Corporate go-getter jets off to the US

Staff Writer
Corporate captain, Tshepang Chilume, has emerged as one of a handful of young African leaders who will represent their countries at the highly anticipated AGOA Forum taking place in Washington, United States.

Chilume, Barclays' treasury sales manager, left last Sunday to join a group of 60 of her African peers under the Mentoring Partnership With Young African Leaders initiative, a three-week programme in the US whose highlights include the AGOA Forum.

Another highlight for the young corporates is that their introduction to the programme will be conducted by the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, a global icon in politics and leadership.

Following the AGOA Forum, the group will be spread throughout the US on business internships in Seattle, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Miami, Huntsville, Denver and Chicago. Chilume will head to Charlotte in North Carolina, the US' second largest banking centre after New York with US$1.7 trillion in assets as at March 2012 and which employs one out of every five residents in the region.

At the AGOA meeting, Chilume plans to bring her expertise in her five-year banking career to bear, in terms of highlighting Africa and Botswana in particular. "In my job, I facilitate the movement of trade between organisations here and abroad in terms of imports and exports of goods and services," she said. "By virtue of this, the most important contribution is to give a perspective of how we operate.

"This will be in terms of the challenges we (Botswana) face, the banking services that are available and the expertise available in terms of professional services to facilitate trade between us and the US. "I would also like to learn best practice."

"I was nominated for the programme through my association with the US embassy," she said, ahead of her departure. "They have different breakaway sessions for budding entrepreneurs, both established and those coming up. During these discussions, they asked if I would be interested and took my profile to the ambassador.

"I submitted my profile, career plan, interests and other details and follow up meetings with officials, including the ambassador to make sure they had chosen the right person.

"Recently, I found out I had been selected and things moved quickly. I sent my action plan across social, business and career ideas." The treasury sales manager is adequately armed across the three areas assessed by the embassy officials.

On the business front, she has a company with another female banking executive, which is positioned for post-retirement business opportunities "as an example to other women and also for personal development".

Chilume has grand plans, in terms of her career. "I see myself growing to greater roles within Barclays, not just in Botswana, but maybe in South Africa, under Absa, or in the United Kingdom," she said.

Her background stands her in good stead in this regard. Chilume started her career off by obtaining a BComm Marketing Degree from a South African university between 2003 and

2007, before joining First National Bank Botswana as a graduate trainee. As part of the programme, she moved to the bank's treasury division where she began learning the ropes in relationship management. She moved to Barclays in 2010 and underwent "a very sharp learning curve", involving a management development programme.

"I studied marketing and I had every intention not to do anything with maths involved, but because of the relationship management aspect of the career and of my nature, I found myself working in treasury sales," she said. "My favourite quote is 'feel the fear and do it anyway.' That's how I have operated in my life and career.

"Always have a two year plan of where you want to be. We always make the mistake of studying for the job we are in and not how it's going to build into the greater plan we have.

"If I'm in an interview, I always ask myself "what's the next step?' Even with the US programme, I'm thinking the same question." It is the social aspect of Chilume's life that appears to drive her. The young mother has a four-year-old son who was born with bilateral talipes, also known as clubfoot. She has teamed up with a physiotherapist to spread knowledge and awareness of the condition.

"When my son was born, I was not given as much information as I should have been on that," she said. "It's a congenital birth defect that can be corrected within the first four weeks. "There's treatment available in the US and I only received this treatment when he was nine months old and in South Africa.

"Last February, I was at the Rotary Club during a presentation and a surgeon there said he sees 30 to 35 cases of children that are born with this condition, a treatable condition. "Many of these cases are going untreated and we have had one case of a two-year-old child where treatment was being enquired about. We were able to raise funds for the child to go to Johannesburg for treatment."

Chilume plans to establish a clubfoot foundation in Botswana. "The treatment can be done by anyone with a knowledge of the foot's anatomy," she said. "I would like to see more support or openness from the Ministry of Health, more statistics on the condition and more education on its treatment. "Uganda and Malawi have done the US treatment (the Ponseti programme) with their governments.

"In the US, I hope to spread more awareness on this and also talk to some doctors to come to Botswana on the Ponseti programme." The Ponseti International Association is the global leader in training and educating healthcare providers on the treatment for congenital clubfoot.

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