our target group.

BizzAfrica: How many people have passed through your organization so far?

So far, we have impacted 2869 lives with Living Lab activities managed under Elimu Open School and the Elimu Academy. We have been able to empower a lot of women. About 72% of living lab participants are women. Altogether, four startup businesses created and are being supported Elimu Organization, 267 direct jobs created from the academy graduates and 896 tracked indirect jobs have been created.

Do you get any kind of support from the government?

Sustainability is the work that Elimu Living Lab does especially when it is impacting lives of people in the community. Sustainability is insured through hybrid model of a business development and corporate shared value. 100% of the income is self-generated.   

BizzAfrica: Do you have branches outside Tanzania?

For now we are just in Tanzania

BizzAfrica: What would you consider the major challenge to entrepreneurship in Tanzania or in general?

  • Resource competition, the resources components include finance, people, time, space and equipment. Inadequate resources have led to projects or initiatives competing for resources at the detriment of each other.
  • Lack of start-up funds to support ideas that grows from entrepreneurship and incubation, Tens and hundreds of social innovations and innovative solutions are created daily but the major thing inhibiting the translation of those innovations from ideas to reality is lack of funding
  • Team skills and competences, Most of the champions are non-professionals on their area of operations, they are chosen due to their availability and /or readiness.

BizzAfrica: What motivates you?

I am driven by my passion to create jobs for young people and transform their lives.

BizzAfrica: Where do you see your organization in the next five years?

We are hoping to be a financially sustainable organization that will be able to acquire resources to support the organizations capacity building and provide revolving funds for startup companies.

BizzAfrica: What is your advice to young people in Africa who are expecting to be employed?

Well, any young person who expects to be employed should be ready to achieve the dreams of his employer. If they want to fulfill their own dreams then the sure way to go is entrepreneurship but they should not expect overnight progress. They should make use of available resources and opportunities. They should also eschew fear and self –doubt.

READ ALSO: Motivation Drive: The journey of an entrepreneur

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