The Eastern and Southern African Management Institute director-general, Professor Bonard Mwape, says Africa needs a new generation of professionals who can have a positive influence on the companies and lives of people in the countries they work in.
Presenting the keynote address at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in Zimbabwe annual conference, which opened last Friday at the Victoria Falls Elephant Hills Resort, he said the theme of the conference, which is “Chartered Secretary — Making a Difference”, was particularly appropriate.
“I believe that this theme is apt at this point in time, because Zimbabwe and indeed Africa at large is yearning for professionals who can make a difference to the economies and lives of our people,” he said
Professor Mwape added that the world today is yearning for professionals who can stand tall and be counted.
He said public and private interest entities, governments, sports governing bodies and professionals from all fraternities have been involved in scandals of such disproportionate magnitudes that it was difficult to trust anyone who called themselves a professional.
“I think it is correct to say that Zimbabwe is where it is today due to the professionalism or indeed the lack of it by various players.
“When one sets out to talk about professionalism, perhaps the first question to ask is: ‘What is professionalism?’
“In my view, professionalism has nothing to do with the profession; it is all about the person. This is because professionalism is not the job you do. It is how you do the job.
“Professionalism therefore consists of attitudes, beliefs and behaviour, sometimes called good character. Therefore attitudes and beliefs are very important when we talk about making a difference,” he said.
Professor Mwape pointed out that nobody could see inside another person’s heart and that a person’s judgement of someone else’s behaviour could be affected by his own biases and subjectivity. It was important, therefore, to remain humble and guarded when judging the character of others based on the partial information one had.
“It is important to understand that judging behaviour is the very thing that others will do about us,” he added.
He went on to say that chartered secretaries should acquire the courage to use their skills to make a difference, adding that professionalism is anchored on having the confidence to do the right thing and on continuous learning.
Professor Mwape emphasised that the failure or success of any group of people, be it a company, football team or even a nation, depends on individuals.
“Professionalism without integrity is like a house built upon sand. Integrity starts with honesty in whatever you do or whatever advice you give. It comes with trustworthiness followed through with.
“Professionalism goes with integrity. Africa today suffers from an integrity deficiency syndrome. We have seen the loss of billions of dollars through procurement fraud, ghost workers, especially in public institutions, transfer pricing of Africa’s major exports, kickbacks and bribery.
“All these are because of lack of integrity by men and women who society has entrusted with running private and public institutions.
“It is pleasing though that you as chartered secretaries have set out to make a difference and I hope you will start by focusing on your integrity as a person and profession and spread the word around,” he said.