Amanda Dambuza is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of 5 year old consulting firm Uyandiswa – a 100% Black Women Owned (BWO) organisation. A seasoned entrepreneur, Dambuza carved out a corporate career over more than 15 years in the South African financial services industry. A mentor and an incubator of multiple black-women owned businesses, Dambuza also runs graduate programmes through Uyandiswa. She feels strongly about “creating platforms that truly transform and empower other upcoming entrepreneurs,” and is committed to creating sustainable employment opportunities for South African youth. Most recently, she was the overall winner of the Veuve Cliquot ELLE Boss award 2017.
We sat down with Dambuza to discuss why business leaders in Africa need to do more to give back, and get some of her advice for young, ambitious entrepreneurs.
Heading a company with an annual turnover nearing R100 million and around 75 staff, Amanda Dambuza is a busy woman. “There is nothing more valuable than time. Time is money” she says. Maintaining her business interests at the same time as raising a family and making time for herself means that Dambuza has to be tactical about the decisions that she makes. “The foundation of who you are as a person is really critical because it sets the tone for everything else. Over time you’re able to identify what enables your goal in life and what disables it.” Dambuza invests in herself by not working on Mondays, which she dedicates entirely to herself.
Despite the demands of her busy schedule, Dambuza always makes time to prioritise uplifting those around her, especially young graduates. “My purpose in life is really to wake up and see what can I do for another person,” she says. “We have so many brilliant people out there, graduates without jobs who are smart, highly dynamic people who just need an opportunity! You’re dealing with people, dynamics, societies and systems that have been like this for many years.”
With South Africa’s Mail & Guardian stating the youth unemployment rate at around 5.9 million people, there is a clear need for more opportunities for young people. “Nothing is more disheartening than the fact that a large part of unemployed youth are degree-holders and graduates,” says Dambuza. “I believe in being inclusive in my approach and engaging people across the spectrum. You need to be nurturing them and especially working on those who are really worth your investment and time.”
With the shadow of the apartheid system still affecting South Africa, many young people in South Africa still remain constrained by systemic issues which give them limited access to many opportunities, including education. “The promise we were made is that education is the key to success; and that it would set us free – and now we are stuck,” says Dambuza. But she sees her success as a means of being able to contribute to solving this problem. “My privilege is that I have access to opportunities, access to decision makers, and access to information. As leaders and business women, we are in a position to positively impact others’ lives, and we cannot take that for granted.”
At the same time, Dambuza reiterates that young people should not close themselves off from realising that opportunity could be anywhere – even in places where they don’t expect it. “Sometimes networks are not all about people in the same industry or corporate spaces. Sometimes you could find networks that work for you in social spaces you enjoy, or even in places like your church.” She says that young people need to be able to not only trust in themselves, but also be open to new things. “Use your intuition to get to the best decisions and best results. Be strategic in your thinking and let nothing stop you. You are what you believe you are. You will be what you believe you are. People will treat you the way they believe you treat yourself.”
Young people hold a lot of potential – and often their biggest obstacles to realising that, says Dambuza, are themselves. “The only demons we have to fight is what’s inside our heads, the self-doubt. The single biggest thief in our lives is fear.”
Overcoming this can only result in success, believes Dambuza. “Success is not reserved for a select few. It is a birth right. It is waiting on your table, right under your nose, wondering when you are going to grab it.
Decide what your success looks like. Act every day to enable that success,” she says.
“Enjoy the ride; there is no destination, only the journey. The dream life is now!”