Margaret Mudenda: Putting her hands to the plough

May 16th, 2017

Zambeef non-executive director Margaret Kunda Chalwe-Mudenda ready to champion agriculture

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – “I am a fan of Zambeef! I love everything about it,” confirms the company’s newly appointed non-executive director Margaret Kunda Chalwe-Mudenda.

Her relationship with the food retailing company began way back and she likes to jest that it is an affair that is as old as when she could remember being able to afford meat.

“I have been buying Zambeef for a long time and I like the fact that they are trying to catch up with the trends; if you notice in the fridges now, the Zambeef product is no longer just your meat cut up. It is nicely prepared; you’ve got skewered meat on skewers, you’ve got meat wrapped in bacon, you’ve got different varieties nicely spiced, which mean that Zambeef is alive to the various changes in the kitchen!” she said.

Margaret relishes a good challenge and her recent appointment to the Zambeef board, positions her to make life-changing decisions for the consumer, a responsibility that she is up to the task for.

“Zambeef is the leading agribusiness that we have in Zambia; it’s got a diverse product range from beef, chicken, eggs. Coming onto the board I think the first thing I would really like to do is understand the full product range of the company and also understand the service aspect that is associated it. Once we do that then we start examining the efficiency levels around all of this. My expectation is to find innovative ways of driving the Zambeef growth and hoping that I could, with the help of my colleagues on the board, appreciate how to do that for this industry because it’s relatively new for me but very exciting,” she said.

Mindful of the fact that being a woman allows her the advantage of being a little more sensitive to what the consumer needs and wants, having spent more time with the Zambeef product than most men do, Margaret hopes to bring the real life experience to the boardroom in coming up with ways to refine Zambeef products and services.

“What I hope to bring as a woman is a story of a woman and the Zambeef product and I hope that getting to appreciate how the business is run will help me relate to how the consumer finally ends up with the product as well as share consumer perspectives and how the product can be better, can be diverse and can be further affordable,” said Margaret.

The high achiever is however quick to point out the need for female career aspirants to realign their perspective when it comes to professional goals, stating that a woman’s potential to make a positive contribution in industry spheres is no longer in question but rather the focus should be on what they as individuals can do rather than as a woman.

“We’re quite fortunate to be one of the countries that have really evolved. We get the same opportunities at school and we get the same opportunities in career. I know a lot of people still feel that women are disadvantaged but when I look at where we have come from and where we are today, I think you disadvantage yourself if you have that as a platform of thinking; we have female engineers, accountants, lawyers, judges, service people, the armed forces. That for me means the doors have been opened for everyone,” she said.

“The longer we stay in thinking gender, the less we will prepare ourselves for actual work. Gender is important but I think it shouldn’t overshadow things like your ability to articulate matters intelligently, your ability to be consistent and to be dependable and committed to serving. Yes, sometimes things may not look so favourable but I think that we are almost there as women,” she adds.

Margaret further notes that the current work environment requires smart work and because Zambia has signed up protocols on gender equality more of the sacrifices women make in terms of starting and raising a family are recognised. It also means that equality in terms of access is available now and it is really a question of focus on ability to deliver.

Margaret understands the importance of support in juggling a career and family and advises women who are aspiring to always have the understanding from the get-go that it’s not going to be easy.

“If you pursue your career something’s got to give. My experience has been that you need to appreciate and understand that the demands of the job are as big and as loud as the demands of a home and so the only way that you juggle is to have support; You have to communicate with your family members, they have to appreciate that you will not attend all school meetings…you may have to skip out on some family dinners, some family meetings,” she smiled.

She goes to add that “I have been lucky. I have a very understanding husband and a daughter who is still trying to understand Mummy’s schedule but I’ve had a lot of support from my family in terms of appreciating the different demands that my career has on my life. The balancing act is just a question of communicating and hoping that your spouse and your children will appreciate the sacrifices you are making to be able to progress in your career.”

She however cautions on the need to make time for family, noting that time is a rare commodity that must be made the most of. She likes to shop and watch movies in her free time. Visiting family is also on top of her list to do lest “they forget me. I worry about that,” she jests.

“Time will never be there so for me the weekend is mine; it’s family time. I try to cook as many meals as I can when I am in the kitchen. That personal touch must not lost because if you go too far flung in your career you can lose out on family moments so the balancing effect always comes in, you have to find a way to make it work. But at times a certain part will demand more than the others, you just have to figure it out. There is no formula, it’s different for everyone,” she said.

Margaret attributes the values and principles that she lives by to her late parents and grandmothers who were an important part of the person she has become to be. Her philosophy in life is to “be yourself, work hard and be prepared.”

“Determined, hardworking and happy, that’s me. My family have helped me appreciate who I am and they have helped me know that in life the best thing that you have is you; how you grew up. Where we find ourselves really is just a process in life. I always take every encounter as an assignment like my appointment to the board that’s what I hope will always keep me grounded. Like the ten virgins in the Bible I just had oil in my can and when the time came I was ready to serve. I just work hard and prepare for service,” she said.

As she takes up her new responsibility Margaret is keen to take the Zambeef brand to the next level; “Proudly Zambian; Zambian products, Zambian beef, Zambian milk, Zambian chicks, Zambian eggs, that is a plus. Apart from that very big company, employing a lot of people…but also being a big company they’re a huge revenue-earner meaning that treasury has an opportunity to recover from a company as big as Zambeef and the fact that they have made so much positive trends in the various areas has given the company the confidence to explore even more.”

“This company has a lot to offer and there is a lot of room for growth but most important is that they are a good collector and consumers of Zambian products, from Zambian soil, which is a plus so when you see Zambeef, you’re seeing Zambian owned, Zambian grown products not imported stuff and I think the outgrower scheme that they promote is something that should be supported so that more Zambians are given an opportunity to see their products finally on the shelves through Zambeef,” she concluded.

The trained lawyer has vast experience, having served in several high position capacities in some of the most demanding sectors in the course of her career both in the private and public sectors, including a seven-year term with the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA). She holds a Masters in Telecommunication Law and is trained in investment and brokers advisory services, as well as having experience as a legal counsel in the banking sector.

Zambeef fan and one of the company’s three new non-executive directors, Margaret Kunda Chalwe-Mudenda

Zambeef fan and one of the company’s three new non-executive directors, Margaret Kunda Chalwe-Mudenda

Margaret Kunda Chalwe-Mudenda (centre) and fellow new new non-executive directors Yollard Kachinda and Enala Lyson Tembo-Mwase with Zambeef staff.

About Zambeef Products Plc

Zambeef Products Plc is the largest integrated agribusiness and food processing company in Zambia and one of the largest in the region.

The group is principally involved in the production, processing, distribution and retailing of beef, chicken, pork, milk, dairy products, eggs, stockfeed and flour. The group also has large row cropping operations (principally maize, soya beans and wheat), planting 16,500 hectares in summer and 8,000 hectares in winter. The group is also expanding its West Africa operations in Nigeria and Ghana.

The company slaughters around 70,000 beef cattle, 6.75million chickens and 70,000 pigs per annum, while also processing 16 million litres of milk, producing 150,000 tons of stockfeed, 60 million eggs, 78,000 pairs of shoes and processes 97,500 hides in its tannery per year.

It has 177 retail outlets throughout Zambia and West Africa.Zambeef employs over 6,000 people with a total of K307 million paid in remuneration and benefits in the last year, and contributed K144m to Government in taxes and duties.

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