At first glance, it is hard to believe that the dark little room is a recording studio. In the middle there is a round table where a few members of the editorial team are discussing the content of next season on the reality show, Ruka Juu, a contest in entrepreneurship for young people. Amabilis Batamula, the presenter, leans back in her chair.
"The best thing about Ruka Juu is that it inspires young people to do something themselves," she says. "Not to wait to get a job, but to grab hold of life and create something for their own livelihood. I think this is exactly what young Tanzanians need right now."
In Tanzania, 65% of the population are under 25 years old. The government is making great efforts to get all young people to complete primary school, but the proportion who drop out is still high and many young people find it hard to find employment. Only 6 per cent of those under 25 hold a formal position. It is also more difficult for young people to gain access to loans, insurance or even to open their own bank account.
In autumn 2011, the reality show Ruka Juu was first aired. It translates more or less as "Jump up! Do something with your life!" in Kiswahili, and is aimed at motivating young people to start up and develop companies.
The concept is to let young people compete in entrepreneurship. From a total of 60 contestants, 6 are chosen to participate in the programme. Their business concepts range from running a café, soft drink distributors, hair salon or cosmetics company, to operating a generator and selling electricity to the locals in the village. The contestants are judged by a jury of established entrepreneurs and experts within fields such as business development and marketing. The jury's vote carries the most weight but even viewers can influence the result via test message voting. The winner was Idrissa Mannah, who ran a hair salon for men.
"It was very exciting and sometimes emotional. All the competitors were so competent and smart that any of them could have won. It was a close call all the way to the last episode," says Amabilis.
The winner, Idrissa, had a well-thought out business concept and had considered all the elements from financing to marketing. He also went to the homes of the audience, who swung the decision with their votes. The prize money was 5 million schilling (approximately 3200 USD). All the other competitors were awarded 300,000 schilling and an education in entrepreneurship and business development, in cooperation with the University of Dar es Salaam.
Ruka Juu began as a further development of Femina HIP, Tanzania's largest multimedia platform for young people. Femina's main idea is to act as an open forum for sex, intimacy and other issues that affect young people.
"Young people without jobs or incomes are often forced to take sexual risks," explains Amabilis. Through Ruka Juu, they learn how to start up and operate companies, thus creating a sustainable income.
The reactions to Ruka Juu have been very positive and many people want to know when next season is beginning. The editorial team has decided that the theme for next season will be agriculture, the industry that clearly employs most Tanzanians.
"My job is more than just regular journalism," says Amabilis. "I am not just telling a story, I am contributing to young people gaining a sustainable livelihood. Maybe they look at the show and think "I can also do that". Then I will be happy!"