Can we meet you?
My name is Erick Elizeus Mukiza, a 35-year- old citizen of the Republic of Tanzania. I love networking and acquiring new skills. I am a Lawyer, Justice Innovator, and Social Entrepreneur.
Tell us briefly about your childhood experience?
I grew up in a middle - class family. My father is a medical doctor and my mother a primary school teacher. I am the second of seven children. I remember that I was a very open minded. I didn’t know how to hide my feelings so I said my mind all the time. Thankfully, my parents taught me how to express those feeling in an appropriate manner.
What is your educational background?
I attended Buguruni Primary School, Tanzania, Old Moshi School, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and Commonwealth Law College, London for my primary, secondary and university education
What are your contributions towards making your country a better place?
I am the executive director of ESS Creative and Legal Foundation, a non-profit social enterprise working in Tanzania to provide legal assurance to individuals who are neither eligible to have legal aid nor financially capable of hiring private advocates. Notably, the work of ESS aligns with national and international efforts of implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 16.3, on access to justice for all. The work of the organization assists women and men in Tanzania who are left behind by the existing legal system, to access affordable and reliable legal services.
Members of our legal assurance scheme contribute monthly subscription fees and whenever a legal need arises; we help them resolve it.
Our slogan is: Don’t talk to me, Talk to my Lawyer.
When you have our card upon registration, it is synonymous to having a lawyer in your pocket.
What steps did you take to bring your vision to fruition?
Legal assurance is a developing area especially in Africa. To bring my innovation, I registered and obtained:
• Proof of innovation: Copyright Clearance Certificate No C0837187 from the Copyright Society of Tanzania (COSOTA)
• Permit to operate in all member states (19 countries) of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) where ESS Creative and Legal Foundation is a registered member.
• License from the Ministry of Health and Community Development and the District Municipal Council.
What have been your achievements?
In 2019, we hit a milestone when ESS Creative and Legal Foundation won the Innovating Justice Challenge Awards 2019, East Africa region, organized by The Hague Institute of Innovation for Law (HiiL). We are in partnership with the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises with 2.7 million members. Our brand is internationally recognized. We have been able to build an effective management team that is committed to the ideals of the foundation.
From 2013 to date, ESS Creative and Legal Foundation have helped 40,000 persons to access justice in Tanzania. Our legal education events have attracted over 1000 participants.
We have 1,315 registered members under our legal assurance scheme and much more is in our future.
What motivated you to do what you are doing?
Back in 1995, my mother who was a primary school teacher needed to seek redress in court for a wrong done to her. She had no money to hire a private advocate and because of her status as a teacher, she didn’t qualify for legal aid. It was then I resolved to do something to help middle-income earners like my mother access justice. ESS has given me the opportunity to fulfil that promise.
What has been your major challenge since you began your nonprofit?
One of my biggest challenges when I started was finding the right team. Legal assurance is not common and finding those who can believe in the vision and run with it was not easy. However, the story is better today, from just me in the beginning,we have grown to a legal team of twenty lawyers now. God has been faithful.
Could you share with us one or two experience(s) you have had in the course of your journey that has impacted on you?
The experience that never left me the same was when I had the privilege of attending the Justice Entrepreneurship School and successfully pitched at innovating justice forum 2020 at The Hague Peace Palace, International Court of Justice. That experience opened me up to new opportunities.
What are your prospects in the next 5 or 10 years?
Quality is one of our strategic focus as we evolve to growth and sustainability. We hope to improve on the services we render and increase our reach to one million registered members under our legal assurance scheme and generate in revenue TZS 10 billion per month by 2025.
What do you think is the major cause of unemployment in Africa, and how can we get over this?
The reason for the unemployment crisis in Africa is two-faced. Some people are unwilling to participate in economic activities that don’t guarantee instant returns. On the other hand, we are crippled by the policies that our leaders make in every sector. We need to wake up and put our hands to work. Our leaders must be ready to do some deep thinking into the current state of our continent especially as regards our education system.
If you had an opportunity to speak to presidents in Africa, what would be your message?
There is a grave need for every government in Africa to rethink the policies surrounding our educational systems. Until we rethink the way Africans in Africa are been educated, we can change little.
Thank you for speaking with us.
It's my pleasure.
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