This story is part of an on-going series spotlighting 2014 Washington Fellows at FIU.
Stephen Julius Masele may only be 34-years-old, but he has already made a name for himself in his home country of Tanzania.
Masele, one of 25 participants visiting FIU as part of President Obama’s Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI), is one of the youngest members of his country’s parliament. In May 2012, he was appointed as Deputy Minister of Energy and Minerals.
In his role, he advises Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete on issues ranging from large-scale and small-scale mining to expansion of energy policies that would help bring power and electricity to the country’s citizens.
As part of the YALI program at FIU, Masele has received leadership training at the Center for Leadership and Service that he believes will enable him to advance further in his political career and empower youth in Tanzania.
“Being part of this program and being at FIU has helped me to better understand governmental issues and how to implement solutions for those issues,” Masele says. “FIU is a great place to learn what it means to become a more international leader.”
His involvement in politics began when he began taking classes at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where he got plugged into the youth wing of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
After graduating with a bachelor’s in international relations and public administration, Masele went into the private sector working in the telecommunication and banking industries, but then ran for Parliament to represent the Shinyanga constituency in 2010 and won.
Becoming a Member of Parliament at age 30 did not come without challenges, however.
“It was a shock to many of the people,” Masele says of his election. “People were asking ‘Where did this guy come from?’ I had to build trust.”
What he may have lacked in experience, he made up for with a quiet resolve to represent the people who elected him and to continue helping the youth in his country. As he has performed his duties and helped supervise and implement mining policy and legislation while promoting foreign investment into the country, he has earned that trust and respect.
“I don’t talk too much. I’m pretty reserved. But when it comes to serious things, I’m active and aggressive. I can make tough decisions. This is my nature. It’s who I am,” Masele says.
Long after graduating, Masele remained a strong advocate for the youth in his country, serving as the youth league regional chairman of his party from 2008 to 2012 and as a member of the National Executive Council of CCM’s youth wing.
He even helped form a professional soccer team composed of street youth from Shinyanga called Stand United, which will compete for the first time in the Vodacom Premier League this fall. With Masele’s help, the team has attracted sponsors and support that have allowed them to pay player salaries, equipment and other team needs.
“The leadership from the team comes from the youth themselves, the team is in their control,” Masele says. “My position will always be as a guardian.”
The team serves as a metaphor for what Masele wants to accomplish with the youth in his country, giving them opportunities to succeed and excel in the same way he has in the political sphere.
“As a government, we want to make sure that we are addressing the issue of youth unemployment by creating more jobs for them,” he says. “We have to invest in the youth of our country and prepare them to be leaders.”
Masele is using this opportunity with the YALI program to learn about how the American political system is structured and functions and is hoping to apply some of the principles he has learned when he returns to Tanzania.
“As a leader, you have to lead by example,” Masele says. “Here in the U.S., there are clear laws that hold elected leaders accountable. In many areas in Africa, we need to do the same. We need to become more transparent.”