Bogolo Joy Kenewendo — Changing the Narrative on Young, Female Leadership in Africa.
Back in 2018, at only the age of 30, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo became one of Africa’s few young and female government ministers, serving as Botswana’s youngest ever member of parliament, youngest female cabinet minister in the history of the country and the youngest cabinet minister in Africa during her tenure.
Needless to say, there is low representation of women in leadership and decision-making positions across Africa. We caught up with her to better understand what inspired her journey and in turn how we can address the delays and limits that compromise many a girl’s ability to dream.
Here are her responses to some of the questions we posed:
What inspired you to take the life path that you did?
I have always had a passion for impactful positive change. Coming from one of the poorest regions in Botswana, I had to believe that we could be better. I wanted to get involved in policy making that could change life for many of the poor I saw growing up. The career path as an Economist and politician were both inspired by Former President Mogae who led the transformation of Botswana to a middle income country by pushing for the ‘tiger economies’ level of economic growth and reduction of unemployment. As a mentor, he made me believe that these were two paths that could create impact directly for many.
What’s been the most important skill that you’ve developed on your professional journey?
First and foremost, I have learned leadership. And second, if I was to coin a word of my own, I would say ‘learner-bility’— this to me, means the ability to constantly learn and grow my knowledge base. Being open to learning makes me adaptable to different situations and posts. And as such I have developed servant leadership, a very important skill to keep a large team motivated and clients (the public) to feel like they are part of the development process.
What has been your favourite thing about working in your role and your least favourite thing?
My favourite thing about serving in public office has been seeing the change that has come about from our decision-making. Being able to see the direct and indirect impact has been a memorable experience. My team and I managed to stimulate both domestic and foreign investment, create jobs and restore business confidence. We managed to get people interested and inspired renewed hope in our economy. An everyday citizen became an active participant in creating and imagining the economic future of Botswana.
What piece of advice would you give to someone working in a similar space and/or looking to start a career in your industry?
I’d advise them to keep going. Our future depends on it. I’d encourage them to rely on their passion to drive them when things get tough. They also need to ensure that they are abreast with the latest research and information. They must read and keep reading. In addition to being active learners, they must develop a keen ear. Learn to listen to those who you work with and be inclusive in their approaches.
What’s the most exciting thing coming down the pipeline for you (can be personal, professional or both)?
I’m looking forward to going back to being an Economist, that was my first professional love and I’m excited about getting back to it. I’m also looking forward to consulting and problem-solving in different environments. Personally, I look forward to the freedom to serve in both the private sector and government. I look forward to interacting more and exchanging ideas with my peers for the benefit of my personal growth.
Needless to say, Bogolo’s journey is a beacon of hope for young female leadership in Africa. Her story highlights that women of any age, as long as they have the ability, must be involved in Africa’s decision-making process.
Keep up with Bogolo Joy Kenewendo’s journey here.