“I am very confident that when I complete the degree, I will be part of a very rare breed of leaders that will make a positive impact in Africa.” – Duduzile Nyirongo, ’19
With this blogpost, we launch the #MeetTheStudents blog series where we profile our students from all over Africa who are doing hard things to drive the continent forward. This inaugural #MeetTheStudents post features Duduzile Nyirongo ‘19, who played a key role in the resignation of Robert Mugabe after his multi-decade-long rule of Zimbabwe. Throughout this piece, we explore her passion for youth representation, good governance, and the role of ALU School of Business in her journey.
Who is Duduzile Nyirongo? (How do you describe yourself? What do you do professionally?)
I’m a mother, wife, chartered accountant, a business leader, a theologian, a political and human rights activist as well as a musician in my spare time. My career began after obtaining a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting from the National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe, in 2005. I went on to train with Ernst & Young, before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant in 2010. In 2011, I joined Uni Products, a Zimbabwean food product manufacturer, as Head of Finance, a position which I held until 31 October, 2017 as I embarked on an entrepreneurial journey. I am a very sociable person who has a networking gift. My networking success comes from one belief; I don’t only extract value from networks, I give value. I hate poverty and my passion is to see the financial development of my country and Africa as a whole. I would like to invest in society because I believe that while profit is important for business, it is not the only goal of a business. Apart from shareholders, companies should consider the interest of other stakeholders and the environment.
I am also a citizen activist who is passionate about seeing a just, equitable, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. I am co-founder and trustee of CitizensZW a civic organization promoting civic participation in social, economic and political affairs. I am also part of the Citizens Manifesto team which is building towards a non-partisan national convergence platform for citizens to collectively express their thoughts and aspirations on a Zimbabwe that they want and collectively work towards its attainment.
What attracted you to the ALU School of Business?
Before I applied to ALU I was applying for a Masters in African Development because when I look at Africa I see a continent with great potential but lacks individuals with the necessary skills for its development. My passion for the development of Africa has also been fuelled by my desire for it to prosper. I believe that most of the problems that we face in Africa are as a result of lack of the right kind of leadership. So when I heard about ALU I thought: “Well, this really resonates with my goals.” ALU is focused on developing leaders who will become solution givers to most of Africa’s problems. I believe that this degree will help me on my road to being a social entrepreneur that will play a significant part in developing the nation of Zimbabwe and economically empower its citizens.
You seem very passionate about advocacy, politics and youth representation, why is that?
I came to a point where I realised that no one is immune to the obscene levels of corruption and mismanagement in Zimbabwe. As an individual you may not want to get involved in politics but it is involved with you. Everything about our lives is political. The price of bread is affected by our politics. The type of bread you eat is affected by politics. Our salaries, school fees, building materials, the quality of education, etc., are all affected by politics. Even for businesses to thrive there is need for political and economic stability and formulation of the right policies. Our nation had now become a nation of degreed vendors and touts. So I came to a point where I realised that silence is no longer an option and I was convicted in me that I had a duty to my fellow citizens. I spoke because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I spoke, regardless of my fear, because I said to myself I will not allow my daughter to grow up and wonder where I was while the country was being destroyed.
What role did you play in the recent political events in Zimbabwe? Why was this important to you?
I was part of a group of activists that encouraged people to march on the 18th of November 2017. Robert Mugabe just had to go. After having marched and Robert Mugabe did not resign, we organised a series of protests at the Africa Unity Square (opposite the Parliament of Zimbabwe). I vowed that I would protest everyday until Mugabe stepped down, either through resignation or impeachment. We were even planning to go and sleep at his residence on the day he finally resigned. I was also part of a team that organised and led prayers for peace, unity among other issues.
This was important to me because for a very long time I had been calling for an end of Mugabe’s tyrannical rule. He had failed as a leader and plunged the country into disarray. The economy had collapsed under his leadership, the health system had collapsed under his leadership, people were suffering under his autocratic rule and yet he was indifferent to the people’s suffering. He had been leading the country for 37 years and had failed; he had to go. So this was a window of opportunity that the army had opened and we welcomed it and said: “Yes Mugabe must go, No to military rule, and Yes to a better Zimbabwe” Mugabe’s resignation to me was the first step of our journey towards a just, equitable, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe. It was also good to see the people of Zimbabwe finally speaking out after their voices had been suppressed for a long time.
How is ALUSB equipping you with the skills, knowledge, and network you would need to continue leading the cause for good governance in Africa?
The ALUSB experience has been amazing. The business school is equipping me to be a better leader through the leadership lab and the V^3 model. The leadership lessons are not just theory but are practical as we are taught to apply them on a daily basis. I have become bolder and I no longer fear doing hard things. ALUSB has a wide pan-African network of amazing young leaders who I am learning from as I extract value from them. I have also been equipped with skills and knowledge that I am using as I continue on my entrepreneurial journey such as marketing, operations, finance, objectives and key result areas. I’m also grateful for the coaching sessions which also guide me as I make decisions. I am very confident that when I complete the degree, I will be part of a very rare breed of leaders that will make a positive impact in Africa.