An African Woman on A Mission

One Woman’s Quest to Develop Africa’s Next Generation of Leaders

African women are shattering the proverbial glass ceiling. Whether in business, science, technology, media, or the arts African women are blazing the trail and taking their place in moving Africa forward. One such leading African woman is Zambia’s Charity Lumpa. Charity is one of Zambia’s most respected corporate leaders who has led some of Zambia’s biggest companies including the telecoms company Airtel Zambia. She is also the first female Chairperson of the Board of the Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco) one of the country’s largest commercial Banks.  Drive Africa caught up with her and got some valuable insights into what drives one of Zambia’s leading business visionaries.

Drive Africa: Who is Charity Lumpa?

Charity Lumpa: A second born child and first born daughter of the late Gideon and Racheal Lumpa, am a single parent with a daughter who is 32 and at the end of the day am a retiree. I have a lot of interests and right now my interest and passion is to develop leaders at boardroom level, women leaders, and young leaders.  I also have a passion for personal development since as a leader we never stop growing. We keep growing.  We keep learning.  Ultimately, this is who Charity Lumpa is.

Drive Africa: What has been your Drive?

Charity Lumpa:  I have been very fortunate in that I believe in God.  God has been my driving principle especially from where am coming from.  Having lost my mother in very tragic circumstances at the age of 11 and the things I have gone through could only happen because of God.

My second driving principle has been my attachment to my past. I saw what was good and what was bad. I made a vow to myself that I would be like my mother because I saw her as a very progressive woman.  She was an inspiration to me because of the many barriers which overcame in 70s when there where so many obstacles for women.  Her inspiration has been my driving force.

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I have also had a strong desire to succeed.  I am very competitive not with others but mostly with myself.  That may sound strange but I set certain benchmarks and I realise that if I do not achieve these benchmarks then am not progressing and so am very competitive with myself.

Drive Africa: What is your greatest achievement?

Charity Lumpa: Professionally, all the things I have done have been amazing in their own right. They have contributed to my career development and growth especially in my leadership and management roles.

For example I left State Insurance, one of my first jobs, in 1989 after having joined them in 1983. I left State Insurance when I was an assistant marketing manager to join Citi Bank as a management trainee. People thought I was going crazy. They were thinking, ‘who leaves a managerial position to go and become a management trainee?’ Ultimately it is not always about money but also about the experience and exposure you gain that matters.

When I left Citi Bank I acquired new skills. The Bank trained me very well in management.  We were taught to mind our business in terms of our work and department. This was important because at the time I was the only one in my department and so I had to do everything so that I could manage my time. I had to develop my trade and become efficient.

Drive Africa: What has your journey been like as a woman especially holding top positions in big companies?

Charity Lumpa: You know I never see myself as a woman. I am a specialist in the making. I am a professional. Before I see any gender I acknowledge that am a professional.

So do I face gender issues? Yes I do.  How do I face them? I face them like any other obstacle that comes my way and I overcome them. I never let anything hold me back. The only label that I am willing to accept is that I am a professional.  Nothing else will come to disturb my aura about who I am and what am going to achieve.

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Drive Africa: What do you hope to change with your work in Zambia, Africa and World ?

Charity Lumpa: I would like people to see women not as gender projects but as professionals.  We can do amazing things as women and we should be given that opportunity.  And so what I would like to see change in Africa through my work is women taking a step because in future they will be nothing like female or male leaders will all be leaders.

Women empowerment in its own way is good.  At the same time, it limits women because they will always think there is this gender thing-‘am a woman’, ‘am a female what can I do?’ Let’s just view everybody as a professional. For example when I arrive for an interview see me as a professional and not identify my gender first.

Drive Africa: What have been some of your challenges?

Charity Lumpa: I really do not focus on challenges so long as I have my benchmarks clearly defined. I focus on achieving those goals. For me the most important thing to do is to set your goals, set your ideals and reach out. Even the Bible tells us to ask for destiny helpers. The networks that we have.  Reach out to people who can support you. As a result you will ultimately overcome any challenges.  But never base it on gender.

So yes I do face gender challenges but I have refused to give them a spotlight.  It is not worth it. Let us look at helping each other. However one of the challenges I faced as a single parent was balancing between work and taking care of my child. Sometimes I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted at home and with my child. So I would dedicate Monday through Friday to work and dedicate the weekends to my child, family and church. Unfortunately men in organisations are not very sympathetic with single parents taking some time off to take care of their children. So as a woman make sure you find a way to work smartly by working effectively and being there for your children.

Drive Africa: What are you currently working on?

Charity Lumpa: Right now am chairing the board of Zanaco Plc one of the top banks in Zambia and am the first female board chairperson by God’s grace and am sitting on five other boards. I recently stepped down as SOS children’s villages’ board chairperson. I spent over 8 years on that board. I am also currently sitting on the board of St. Ignatius as Vice Board Chairperson. I am also sitting on other boards including Air Namibia and Malawian fund.  That keeps me busy. My current interest right now is we are developing the champions of humanity program. The program is centred on restoring humanity in the youth and we have picked on the youth because when you look at what’s currently happening, it’s quite sad. We are working on champion of humanity with Fr Charlie of the Jesuits

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Drive Africa: Any advice to women?

Charity Lumpa: Women when you face all these cultural barriers do not withdraw. Keep going. Imagine if I withdrew many lives would not have been impacted. Keep going. Face it heads on. Sometimes it’s painful I agree but ultimately you will make it with God on your side.  Look at the likes of Dolika Banda, Mzinga Melu, Margaret Mwanakatwe, Chileshe Kapwepwe, Tukiya Mabula Kankasa- they have changed the narrative.