Interview with Elvis

JM: What is the biggest problem facing Tanzania today?

EM:I think here are so many problems facing Tanzania today. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It’s facing lots of challenges as a developing country—a high rate of unemployment, lack of energy, infrastructure, and health care to mention but a few. One of the main problems is education. The people don’t have access to education, so they can’t really participate in the development of the country. People are living on less than $1 a day. So for me, education is the biggest problem.

JM: How would education help people develop their country?

EM: If people are educated it’s easy for them to develop their country. For example if someone is educated he will have the knowledge about family planning. He can understand many things that are happening right now. People live opportunistically because lack of education and lack of knowledge. They have 10 children because they don’t understand how this will affect their lives.

JM: 50,000 miles on a bike. That’s a lot! Are you scared?

EM: I’m not really scared, because I think scared is a feeling you bring to yourself. I know it’s a huge amount of distance, but if you’re sitting down and thinking about that, you won’t do it. So yeah, it is a challenge, but I think it’s worth it, because I’m trying to raise money to help people get an education.
JM: Why do you think that conserving wildlife is important for your country?

EM: Conserving our wildlife is important for sectors like tourism, which is what our economy is based on. In a country like Tanzania managing our resources is not an option. Since we don’t develop our industry we depend directly on our natural resources. For example 8% of our economy is dependent on agriculture. We depend on the water from our montane forests to supply our farmers. We use hydropower to supply energy for the entire country. These resources must be managed effectively. The diversity of our flora and fauna brings money directly into our country, because we have a living laboratory to conduct studies to give us a better understanding of our world.

 JM: Do you get lonely on such a long bike trip?

EM: Not at all. Well, sometimes. Obviously anyone traveling for such a long way will get lonely. But you move along. I also see it as self-building, because you are learning the whole time. It’s another part of the challenge.

JM: Why are you taking on this challenge?

EM: Because of the cause. It will make a lot of changes in the African community, particularly in Tanzania. Some students will get access to education and most students will get inspiration. The history of Africa sort of betrays Africa. Many people  think, since the time of slave trading, colonialism, and neo-colonialism that we’re not in the same shoes as other people. We don’t have much inspiration.

We can see when Barak Obama became the president of US, even though he has little connection with Africa, it is like he has become the president of Africa. You can see how Africa celebrates these kinds of things. It shows us we can do it. We can be like any other person. Mentally Africa is still in slavery. They need inspiration. They need a sign to show that Africa to be proud of themselves…..you know someone who did someone like this. So I’m trying to be an inspiration for my people of Africa. Most of the young people still need a lot of inspiration; they need to be told this is how things can be done.

JM: How could Tanzania successfully manage it’s conservation and tourism?

EM: This is a very thoughtful question. Tanzanian tourism so far is really depressing me. We’ve been trying our best to do eco-toursism. That’s why the price for visas and park fees are expensive compared to other countries in Africa, but it’s not decreasing the number of tourists as planned. The integrity of conservation tourism should be reviewed, because right now we’re focused only on a few national parks, and we’re putting a lot of pressure on the environment. We need to think about what the outcome of mass numbers of vehicles will be in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. We need to find a better balance between conservation and tourism.

JM: What message would you give to other Tanzanianswho have a background similar to yours?

EM: The situation we went through is like natural selection, to make the better people in the human family. We should take it in a positive way and consider it a lesson. Maybe that was the best way for us to learn how to be better people. It’s quite hard, but we can’t change what we’ve seen- the suffering of human life. Maybe you encountered sleeping without eating, living with a whole family in one room, eating one meal and working hard, or walking barefoot to school. It’s kind of a hardship. Sometimes it’s a problem with your parents, maybe they never married, had you as an accident, or you were raised by an aunt or uncle, maybe you didn’t get love growing up. If you grew up in a situation like this, you will never make that mistake in your life. You won’t have 10 kids if you can’t afford it, and instead you’ll focus on the quality of life. You’ll contribute to your community and argue with your politicians using your knowledge. Because what’s happened is the leadership of politicians don’t do anything, they’re always talking and talking, but they don’t really focus on the truth. Using our background we can say, that’s not possible, we know the hardship and we can change this. Use your experience to build a better future.

JM: You are known for your positive attitude. Where do you find the strength with all the adversity in your life so far?

EM: This is a really hard question for me. It’s quite difficult to explain. I think it’s rooted from my life generally. It’s naturally how I am. I always like to learn. I observe, try to think, and judge. Through this I have seen a strong natural power in humans. Everyone is able to be positive. It is a choice. I think my whole life contributed to make me who I am.

JM: How have your past experiences prepared you for this ride?

EM: This is not my first ride. I did a long ride through east Africa in 2009. Then in 2011, I lead a trip from Cairo to Cape Town, South Africa with Tour D Afrique. On my first ride I couldn’t get together my thoughts and come up with a useful mission like this one. This time I’m excited about my cause and because it’s so far from Africa I think it will inspire the people back home. I hope they want to go out to discover and see that they can be part of the whole world.