There has never been a better time to be African. The continent is brimming with potential, and the years of hardship are gradually making way for prosperity. Africans everywhere are eager to participate in the change happening on the continent, both politically and economically. Particularly young Africans who have looked for inspiration in the West for years, they can now find all the motivation they need at home and, more importantly, from other fellow young Africans.
Zambia is also in this race for development. Since the August 2021 elections, a wave of optimism has swept the nation. People are eager to make the best of the next five years, and young Zambians are at the forefront of this progress.
Jito Kayumba is one of those young Zambians shaping the country’s future. He is the Special Assistant for Economic and Development Affairs to the Seventh President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, a role that fits perfectly in his already accomplished career. Jito is best known for pioneering private equity in Zambia as a partner at Kukula Capital, a venture capital firm he led along with Danish partners for approximately ten years. His career is littered with achievements from board memberships, directorships and speaking engagements in front of industry leaders. Jito currently serves as board member for Zambian Breweries, Insizwe Group and Famous Brands. He previously served on the boards of several other companies including Airtel Zambia, iSchool Zambia and Betternow Finance.
“I said to myself, one day I should be part of the process of improving the livelihoods of others and creating equity. It is my way of addressing the injustice and the guilt I felt at that moment.”
I sat down with Jito on a Friday afternoon at The Quorum, Zambia’s first premier private business and recreational members club, in the upscale Kabulonga area of Lusaka. Jito requested we meet at this venue for its serenity and ambiance. The Quorum offers a stylish arena for business and pleasure with outstanding conferencing facilities combined with exceptional dining experiences. We met at The 7th Sense Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant where every touch point was considered, from the service, environment and food. When we made our way to our table, we found a handwritten note for Jito, a small sign of appreciation for choosing the location.
I was surprised to learn that Jito is a vegetarian, having given up meat three years ago to optimise his health. He ordered a vegetarian burger with chips and opted for water. I followed suit but shamelessly ordered a medium steak with mashed potato on the side. The stage was now set for a riveting conversation.
Jito will be the first to tell you that there are many misconceptions about him. Many believe that his achievements are due to his privileged background and not on merit. Born to a military father, Jito is no stranger to discipline. He learned the value of hard work early on, having spent much of his childhood in Ndola with his grandmother following his parents’ divorce. He also credits his time in Ndola for teaching him empathy towards others, a quality that is central to his work and personal life today.
They say a single moment has the power to shape a lifetime. For Jito, this moment came while driving to school with his father one morning. He remembers seeing a boy about his age going to school barefoot and in a tattered uniform while he sat comfortably in his father’s air-conditioned Land Rover. He remembers thinking, “How is it that I live in a world where I just had breakfast and going to a good school in a nice vehicle while someone my age is doing the same thing but in worse conditions. It made me feel guilty, but I started to understand that the world is not always fair. It made me recognise that there was nothing special about me.”
This moment, etched in Jito’s mind, was the catalyst for his academic and career choices. He went on to study political science in Canada in a quest to learn about how society functions. He explains this personal guiding purpose, “I said to myself, one day I should be part of the process of improving the livelihoods of others and creating equity. It is my way of addressing the injustice and the guilt I felt at that moment.” He continues, “Even in private equity, I always thought about the job creation and social aspect of our investments. I call it Conscious Capitalism, and I see it as being aware of the plight of others, having empathy.”
Today, Jito is closer to the action than at Kukula Capital. He sees the impact of his work in real-time on the livelihoods of everyday Zambians. As Special Assistant to the president, his job covers various social and economic aspects such as; addressing job creation, increasing foreign direct investment, fostering strong bilateral agreements and stimulating GDP growth. Jito and his team scored big at the 2022 Mining Indaba in Cape Town, where First Quantum Minerals (FQM) CEO Tristan Pascall announced a $1.25 billion investment to expand the company’s Kansanshi copper mine in Zambia. This was driven by “renewed confidence” in Zambia’s investment climate. Jito is confident there is more to come.
“I am excited being part of a team that is transforming this country. When we look back, the sleepless nights and work we are doing with the team will be worth it.”
One of the most striking things about Jito is his commitment to staying healthy. He is in excellent physical shape, thanks to 5 am gym sessions every weekday. He stays away from alcohol and, as stated earlier, maintains a vegetarian diet, decisions he made consciously to reach his highest potential in life and business. He also keeps his mind sharp by reading books and articles relevant to his work and personal development. He holds the firm belief that “one has to be willing to sacrifice to be successful.”
Jito represents an entire generation of young Zambians who defied the odds and changed government in the August 2021 election. Defiant is more than a word to Jito; it is who he is. In 2019, he gave a TEDx Talk titled Can a new generation of defiant leaders save Africa?, which continues to garner views and reviews. In that talk, he posits that the key to Africa’s progress is harnessing the unique resources on the continent. “There is so much value being created by corporations worldwide from what occurs naturally in our environment. What is missing is our involvement. That is why we need to be defiant. Because the status quo is completely unacceptable.” Jito is putting his words into action daily by aiming to change the status quo on the front lines of public office. It is difficult to sum up a story that is far from finished. In many ways, Jito’s account coincides with the story of Zambia and, indeed, the story of Africa. He has achieved tremendous success thus far, but he is hungry for more. His mission to transform the lives of everyday Zambians is enduring and continues to push him every day. When asked what continues to excite him, he responds, “I am excited about being part of a team that is transforming this country. When we look back, the sleepless nights and work we are doing with the team will be worth it. We would have rebranded Zambia; it is truly a great country.” These are the words of a man whose vision is clear, and as Zambians, we can only be proud.
The restaurants at The Quorum, 7th Sense Fine Dine Restaurant and 7th Sense Steakhouse Restaurant are open to guests who are not members of The Quorum with the “single access membership” of ZMW100 per person. For reservations kindly email [email protected] or call +260763885581 Images by Kalichi Pictures