Peter is an international student from Malawi and is studying MA International Development Management here at The University of Bradford. He tells us about his journey to postgraduate study and why he chose Bradford.
Peter Yakobe, MA International Development Management
I grew up in a poor village in Malawi, Southern Africa where we could not afford to get a proper meal for the day. A country where more than 90% of the population lives in rural areas, we had no access to electricity or even clean water.
Living in a developing country with a lot of challenges like unemployment and a lack of basic healthcare and proper education did not serve as a discouragement; rather it was an encouragement for me to work hard in school so that I could help my community rise out of poverty.
This inspired me to work hard in school despite having various challenges like lack of school fees, food and learning materials. I was able to attend primary and secondary school education with support from well-wishers who recognised my desire and passion for education. When I was admitted to university, I couldn’t go until a well-wisher came and supported my education.
Going to class on an empty stomach many times did not stop me from working hard and on 1 June 2013, I became the first university graduate in my village.
Supporting and developing entrepreneurship
One of the major challenges the country experienced by then was youth unemployment, which was at over 60%. My basic education by then informed me that through business and entrepreneurship, we can create jobs, value and prosperity for the citizens.
Therefore, I started an organisation called ‘Centre For Free Market Enterprise‘ in order to train, develop and support the youth to become entrepreneurs and create jobs and prosperity. Over the last five years, we have trained and supported over a thousand youth in Malawi in entrepreneurship, which has resulted in the creation of over 650 new businesses and over a thousand jobs.
Through this initiative, we have increased levels of income for the youth and created thousands of jobs. As a result, many people who could not afford basic needs like education, clothing and food are now able to, because they are running successful enterprises which are giving them enough income. Through my work, we have witnessed many youths going back to school because they now can afford it.
Seeking more knowledge
This achievement gave me a strong desire to seek more knowledge so that I can do greater things for my country and continent. A viable solution was to enrol with a reputable university where they can train me to become a development practitioner.
I wanted to go to a university where I would be taught different practical development models which have worked in different parts of the world, that we can apply and use to bring meaningful change in any other part of the world.
I realised that if I could do a lot for my country without a Master’s degree, I can do more with it.
The world today has a lot of universities offering Master’s programmes in development fields. However, I was attracted by the University of Bradford’s Master’s program in International Development Management because it looked practical. I knew that this program would strengthen my ability and skills to make effective decisions and develop implementable policies in my development work.
When I started my application process, the Admissions Team worked hand-in-hand with me to make sure I had everything required to submit my application. To my surprise, the University could call me and send me emails to ensure that I have everything I need for my application to be successful.
While some universities do kind of the same for upcoming students, the University of Bradford’s initiative, to me, was like working with me to shape my career and reach my goals.
Increased skills and knowledge
Since I joined the University for my Master’s degree in International Development Management in September 2019, my skills and knowledge about development have increased.
My professors have wide experience in working with international development organisations, and even as consultants for such organisations like World Bank and UNDP among others. This enables them to share their practical experiences and development models which have worked, rather than just those in textbooks.
My department, PSID, organises different seminars with visiting speakers, to help us get a glimpse of ideas from different people with different perspectives.
With Bradford being a global university with students from all over the world, I have an opportunity to learn from my fellow students on development initiatives being implemented in their respective countries. This also makes my research easier since I have first-hand information from any country I can think of.
Going further, I would like to do my research on the impact of small and medium enterprise on Economic Development in Malawi in the last 10 years. This is because over the last fifteen years there has been an outburst of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Some of these SMEs have been successful while some have failed. Different people expressed different views on this emergence with some proposing that the SMEs have done little in lifting people out of poverty, instead they have increased poverty by exposing the entrepreneurs to bad debts.
I will explore issues like what led to the emergence of small and medium enterprises in Malawi. Why some businesses have been successful while others not. I will also explore some of the practices which have led to the success of local enterprises, with local examples and case studies of successful enterprises and failed ones.
Furthermore, I will explore the results and impacts of such enterprises to the development of the country among others. This will help me create a concrete development plan; my plan is to train and support over 2 million youths in the next ten years and help them create sustainable businesses and millions of jobs. Therefore, this research will help me create informed decisions and employ models which will really work in creating sustainable enterprises and lifting people out of poverty.
My department is very supportive and is helping me refine my research and produce excellent work.