By TAWANDA MUNYUKI
EDUCATION will always be an equaliser and I strongly believe in that and because of that I am very passionate about education and I feel we need to talk more about the power it has to change people lives, says Mukwandi Chibesakunda.
“I think we under emphasise the power of education and not just education but good and quality education.
There is so much that can be done and achieved by women when they are educated and because of that I think we need to talk about how important quality education is because it can change lives, education is not just a key for success but a key for different opportunities and overtime. I tell people when you get the chance, get an education, invest in your education and mind you, learning never ends.”
Many people under estimate the value of education and as a woman I would really like to see a generation of educated women, informed women, women who are not swayed because they have facts and they understand different issues.
Everyone deserves to be educated and what they do with that education is entirely up to them but what should be the focus is that they are educated.
Mukwandi Chibesakunda is a giant in the banking world having won awards in the banking sector and leading one of the largest banks in Zambia.
Currently, the Chief Executive Of ficer of the Zambia National Commercial Bank PLC Mukwandi has over the years excelled and broken barriers in the banking sector.
In 2018, Mukwandi was appointed managing director of the National Savings and Credit Bank (NATSAVE), making her the first woman to head the financial institution wholly-owned by Zambians.
However that is not her first as Mukwandi is also the first female president of the Zambia Institute of Banking and Financial Services.
A woman passionate about education, Mukwandi possess a post graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom and she also attended an International Credit Skills Assessment Programme at Omega performance in the UK among other qualifications.
A mother, wife, CEO and role model, Mukwandi describes herself as a simple, blessed and hardworking woman who uses every opportunity presented to her without fail.
QUESTION: How was your life growing up?
ANSWER: Oh well, it was as simple and as common as the life of almost every Zambi an young girl, grew up on the outskirts of Lusaka, went to school then university that’s about ..Just an ordinary Zambia girl-child.
Q: Was banking something you always dreamt of doing even back when you were as a child?
A: No actually its funny because banking happened a little bit by accident if I can put it that way because I was selected by then that time Standard Charted Bank to join the graduate associate programme and that’s how I entered banking and I told myself to say let me just detour a bit and see how it will go Fortunately I found that I loved it so much and I excelled and eventually I realised it was something I would like to do but when I was a child it is something that never even crossed my mind.
When I was a child I wanted to become an architect but I went on to study economics and my plan was to be an economist in a government ministry or something but today I think am in the right
place and I am happy.
Q: How would you describe your journey in banking so far?
A: Well like any other journey in life, always remember that tomorrow is a better day, there are challenges along the way and things may seem like they are falling apart but you need to endure, you need to work hard, life is challenging, working is challenging but remember there are no short cuts, apply your principles, be good to people, there is no need to be horrible to anyone
and at the end of the day be firm and bold. Be transparent and strive for excellence both for yourself and other people and in the process you will get somewhere and that is exactly
how I sum up my journey in banking.
Q: You were named Chief Executive Officer of the year for 2021 and it was not your first award of course, just what do these awards mean to you?
A: You know to be honest with you I still get surprised when I win awards but it just makes me realise that by the end of the day when you work hard, when you are consistent and strive
for excellence people recognise that and I am truly grateful for all the awards and I don’t take them for granted because I recognise that it is a privilege to be in the position and that’s how it
makes me feel; grateful.
Q: You are a woman with many firsts. For instance you are first female president of the Zambia Institute of Banking and Financial Services and also first woman to head a financial institution wholly owned by Zambians….
how does it make you feel to be first in all these and also as a country are we making progress towards having women in leadership positions?
A: I look at other countries that have had so many firsts if you look at America right now they have a first female black judge in the Supreme Court after over a hundred years of history and we are just a 58 years old as a country so the first should not be the last and we have time but what is important is making sure that we as women deliver the mandate so that people will say it is good that we put a woman there because she has delivered even beyond expectations.
So rather than focusing on me being first, my focus is delivering the mandate so that I am not the last because the responsibility of being first is huge as everyone is watching to see how it is going to work out and whether another woman can also step in and that is how I take it because if I fail, other women will not be entrusted with such positions just because so success is a must.
Q: Do we have a lot of women in the banking sector?
A: Funny enough we have a lot of women bankers, actually if you look at the population in most financial services providers it’s about 50 percent but as you go up the ladder it starts to reduce, the number of women in leadership positions. So we have to be deliberate and intentional about identifying those who have merit to be given that opportunity and in a way when we achieve certain things it gives an opportunity to those who think they are not able, to actually know that it is possible and for me the fact that there are women out there who I meet and they tell me that I inspire them because they now understand that it is possible.
Q: Throughout your banking journey are you able to pick out one moment that you look back at and just say yes that moment was my moment?
A: Wow, there are so many from my very first award to the recent ones because I get to reflect on everything and it makes me realise that we are all on this journey together, working hard together and we need to build each other up so each moment in my banking journey is special and it is so amazing to me and I reflect and ask what I did to deserve this. What can I do better and how can I improve so it’s every moment for me.
Q: What advice would you give people especially women intending to take up banking?
A: First of all, identify what principles you stand on and don’t compromise on that, lead from the front and in whatever you are doing excel, deliver to expectations and follow through. Understand why you want to do banking and align your individual purpose to the purpose of the bank or any financial institution that you intend to join.
Q: Being CEO of ZANACO, being a wife and a mother among many other titles, how do you balance your time?
A: Is there such a thing as balancing…Sometimes when my family needs me, I step away from work and vice versa and so the word I can use is understanding on both sides because at the end of the day I am just human.
Q: If you were to write a note to small Mukwandi, what would you tell her?
A: I would say wow, look at what we have done… Looking back I always reflect on what has gone wrong rather than what has gone right.
Q: How does a week in the life of the ZANACO CEO look like?
A: A week in my life is very interesting and it varies from board meetings to meeting with customers and regulators and following through from where we are and where we are going and making sure we follow through with expectations because at the end of the day ZANACO has a huge role to play in the economy of the country and right now we have thousands of workers. So heading ZANACO which is 53 years old and doing so much it’s not an easy journey and I am thankful for the entire ZANACO team for working in line with our visions and ensuring that we deliver according to our expectations.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
A: Honestly I don’t know, I haven’t really thought through it and I am focusing on the now, I have a huge responsibility and I just want to leave a mark.