KAPALA CHISUNKA, Lusaka
SHE describes herself as quirky, intelligent and fun. However, the best description of the bubbly Chipego Zulu is goal, orientated, focused and determined woman.
She is also a believer in education and its power to change situations.
At 28, Chipego is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM). She has big plans for the association, come 2018 and is determined to make sure her plans come to fruition.
“I want to see something big come out of this association and I want to be that person who makes it happen. I have been here as CEO since July. It’s been exciting. I feel a certain level of excitement not only for myself but the members as well. 2018 is a big year for us as an association and as manufacturers,” she says with a smile.
Though she has high ambitions, growing up on a farm in Lusaka, Chipego’s dream was to be a taxi driver because she thought they made a lot of money. It was her dream when she was at primary school at Baobab School.
However at secondary school at Chengelo, Chipego contemplated studying medicine but that also changed when her older sister who was pursuing the same course at the University of Zambia died.
“What completely dashed my hopes of studying medicine was when my brother was involved in a minor accident which left his jaw broken. When we went to see him at the casualty he was just coming out of the theatre. Seeing all that blood dashed my dream. You would think that seeing my brother like that would inspire me but no it actually did the opposite,” she says.
She then settled on studying economics though she had no strategy because she felt economics can be broadly be applied and that she could later go into banking.
Upon completion of her A levels at Chengelo in 2006, Chipego who was born on January 23, 1989, proceeded to Monash University in South Africa where she did an under graduate degree in Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Economics and Management from 2007 up to 2009.
As always, Chipego, who aims to be on top of her class, both academically and in extra curriculum activities, such as sports, won awards including, Captain of Monash Women’s Basketball Team.
She later pursued a Honours Degree in Bachelor of Business Science (BBusSci(Hons)), Strategic Management, at the same university in South Africa in 2010 and was awarded for outstanding performance in Dean’s Honours List 2010 and Dean’s Commendations 2011.
“ I later came back home for a while then did a Master’s degree in International Trade Policy and Trade Law at Lund University from 2013 to 2014. I studied it in Arusha Tanzania and was top of my class,” Chipego says.
Upon her return, the then 20 years old stayed home for a month before interning at the Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM).
“Two weeks after I started my internship, I was assigned by the then ZAM CEO Rosetta Mwape as private coordinator at the AGOA forum. I must have a good job because afterwards I was given a permanent position at ZAM as membership counsellor for a year and a half. Later, I was appointed policy analyst which is second to CEO,” she says.
She says it was during that time that she studied for her second master’s degree in International Trade Policy and Trade law as it came with her new position.
After a year and half, an opportunity opened up for her to work as a coordinator for Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes in East and Southern Africa (ReNAPRI) in 2014.
Chipego, who is the youngest of six children, says she left ZAM and took up the position to coordinate the regional secretariat which she opened. She worked there for two years.
“While I was there, I heard about an opening at ZAM, and I have this thing for valued addition. It is right at the heart of Zambia’s development. If we make this thing work, then the rest will follow. So I jumped at the opportunity to come back so I can contribute to national development,” she says.
Chipego considers herself as a farm girl says although she is not a farmer, she is interested in agric-business.
“It’s been exciting. 2018 is a big year for us as an association. Proudly Zambian has to happen, Act of parliament for ZAM has to happen, and beyond that everything else will just fall into place. I want us to perform better than we have. We have high expectations for 2018,” she says.
Though being relatively young for such a position, Chipego says she has not faced any challenges in her line of work although some people do get surprise that she is CEO.
“This is a time for the youths. This is important now because what we are looking for is a fresh perspective on things, innovation and a lot of energy. Being a young lady is quite challenging, I feel you have to work a lot harder because you don’t want people’s perceptions about youths to be true,” she says.
Adding, “So, when I walk into a room I want to be considered as a peer even to people who have essentially been in the game much longer and might have more experience but I definitely know that I bring in a fresh perspective.”
Fortunately, for Chipego she has a supportive executive team which does not make her feel small.
Chipego who is a member of the Salvation Army praise team and choir says she has always been competitive, determined and focused from a young age.
“I always put in my best in everything I do. I don’t want to be the top but I always like to think when I look back at what I have done, I know that there’s nothing I could have done more than what I already did.
“Even at ZAM, I want to put in my best and my best just has to be good enough. If you put in your best no one can come back and tell you, you didn’t,” she says.
For fun, Chipego enjoys being around her family, church activities, cooking and exploring and doing new things.
“My advice to the youths is that there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious; pursue your dreams. It’s important for ladies to be confident and put the best foot forward. It’s not a man’s world, it’s anybody’s world. Let’s be ambitious and aggressive,” she says.
Chipego who is currently finishing her second master’s degree at the University of Lusaka in project management says the future of Zambia lays in the hands of the youths. She says young people have a huge responsibility and must take time to position themselves.
“Think forward, think ahead and make steps that will take you where you want to be. Be focused and work hard. There’s nothing wrong with that. We need to work hard and be aggressive with what we want,” she says.