Table Talk

In retrospect

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There is always something to learn from everyone you cross paths with, because it’s either you learn how to succeed or how to become a failure in life by looking at someone else’s life. – Edmond Mbiaka

Over the years Nkwazi has interviewed many industry leaders for our Table Talk section. They have ranged from business executives to creative talents. In this edition we look back at some of our most interesting and insightful interviews.

There can often be a challenge in arranging interviews with busy executives and highly sought after creative minds. But our interview subjects have always been gracious and enthusiastic.

I’ve conducted a few Table Talk interviews but I always attend even when I’m not the interviewer and I don’t just go for the free food alone. It is a pleasure to hear firsthand, the stories of how some of the country’s industry leaders made it to where they are.

We are grateful to everyone who has ever sat down with us to share their stories and advice for a successful business and personal life.

Dr Denny Hamachila Kalyalya, Bank of Zambia Governor

It feels pertinent to include the interview with Bank of Zambia Governor Dr Denny Kalyalya as Zambia goes through some tough economic times due to a number of factors. The country had already been enduring some economic struggles at the time of the interview and from his office which towered over Lusaka’s CBD in November 2019, Dr Kalyalya fully acknowledged we would have some more struggles ahead. However, he remained adamant that this would pass and I have no doubt his faith in the country’s economic future remains intact. Dr Kalyalya compared Zambia’s economic struggles to a storm that Zambia must ride out, to eventually come out stronger in the end through concerted efforts.

Dr Kalyalya spoke of his governor role as though it were a service to the Zambian people. And he believed he had an obligation to serve his country as he had been fortunate enough to be given several opportunities that allowed him to chart a path from village boy to economist and university lecturer.

It struck me how much of his life story Dr Kalyalya was willing to share. From his early days as a school boy herding cattle after class to heading Zambia’s central bank, Dr Kalyalya was very open and shared plenty of details of his journey. A journey which inspired and entertained plenty a reader, based on feedback we received.

Mwiya Musokotwane, CEO of Thebe Investment Management

Mwiya was on my radar not only because he is taking on the mammoth task of essentially building a new city east of Lusaka, Nkwashi Estate, but also because he made significant strides in this endeavor before the age of 30. Forbes Africa noticed this too and listed him in their 30 Under 30 most promising Africans (in the business category) for 2018.

Before pursuing his current ventures Mwiya looked at his previous jobs as opportunities to learn and grow and ultimately help propel him towards bigger goals. They may not have been his dream jobs but he still placed value on them. A lesson we can all stand to learn. Cheesy as it sounds, where we are now may not be the ultimate goal but that job or that experience has some value and may be a stepping stone to where you actually want to be.

Becky Ngoma, local film and television veteran

Becky is the perfect example of someone who chased an unlikely dream and got what she wanted after years of perseverance and hard work. She is a producer, scriptwriter, director and actress. With a small film and TV industry in Zambia, success stories are few and far between. Her family relationships were strained because they didn’t understand why Becky had chosen such a difficult path and she walked long distances across Lusaka chasing opportunities when she didn’t have enough money to take a bus. It was a struggle but it paid off – she is happy now and her work has graced screens in Zambia and beyond.

Her contributions to Zambian TV and film will go down in the country’s cinematic history, having worked on everything from Kabanana, Love Games, Fever, Zuba and I Am Not A Witch, among others.

She remains grateful to the people who helped her on her journey and does her best to pay it forward by supporting others in the industry.

Jose Moran, Managing Director of Zambian Breweries

This was one of our most positively received interviews. Jose’s sincerity and charisma shone through the pages.

Jose noted that he sees a greater level of optimism in Latin America as compared to Africa (specifically Zambia and Mozambique where he previously worked). He exemplified the same positivity he spoke of.

During interviews and other public engagements, it is not uncommon for company directors to speak of how they value their employees and want to see them grow. Being on the sidelines on the interview day and reading the article that came of it, I didn’t doubt that Jose’s words were genuine.

Jose’s idea of creating a legacy or impact was not just about increased sales but rather growing local talent, including at the senior levels of Zambian Breweries. He highlighted that since he took over leadership of Zambian Breweries the company’s proportion of expats has reduced, a result of a deliberate attempt to grow local talent and encourage a culture of ownership among employees.

Grace Tumeo Bwanali, Managing Director of Seed Co Zambia

Grace’s approach to leadership struck me more than any other person we have interviewed for Table Talk. One could say she has a relaxed style of leadership, one predicated on trust. Of course a certain level of coordination is required for an organisation to meet its goals but Grace dislikes micromanagement and has an understanding that people also have their own styles of working. She believes if employees are given a certain amount of freedom they will likely be more productive.

Understanding one’s personality and making the most of it is also something that Grace emphasised. She happily revealed that she is an introvert. Many people think to be a successful leader you must be extroverted, loud and even aggressive. Grace shows that this is not the case; even an introvert can be a successful leader. What is important is knowing yourself and being confident in your abilities.

A final thing that struck me is Grace’s emphasis on work-life balance, an area I believe doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Grace spoke of how she makes deliberate efforts to maintain work-life balance. As committed as she is to the job, she always ensures her personal and family life are not neglected in pursuit of a successful career.

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