Dear Graduating Class of 2019 from African universities,

I would like to start my speech with the quotation, I made a couple of years ago. I believe it is appropriate in my today’s speech.

“You don’t need to be Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey to inspire people. You’re inspirational to others in so many ways because you’re God’s masterpiece” Ernest B. Makulilo

I would like to primarily congratulate you for spending over 18 years in academic life. That takes dedication, commitment and hardworking. I can also say that it is the highest degree level of sacrifice you have made to constantly spend half of your entire life in classrooms. Bravo for that.

My question to you is: Now you have spent half your life (basing on most African countries’ life expectancy) – what are you going to do in the second half of your life? If you are a soccer fan, you know very well what Liverpool FC did in the second leg of the champions league against Barcelona. The first leg Liverpool lost 3-0 at Camp Nou in Barcelona’s backyard. No one ever imagined any team would pull it off to win 4-0 plus winning 4-0 against the mighty Barcelona FC. This lesson is beyond sports – it’s all about what can you do when you are knocked down.

In a few days and months, you will complete your final University Examinations. You will no longer be going to lecture rooms. Remember, you’re not alone who is graduating. There are thousands of students from different universities with similar grades and even more than yours in the streets. I guarantee you that you will not get a job right away. You know why? Most of the African countries don’t have strong manufacturing sectors which could employ many of you. Therefore, you will end up depending on government employment that cannot absorb all of you. Less number of opportunities and competitions among yourselves will knock you down for sure. This is the point where I also agree with Carl Brashear – the first Black person in the United States military to become the Master Diver in the US Navy, when he said, “It’s not a sin to be knocked down; it’s a sin to stay down”.

Every opportunity you will be coming across to will require work experience. Many graduates, unfortunately, they are spending months and months applying for jobs but doing nothing else while they are unemployed. I advise you to find a way to start building up your professional life – networking and work experience. Start by volunteering to any office – even a few hours per day for free. Go and do an internship in another organization. You need to have people who can recommend you in professional life beyond your teachers. No one is interested to employ someone who is 25 years old with zero professional experience. You can start even blogging or open up a YouTube channel to create your content in your field. Let’s say you have a degree in computer science – have you ever thought of creating videos to breakdown some of the things you know to others through videos online? You’re graduate of journalism, why can't you open up a blog and start doing what you are good at. After a year or so, when you go to apply for a job, you have something worthy to show and share.

I know you might think this is kind of joke. Why can't you start going to primary schools and secondary schools to share your experience and inspire young people to stay in school, study hard, etc.? Don’t wait for paid jobs to come to you – start something to expose you to others in the professional world. When I was at the university, I started my scholarship blog – just sharing ways to apply for scholarships and other opportunities. As of today, over 11 years of blogging, therefore I have over 11 years of professional experience as admissions and scholarship advisor. I have written 2 books on scholarships. Up to now, no one is paying me anything for things I do in the scholarship blogging and YouTube. But I have created a professional network with thousands of people around the world, I have something to put on my resume – 11 years of work experience and books published.
Do something for free consistently to invest on your credibility and worthy. This has worked to every successful person and has never proved me wrong. Never wait for lucky or someone’s sympathy.
I, therefore, welcome you to the real world. By the real world, I mean, the capitalist jungle where no sympathy rather it’s the survival of the fittest. And never try to think negative of capitalism. The good thing about capitalism is giving you two options, and God helped to give you free will to choose those things. The jungle has big five animals like lions and “weaker” animals like zebra, antelope, gazelle, etc. But the choice is yours – do you want to be Lion or Antelope, no one chooses for you. That’s the beauty of capitalism – the world you are coming to. You can forever be proletariat or become capitalist – or continue singing the songs of socialism in the world of capitalism and wait to be swept away.

I know you’re young and energetic. Never waste your 18 years of education to just waiting for the employment of $400 or $600 per month. While you might be looking for employment, also find other ways like modern agriculture, animal keeping, small business opportunities and so forth. The education you get is to help you solve problems and not confining you to only employment. Just listen to this chorus from Alicia Keys and Jay Z from their Empire State of Mind song,

[Chorus: Alicia Keys & Jay-Z]

In New York (ayy, aha) (uh, yeah)
Concrete jungle (yeah) where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do (yeah) (okay
Now you're in New York (aha, aha, aha) (uh, yeah)
These streets will make you feel brand-new (new)
Big lights will inspire you (come on) (okay)
Let's hear it for New York    You're welcome, OG) (come on)   
New York (yeah), New York (uh)

Yes, I agree with both Alicia and Jay Z – we do live in the concrete jungle. We don’t live in the forest like animals, but still, our modern lives are like being in the jungle. These streets will make you feel brand-new, and big lights will inspire you meaning we do have so many things around us to inspire. There are so many opportunities around us. So look on the bright side of your degree and all the years you have spent in classrooms – make something worthy of your years and create a legacy.
One last thing, don’t limit yourself to only in your country. When God created this world, He told human being, to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and rule it. He didn’t say go to Lagos, or Dar es Salaam or go to Nairobi and conquer. Don’t confuse Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and your countries to mean the world. These boundaries should not confine your worldview. Find opportunities anywhere. Your degree is not limited to only knowledge in your country. Therefore, look for scholarships for further studies in other countries; find opportunities to do internships and volunteering internationally. You can visit my YouTube channel www.youtube.com/ebmscholars for audios and videos of various opportunities. But if you want scholarships, visit www.ebmscholarships.com and for those who like to write books go to www.ebmbooks.com  

I was at your stage in 2008. But my story was quite different from yours. At the time I was doing my final university examinations at the University of Dar es Salaam in May 2008, I already had Fulbright Scholarship. It was an opportunity to come to the United States and teach Swahili language at Marshall University. I don’t know what my life would turn if I didn’t have the mindset of looking opportunities anywhere in this world. And I know many people who after graduating didn’t cry for not being employed, they started something small for themselves and now they are very stable.

Congratulations once again and welcome to the concrete jungle of capitalism.

Ernest B. Makulilo
Founder and CEO
Missouri, USA

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