Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Jabu Basopo, GM Southern and East Africa, Visa Inc.
1. What was your first job?
I was a teacher. There was a time in Zimbabwe where they encouraged young graduates to teach as a learning process before they went on to work with corporates. So a lot of graduates would take up teaching for six months to a year before progressing to whatever industries they wanted to work in. I was a maths teacher for a while.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
When I look at my career I have had managers over the years who have had a great impact in my life. I can’t name any single person because all of them have made some contribution. If I named one individual it would be very unfair to the others.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I try to sleep at night because you need lots of rest to actually be functional the following day.
4. What are top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think there are three main components that contribute to success in leadership. One is your ability to manage yourself, and this involves a number of things such as being disciplined about time. The second component is being able to work with, and lead, a team. You have to understand people and be able to motivate them. The third is organisational leadership which revolves around the actual job you are doing. So for instance do you understand the job you are doing? You have to be able to drive the strategies for your organisation and achieve targets. To me those three components make up an ideal leader. I don’t think I would be here if I did not have those three components.
5. What are the best things about your country, Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe is a very lovely country. The people are good and hospitable.
6. And the worst?
I haven’t come across the worst so far. If there is anything that I would change for Zimbabwe it would be the outflow of human resources. Zimbabwe has gone through a lot of economic turmoil. As a result many people have left. If there is anything I would like to see is having our human resources, who are developing other economies, come back home to build Zimbabwe’s economy.
7. Your future career plans?
The future is here. The good thing about Visa is that your job changes every day. It is not routine. Every day we address a different issue. Everyday there is a new challenge to take on. It’s like every day you have a new job. So I have got a new future everyday.
8. How do you relax?
I try to spend a lot of time with family. I also play golf. I jog, run and play other sports.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young business people and entrepreneurs?
If you are starting a new business you are most likely going into an existing industry, so you are doing something that’s already been done. So what I would say is that every game has got its own rules and language. If you are starting your own business you need to learn the rules and the language of the industry.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
The sad thing about Africa is that there is no good integration amongst Africans. We try to integrate outside our own region. We try to integrate with Asia Pacific, with the west… without finding ground for our own selves. If African companies go outside of the continent, yes they have a competitive advantage but don’t have an absolute advantage. Here in Africa they have an absolute advantage. So if they can consolidate within Africa that alone could make a difference. We will be able to rely on ourselves and not on other continents.