By Paul Ndiho
A Congolese entrepreneur is leading one of the world’s largest container shipping companies’ Maersk line, in the democratic republic of Congo, and Congo Brazzaville.
Her story is inspiring to thousands across the region. Despite repeated hardships, Nancy Mbalayi’s ability to lead a male-dominated industry is amazing. As the chief finance officer for Maersk line, she oversees the democratic republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville, managing nearly half a billion dollars in annual revenues.
“When they look at you as a young lady, when you are competing with other men in this industry, and the shipping industry is a very high male-dominated industry. You have to show that you are a master at what you do. So, I challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone, to learn a bit faster, and also to show that I can take more.”Mbalayi is part of the next generation of young African leaders who are trying to make a difference and inspire others to aspire for leadership positions.“You need to have the passion first for what you are doing. You need to be highly engaged and motivated because it is not easy, especially in our context here in the D.R. Congo and Congo Brazzaville. There’s a lot of challenges that you cannot master. So, you always have to be ready to make the right decision at the right time.”Mbalayi attributes her accomplishments to partners and supporters and says her goal is to empower other young entrepreneurs through mentorship programs.“It goes far beyond the capital; because leading people, it all starts with leading yourself. You have to know who you are, what your values are, what makes you fight every day, and what makes you tick. Because the why is the reason – why you wake up every morning, despite what’s going on in your life.”Nancy’s rise to the top has not been without its challenges.The challenges are a lot, but I see them as a way to do better, to improve. As a woman in our African society, we are seen as a mother first more than a human being. So, the people looking after you to take care of your family, to be a good wife, to ensure that the food is ready that the house is clean and whatever. So, I would say that it requires additional effort.With offices in Kinshasa and Matadi, Maersk line is creating employment and helping businesses in the country to connect with key global markets.The voice of America was recently given an exclusive tour of the new multi-billion-dollar container terminal located at Matadi on the Congo River. The facility opened for business in august 2016 with the help of the Philippines, in partnerships with the Congolese government and the private sector.The new terminal is fitted with state of the art security cameras, sophisticated computer systems, modern cargo handling and storage facilities — including a fire engine and an ambulance on site. The new terminal dubbed a one-stop shop has dramatically reduced the cost of doing business transactions like clearing cargo and paying taxes — it has also restored some faith in the system.Critics say that even though Maersk line has made a concerted effort to localize many management positions previously held by expats in Africa, the company still falls short and needs to do more.