By Philipp Lemmerich
Kondwani Kampenya is currently enrolled in an MBA program at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin. Previously, he worked as a consultant in project management and organizational development.
Saturday morning in a café in Berlin-Kreuzberg. There are almost as many strollers as chairs on the wide glass front. Young parents talk to each other, while others read the weekend edition of international newspapers. Kondwani Kampenya – short, accurately cut hair, friendly expression – has grabbed the last free table and just ordered a latte macchiato.
Handshake, short introduction. We’ve set an appointment for an interview. But unlike a job interview it’s not about work experience and personal skills today but about the big picture: Who is this person? What drives him? Where does he see himself in the corporate world?
You just have to quickly scan his CV in order to realize that Kondwani is an excellent candidate that perfectly fits into our agency’s portfolio: A Masters in Statistics, several years of work experience in an international management consultancy, excellent networks worldwide and now the MBA program at ESMT here in Berlin. When Kondwani graduates in December 2018, he will have no trouble finding a job.
So why is he applying at AfricaWorks right now? “There are many companies out there doing mediocre work”, he says grinning. “I do not feel like mediocre work. I want to work in a company that thinks beyond the traditional. You have the contacts.” A clear assignment for us.
Kondwani always seemed to clearly know what he wants. During his first Master’s studies in South Africa, his fellow students dreamed of solving complex mathematical equations and later becoming mathematics professors. Kondwani, however, was interested in stock markets and start-ups. When his later boss held a guest lecture, his gaze quickly fell on the young man from Malawi. It was one year later that Kondwani completed his Masters degree and accepted a contract with Infinite Potentials Consulting.
In the following years, Kondwani developed large-scale projects for international clients focusing on Africa, including the Next Einstein Forum which is funded by the Robert Bosch Foundation and received widespread media coverage. He managed organizational development, set up management plans and coordinated the recruiting processes. In late 2016, he moved to Rwanda to open a branch of the consulting company he worked for in Kigali.
When Kondwani talks about his career, he talks about USPs. “Today it is no longer enough to have a certain ability that you can do especially well. It’s about having multiple skills that make you stand out. It’s about keeping track of complex tasks and intelligently manage their implementation.”
He is fascinated by the accuracy of the German corporate culture with planning projects, setting up milestones and their further implementation. In many African countries this would be challenging, he assumes, as new and unexpected challenges arise during every implementation process. “I would not say that one way is better than the other. German entrepreneurs are usually more efficient. African entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are more flexible and dynamic. They do not cling to a rigid plan because they have to deal with unpredictabilities day after day.”
Konwandi sees himself as a bridge builder, a middleman between two completely different entrepreneurial perspectives. Many of his former clients from Europe made the mistake of believing that they could simply apply their processes to Africa without adaptations. “Your KPIs will tell you: The employees are inefficient, the results are not right, and so on. But at the end of the day, this is because a completely different business environment requires a different strategy. “
African markets unquestionably still have structural disadvantages compared to those in Europe. “Imagine a European and an African start-up. Both have exactly the same idea. It’s ten times more likely that it’s going to be the European start-up which will develop a market-ready product. There is professional coaching, there are funding programs, VC donors and everything else. There are very few comparable programs in most African countries.”
Still, at the end of the day the entrepreneurial mindset of highly-qualified young Africans might even be superior to those of European peers. “African entrepreneurs are constantly in survival mode. They are exposed somewhere in the ‘jungle’ and fight their way through. They always have to come up with solutions to problems that nobody could foresee yesterday. So put someone like this in an international company with a dynamic work environment. It’ll be the perfect combination.”
In a globalized economy, Kondwani sees a great future for bridge builders and creative young people from Africa. He talks about a friend who had joined a large German medical equipment manufacturing company as an intern. A few months later, she was already taking a leading role to manage the entire North African business. “There are many stories of talented Africans like that. They are young, ambitious and creative. What they need is an opportunity to prove themselves. Give them a chance, you will not regret it.”
Kondwani’s optimism and the potential he sees in young Africans are thrilling. The conversation is far from over when Kondwani has to leave for the next appointment. At the end of 2018 he will have finished his MBA. It will be interesting to see which company will be lucky to benefit from his versatility.