Mandy Shemuvalula: Youth development must be the starting point of all business models

Mandy Shemuvalula: the youth of the African continent are the most powerful demographic Click To Tweet

Mandy Shemuvalula is a 29-year-old Namibian who is a revolutionary at heart. After graduating in 2010 from Monash University in Malaysia with an Honors Bachelors’ degree in Business and Commerce (majoring in International Business), she knew the global business arena was where her heart laid. Mandy asserts that her life purpose is to challenge the status quo for the greater good.

Having participated in reputable summits and interned with global brands, Mandy experienced a radical paradigm shift from her view of empowerment and philanthropy and how it can be closely tied to business growth. This greatly influenced her new journey to starting Youthia, which she is steadfastly building as a revolutionary youth economy and easing intra-continental youth trade in Africa.

At what point did you decide empowering young Africans is what you want to do?

It all started during a five-day trip to India in September 2014, as part of my internship at the World Headquarters of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. The trip was a social media experiment by Coca-Cola called Women of the Web. We took eight influential American mom bloggers across five cities in India to expose them first-hand to Coca-Cola’s global women empowerment initiative, 5by20, running on the ground.

During the trip, although short, I began to experience a paradigm shift observing how Coca-Cola was building its powerful business while simultaneously developing local communities. Almost instinctively, I knew this was how I needed to approach doing business moving forward. Not too long after my trip to India, I was off to Kenya for three months to do another internship with Microsoft.

While in Nairobi, I engaged with the SME community and observed the stellar innovation coming out from the young people over there. I knew this was a breeding ground for more, coupled with the largest population segment on the continent, the youth. God was ordering my steps. It was definitely divine!

Who is that one role model that fueled your drive for youth empowerment over the years and why?

I wouldn’t say I was particularly passionate about youth empowerment growing up. In fact, it was something I just kind of stumbled into while in India. But I think the seeds began to be planted during my experience participating in the inaugural class of the Mandela Washington Fellowship of Young African Leaders in 2014.

While attending the Presidential Summit in Washington DC with Barack and Michelle Obama, in a room full of progressive young Africans, a light bulb went on that the youth of the African continent will be the most powerful demographic. I think that’s when it officially clicked that young people in Africa are actually a big deal. The biggest deal.

Young people in Africa are actually a big deal. The biggest deal. Click To Tweet

Mandy Shemuvalula

What are some of the setbacks you faced starting up Youthia and how did you pull through?

I knew that if I was to dedicate my life to Youthia, I had to shoot for a massively huge goal. I couldn’t and shouldn’t play small because I wanted to have monumental impact with my work. Because the vision is huge, it was incredibly hard to find the right talent who understood the mission and was able to commit to it for the long haul.

I truly believe Youthia is from God so slowly but surely, the right people began to be directed to me in weird serendipitous ways. At first, I became a little frustrated at how slow things were moving but I had to trust the process and the right people continued to show up.

Another big hurdle was definitely start-up capital. We are trying to do things that have not been done before so convincing funders and investors that this could work was and is challenging. But by being consistent and persistent, we were able to gradually win them over. The struggle continues.

And lastly, our biggest challenge to date is trying to educate the public that youth economic development can no longer be an NGO, charity or philanthropic organization’s work. It will be a conscious, for-profit business industry and we need to lead the way.

It has to be an actual youth economy that is contributing billions of dollars to African nations’ GDP. We want it to be as cool as the Apples, Googles, and Facebooks of this world. The world is changing and changing fast. Youth development can no longer be an afterthought but the starting point of all business models.

An objective of Youthia is to empower one million youths by 2025, where do you see yourself also in 2025?

Personally, I see myself living an extraordinary, fulfilled and peaceful life.

A wrong mindset and character are the biggest barriers for youth entrepreneurs. Click To Tweet

In your experience, where would you say most youths miss it in business?

Undoubtedly, the wrong mindset and character. We often talk about youth lacking relevant skills or capital, little access to markets, amongst many others. These are legitimate hindrances. But the mind-set and character are the biggest barriers for youth entrepreneurs.

They do not prioritize developing mental and emotional strength to weather the storms. They feel entitled. This holds them back.

What do you think are the 3 attributes of an enterprising youth?

Resilient, patient and self-aware. Oh, can I add one more? Resourceful.

If you were made Minister for Youth Affairs in Namibia, what are the first two things you will do in office?

Thank goodness this is theoretical as I don’t think I can survive in politics. I’m too radical and honest, lol. I would definitely push for better regulations governing youth entrepreneurship and youth job creation.

And most importantly, I would prioritize developing a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem that is driven and powered by youth.

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Hilma Ndinelago Moses: I want to be known as a selfless leader

If you believe education is key to changing the world, you can count your similarities with Nelson Mandela and Hilma Ndinelago Moses. Only familiar with one name? Well, you need to know Hilma. She is the creator of  Nambian Opportunities, and co-founder of the Young Woman Arise Impact Project. Through these initiatives, Hilma strives for academic excellence for Namibians.  

SLA contributor Itumeleng caught up with Hilma who is living up to Mandela’s words in her own way. Her hopes and dreams for her country, Namibia is for everyone to have the opportunity to better themselves and their community through education. Hilda believes African education systems should be revised and is involved in other projects aimed at growing Namibia’s representation on the global stage.

Why did you choose a career in law?

Law is interesting and powerful. Most people who studied law are influential. You can’t change society if you are not involved in the process that regulates the very norms of society.

We need people in Africa who are academically-orientated. I value the efforts of people going far to further their education whether it’s through TVET or short courses. It’s not just about university degrees but should be about acknowledging all those who make an effort to further their studies at different levels.

We have to promote other avenues of learning beyond secondary education.

You must have been involved in a lot of projects on campus? Tell us about them.

I was the Vice President of the Student Representative Council (SRC). I am dedicated to transforming the overall student welfare of the University of Namibia by dealing with all issues that impede the affable atmosphere of academic credibility for all students.

Having had the experience of being the secretary for Academic Affairs on the University of Namibia student body. My role required me to safeguard the general welfare of all students in relation to academic matters.

This position allowed me to make evident lasting transformation in the academic environment of the University of Namibia. The difference that I have made in many students lives is remarkable. My office was the custodian of all students of the University with regard to academic matters.

I also represented the students interests on the Senate body of the university. I represented student interest when exam results were declared null and void. When you represent students you don’t look at their nationality but what is best for them academically.SRC

Do you still plan on furthering your education?

I see myself completing my PhD and becoming Dr. Hilma Moses.

I also want  to contribute in compiling academic literature from a Namibian’s perspective.

What’s your opinion on the state of education in Africa?

Africa is concentrating on providing free education but overlooks the quality of the education. It’s good to make education accessible but with accessibility should be quality. Therefore, the education systems should be revised.

One of the problems with African education is academic victimization of students. Exam papers are leaked by those who are supposed to be protecting them.

We need to promote and protect the right to education through Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals.

What projects have you been involved in?

I am the co-founder of Young Woman Arise Impact Project which was established through the University of Namibia Legal Aid clinic. We promote the rights of young women to health and sanitation.

We distribute “care packages” consisting of soap, face cloth, toothpaste, tooth brush and sanitary towels. In 2015, we donated 500 care packages. We also have an initiative called “Donate a Bra” where we urge women to donate a bra to those in need.

I also have an online platform called Namibian Opportunities. This is to expose Namibian youths to national and international opportunities. Namibia is under-represented in international organizations and I would like to see more people from my country in influential positions.


What would you like to be known for in your country?

I want to be known as an advocate for youth and opportunities for young people. I want to be known as a selfless leader. Someone who goes out of their way to create a path for others.

When you are a leader you go out of your way to serve people and that’s what I strive to do. Most importantly, I would like to be remembered as a God-fearing woman.

If you had the chance to prepare lunch for Namibia’s President, what would be on the menu?

I would prepare Oshiwambo traditional food because it represents where I come from.

Oshiwambo traditional food usually includes traditional chicken, omahangu porridge and evada (spinach).

What 3 things are in your bucket list?

  1. Sky diving.
  2. Drag racing.
  3. Live in another African country, which I have achieved. ( I’ve lived in South Africa and currently live in Ethiopia)

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