Dispatch from the United Nations Development Programme in Tanzania: Ethan Ellsmere’s first blog from the field

Photo credit: Ethan Ellsmere

By Ethan Ellsmere, MIPP

I’ve always been interested in the data side of policy studies. Bringing to life data in meaningful ways can be impactful in countless ways – bringing insights to new developments, honing responses, belying inequalities. My work as a data & insights fellow at UNDP Tanzania has been an exciting experience, not only giving me an opportunity to apply my academic skills developed from my masters, but to contribute to important work that continues by the United Nations in Dar es Salaam. Since October I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the FUNGUO project  (being Kiswahili for ‘keys’), a special venture made possible largely by the European Union and UN Capital Development Fund. The mandate of FUNGUO is to support innovation in Tanzania’s business environment; essentially, a committee of experts select 15-25 innovative startups to sponsor (out of over 800 annual applicants!) and provide development support as a new cohort. It’s a combination of grant-giving and business support, disbursed over the course of a year. The project is young and growing, with a small team of six members eager to learn how to best deliver support to these businesses. My contract started at the perfect time; I’ve been able to assist with not only end-of-year reporting, but future program design! Moving into 2024, I’ve been tasked with overhauling the Monitoring & Evaluation side of the project – basically, designing structures to make sure the selected businesses are hitting the right development markers and ensuring we are gathering the data necessary for accurate reporting.

I kickstarted this post with the idea of data visualisation in policy, specifically in regard to understanding inequality. When assisting with the 2023 annual report, I requested the project create a comprehensive gender-based analysis to see how FUNGUO can begin remediating discrimination in the Tanzanian business environment. I was able to gather comprehensive information of over 1800 startups – learning gender demographics of companies, the geography of discrimination in Tanzania, and where women are leading businesses. Over 75% of businesses in Dar es Salaam are male-led and dominated; making sure FUNGUO supports gender-inclusive businesses was an insight I continue to stress. After compiling the data and creating the analysis, my work was published into the regional report! Also, the application process now has a 30% quota for women-founded startups with the 2024 cohort having 47% women leaders! The response exceeded my expectations and reminded me why I took this position. I look forward for what FUNGUO will do in the upcoming year, and what we can achieve at UNDP.

Graphs of Venture Labour Demographics and Applicant Founders by Gender








For those working hard to get their Masters’ in International Public Policy; remember how to code in R. It’ll help you more then you know!


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the BSIA, its students, faculty, staff, or Board of Directors.

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