Who is Nkosana Moyo?

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“I was born in Makuva, and I started school at Makuva Primary School, then went to Don Bosco.”

Opinion: Albert Gumbo

Nkosana Moyo
Nkosana Moyo

At the end of a two-day, high level strategy session, you do not expect to hear such a humble statement from the putative guest of honour.

And, perhaps noticing the blank looks from his audience, he added, with the same disarming charm and poise that exudes presence and gravitas: “That is in Mberengwa, after which I went to Chikwingwizha Seminary in Gweru then St Ignatius College”

If you can find another person of the same stature with such a humble beginning, then drinks are on me.

But, listening to him describe his journey, you do not hear about the PhD from Imperial College London, or that he is an Eisenhower Fellow, who just happens to hold an MBA and has worked in some of the highest roles in finance and industry globally as well as being a Cabinet minister in government.

Or did I mention . . . the World Economic Forum. Instead, he talks about his rural upbringing, how he worked in the fields at Makuva each day before and after going to school, not as a complaint or a badge of honour, but because that is simply what you did then.

If humility characterises perceptions of the man, it is his judicious approach to everything that defines him.

Nkosana Moyo is the definition of decency and honourable. In a world where virtue and righteousness are so rare, his life story displays a deliberately coherent and principled approach to everything that he has done.

When he enrolled at Chikwingwizha, he flirted with the idea of becoming a priest, but says because at the time, he did not have the same convictions about his faith as he does now, he decided that he would not do it.

“I only have to look at the world now, with the eyes of a scientist, and I can see that everything about it is so perfect, so aligned that it cannot possibly be by accident, but back then, I did not have this conviction firmly rooted in faith,” he says.

That is the measure of the man. The idea that if something is not capable of being done right, then it is not worth doing at all.

After his PhD in Physics, he taught at the University of Zimbabwe. When he discovered that the university would not be able to fund research into his passion (solar energy), he decided that it was time to go into commerce.

A job at TA Holdings saw him excel so much that this scientist with expertise in quantum physics got headhunted by a Standard Chartered Bank.

Not to advise them on their investments in sciences and engineering, but as managing director-designate for their merchant banking services.

Clearly, they were on to something, because once again Moyo excelled in the role.

But ever the upstanding man, he says that despite being so good in the job, “I felt that it was not right that I did not have a background in Finance”.

So he went to Cranfield School of Management — Cranfield University, “one of the oldest business schools in Europe and a world leader in management education and research” for his MBA.

While at Cranfield, and as if juggling family life and a challenging degree in a field so far removed from physics was not hard enough, Moyo took classes for, and obtained a Glider Pilot Silver C qualification, which he later upgraded to a proper pilot’s licence at Charles Prince in Harare.

With his MBA earned, he returned to Standard Chartered in Harare.

It was not long before the bank realised that he could be more useful on a bigger stage, and Moyo was promoted to head of Africa corporate banking at Standard Chartered London.

While others in similar roles would have jumped at the opportunity to focus on the bank’s expanding footprint in the United States or the emerging markets of Asia, he decided that he would focus solely on the bank’s projects in Africa.

This led to him being sent to Tanzania as country managing director for Standard Chartered Bank in Tanzania.

Back on the continent, this son of a Shona father and Ndebele mother from Mberengwa did what a good upbringing had instilled in him: he worked the soil.

So drastic and outstanding was his performance at Standard Chartered Tanzania that revenues grew 10 times higher and those in London sent a fact-finding mission to see if everything was being done correctly: and so they were.

But by this time, the call to work for others had started to bite. So, with the bank in Tanzania on a firm footing, Moyo decided that his sojourn with Standard Chartered was finished.

It was time to go back to Zimbabwe. Instead of making money for shareholders, it was time to help Zimbabweans enterprise and grow wealth.

So, with the support of leading luminaries in the corporate sector, Moyo relaunched his Zimbabwe career as founder and managing director of Batanai Capital Finance.

With the backing of institutional investors as shareholders, he grew the business to become a major player in the industry.

So successful was the business that at the turn of the millennium, Moyo was again headhunted, this time by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, to become Industry and International Trade minister.

They hailed his appointment (and that of others at that time) as the dawn of a new era, the introduction of technocrats into government, breathing a new thinking and better ways of doing things.

No longer would government trips off less than three hours require business class travel for officials in his ministry, and duty and service replaced lounging and doing nothing.

But this was not to last long. Moyo, true to himself, found out early that one cannot function in a government led by unprincipled people, and one needs, but to read his open letter to Mugabe, penned many years later, to see just how diametrically opposed their philosophies are.

For Moyo, government is about service, it is about bringing back respect to Africa and Africans.

It is about getting people that are skilled in what they do to do the job, not people related to those in the position to appoint.

And, more than anything, it is about knowing your brief, and still leaving room to learn.

“I always make sure that I am throughly prepared, but when I go into the meeting, I make sure that everyone else has a chance to speak before I even share my opinion. First because I do not wish to make people colour their views to what they think I will agree with, but more importantly because 99,9% of the time, I have discovered that no matter how prepared I am, I always learn something new from someone else.”

It is that unassuming humility, that has seen Moyo appointed first as senior adviser/associate director for the International Finance Corporation, then managing partner and Head of Africa region at Actis Capital LLP, and chief operating officer at the African Development Bank since leaving his role in the Zimbabwe government.

And in 2011, he founded and remains to this day executive chairman of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies, helping grow Africa’s future leaders while taking no salary from the role.

This is consistent with the man: he negotiated to take salary cut from Actis in order to move back to Africa: because he believed that global accolades were not the legacy he wanted to leave behind, but the development of his continent in general and Zimbabwe in particular.

A very long way from Makuva, Mberengwa, for this man who prefaces many sentences with “Chipo and I . . .”, referring to his wife Chipo Mutasa (not TelOne chief executive), with whom they have four children.

You will not hear from Nkosana that this is the sister of Shingi Mutasa, a friend told me.

So, at the end of that two-day seminar, where he stood up to speak of his humble beginnings, someone asks Moyo for his CV and, for someone with his history and at least eight board appointments, a momentary pause, then a smile.

He does not have one! For you see, since joining UZ as a lecturer, Moyo has never looked for a job.

His talent and worth has been so obvious that he has been headhunted every time.

It is easy to understand this: You need to be with him for, but a few minutes to realise the deep introspection of the man, the measured manner of speaking, the respect for the listener, and the sheer depth of the man’s intellect.

And a deep, deep love for Zimbabwe. Would he think about political office then?

“I have started to seriously consider that role, and will be making a definitive announcement soon”, he says.

Listening to the man, looking at his resume, and considering the task at hand, it is easy to come to, but one conclusion on the matter.

It is time . . .

Albert Gumbo is an alumni of the Duke University-UCT US-Southern Africa Centre for Leadership and Public Values. Contact: gumbo.albert@gmail.com

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