AN ACHIEVER IN HER OWN RIGHT
Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba needs not much introduction as she has literally lived her life in the limelight.
Being the daughter of a former statesman (Sir Ketumile Masire) put her in the public eye and later on she went on to make a name for herself through her career and positions she held in the corporate world.
Her most notable recent position is Deputy Secretary General of Commonwealth Secretariat based in London, a position which was not only a personal feat but that of the country.
Though last year she unsuccessfully ran for a higher position at the same organisation, she remains one of the country’s successful career women.
In this interview, Masire-Mwamba talks about her experiences, the importance of branding, which she is passionate about among other things.
Q. You were eyeing the Commonwealth top post (secretary general) but unfortunately you did not land the job, are you going to contest again in future?
Working at the Commonwealth was a very interesting experience because at the time that I served as the deputy secretary general for two terms, it was the most senior African position held by a woman and so that gave me so much exposure and a big challenge in terms of representing where I came from and what I had to contribute.
It also enhanced my interest and engagement with the commonwealth which is what inspired me to compete for the top post.
Not getting the position has also been an interesting path in my journey because of lessons learnt and the positive experiences.
I look back and say I am glad I did it and whether I will do it again will depend on where I am in my personal journey when an opportunity arises.
Q. What do you think are some of the reasons you didn’t get the job?
When you don’t reach a goal we are always encouraged in leadership to look back into the journey to see what one accomplished in the process.
I would never know some of the reasons and can only second guess but I think some are primarily due to lack of exposure and experience on the politics of inter-governmental relations and inter-governmental positions.
However I think there are some great insights that I came across and I am now better prepared going forward with a much stronger appreciation of the whole process.
Q. Despite the setback, you are considered one of the most successful career women in Botswana…
Is that a challenge? (laughs), thank you for the compliment.
In everything that I have done, one of the key drivers has been to provide a service to my community and my country to the best of my ability.
I have had an opportunity to lead national projects and initiatives such as establishment of Global Expo which is now an annual successful exhibition.
The other major project while working at what was then Bedia (now Botswana Investment and Trade Centre) was the development of brand Botswana and I think we are seeing a wide recognition of the brand and I hope we will see continue to see a much more aggressive appreciation of the brand beyond the recognition.
In the processes of developing the brand one had to deal with different stakeholders and play a role in public education on what we were trying to achieve.
The reaching out to stakeholders and seeing the positive results is what I call success, it’s something I hold dear.
Q. Talking of branding, why the obsession with branding if I may call it that considering that it’s one of the things you are driving at the moment?
I certainly have a keen interest in branding having led the brand Botswana initiative in its formative stages but I think it is also coming from where we are right now.
One of the biggest challenges we have in the 21st century is that we are living in a complex, highly competitive environment where we have to differentiate and distinguish who we are and to find reasons why the rest of the world should care.
Whether we look at it at personal level, organisational level or nation level, branding is one of the tools to deal with the challenges.
From a positioning and visibility point of view when you brand yourself, you are doing something that will sell your story as an individual, organisation and as a country.
Q. What does one achieve from personal branding?
Personal branding is the beginning, the genesis of whatever it is that you want to produce or achieve.
A product is nothing without people behind it. The reputation of a country is the sum total of our individual brands, it’s what we are as Batswana.
From the classes that we have had, people are now conscious of personal branding and its contribution to the messages that we are sending out there on who we are as a country.
Q. Who are the target people of these classes?
I try to work very closely with small business owners and entrepreneurs but really it’s a broad based session and the interest I have seen so far is from young professionals, corporate and the public sector.
Q. What do you want people to think of when they think of you as a brand?
Modesty is one of our mantras in Botswana but one of my key attributes is audacity, the audacity to reach for higher goals.
The journey that I took to at the commonwealth and beyond had a bold message.
Being the deputy secretary general was also a big achievement, something that made me feel I have the confidence and the ability hence in my engagements I always tell people not to limit themselves.
Q. What is your dream in terms of your life and career?
In a way I think I am living my dream because one of the things that are important to me is giving back.
I have just started the Masire Mwamba office which was initially for the commonwealth campaign but having developed the infrastructure and the network; it is now a capacity building and advisory forum so I can continue to engage with professionals on how to respond to the 21st century challenges.
Q. How would you describe your yesteryears considering that you spent part of your life as a first daughter?
When I reflect back on my journey and childhood, I see myself as a product of a country that was in its early stages of development and therefore I think the factors that influenced me and that have been a significant part of my moulding are things such as growing up in a country where there was no television, no street lights, we knew almost everyone in the streets, we were part of the big community so it’s really more to do with that sense of communal belonging.
Q. But obviously people would look at you and say that is the President’s daughter, how did that make you feel or affect the way you interacted with everyone?
You know you would be surprised because of the era in which we grew up in and the way we were brought up.
First of all I was a child of Mma Gaone and Rra Gaone who happened to have this different job but really it wasn’t a significant part of our upbringing.
Even socially it wasn’t a barrier or enhancer to social engagements, we were all moving together as a society.
Q. Being a politician’s daughter and in the limelight, are we likely to see you following in your father’s footsteps?
My father like most fathers has been a very important part of my life and I think what I take from him and of course my mother are the values that I emulate in my own way.
In terms of walking in his footsteps, I think in a way I already have through initiatives that I have taken on board such as capacity building and working in an inter-governmental environment.
At national level he served his country well and I think I have also done so and continue to do so.
Q. I was actually asking in terms of politics?
(Laughs) I don’t know because I haven’t been able to look ahead to see what is lying in my path.
I have a keen interest in politics but I don’t think having interest in politics translates to being a politician.
At the moment I am developing my office and one the areas I am keen on is increasing women’s participation in the political process.
So the interest is there but it’s how we contribute to that interest that differs.
Q. Getting a bit personal, tell us about your family?
I am married with three children, a son and twin daughters.
They are currently studying and living in England with their father.
They joined me when I took up the job at the Commonwealth so they have to finish their studies.
My life is in fact between Gaborone and London and I will be going there in a few days.
Q. After a long day in office, how do you unwind and how do you normally spend your weekends?
I am an indoor person and I love spending quality time with family.