Chileshe Kapwepwe

Zambian accountant and corporate executive

Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, is a Zambian accountant and corporate executive, who serves as the Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), effective 18 July 2018. She was elected at the 20th Heads of State COMESA summit in Lusaka, Zambia's capital city.



"Interview: COMESA Secretary General – Chileshe Kapwepwe"

"Interview: COMESA Secretary General – Chileshe Kapwepwe", New African Woman, by Regina Jane. Retrieved 2023/11/26.
  • But we should applaud ourselves where we have women in these positions because in some respects we have moved up, more so in the corporate world where there is more of a level playing field than in politics. This perhaps is because in politics the chances for women to make it higher up are harder.
  • There are just so many complex issues that come in when women are vying for positions in politics – issues that usually suppress women all the time, but not the men.
  • I would say, yes. You know, when a woman gets into a position of power, even me as secretary general of COMESA, a lot of people assumed it was given to me because “it’s time a woman led COMESA”. But the facts are that I did not get into this position as a token.
  • But had it been a man taking up the same position, none of this would have come up. It is just taken on face value that men are capable and that’s why they get into these high positions.
  • What you can achieve or what you are capable of is taken away simply because you are a woman.
  • The assumption is always that if it’s a man, he will succeed and a woman will struggle and fail. This mindset needs to be changed and done away with.
  • The skills and abilities anyone brings to a job are what matter, not because you are a man or woman.
  • We have many women now leading big financial institutions, which many people never imagined a woman could lead.
  • For example, we know cases where if a woman just raises her voice to make a point, she is often told she is hysterical or aggressive, but when a man does the same it’s accepted as being assertive.
  • All women have to be aware of the pitfalls and these stereotypes and should equip themselves with the knowledge, experience and a lot of confidence, so that when they engage you in a discussion, they see past the woman and notice the person who is ably positioning herself and is able to deliver.
  • As a strong advocate of advancing women in all positions, from boardroom to politics, I however also believe that while quotas are welcome, we have to be careful not to just put women in positions for the sake of filling the quotas. We have to have women fill these positions because they are qualified and capable of doing the job. Because if they are not, then we create a situation where it’s like, “look we gave a woman a chance but she couldn’t do the job”. So we have to make sure women are ready when the quotas come, because we are able, we are capable, we are qualified and have the right skills.
  • I think that issue starts with education, because you can only empower women financially once they are educated. They need to be empowered with knowledge, be given resources including training, to sharpen their capabilities. And by that I mean at all levels – even at the most basic level. For example, if a woman is trying to set up a small stall, it is important to empower them with some financial literacy.
  • Solutions don’t just lie in the boardrooms run by managers, they can start from the grassroots. And solutions that are technology-based are great because you can reach more people.
  • Once women are able to have this strong base, they will have a much stronger voice to speak up against exclusion.
  • My belief is that where there are programmes supporting women in more practical ways, in terms of policy, deliberate structures and frameworks that enhance their commercial activities or financial inclusion, access to credit and more, the result is that women do even better and succeed at all levels of society.
  • Firstly, the sky is the limit. They should believe in themselves, but also they should equip themselves with quality skills and education. They have to be aware that they cannot just dream and hope it happens. They need to be ready and equipped with the right skills when that big opportunity comes calling.
  • But I think it is important for all women who have succeeded and achieved in their own right, to find the time to mentor and create reality for this future generation.
  • I also believe that no matter at what level of your career, as a woman you have to have a good balance between your work life and your family life.
  • Even as we juggle both worlds, we have to stay true to ourselves – remain the strong and able woman that you are – and always remember we will never turn into a man. Stay true to yourself and achieve what you need to achieve, and get your job done.
  • I think a new African woman is confident, assertive, brave, proud and ready to accomplish anything in any field. And the current generation, unlike in the past, have an added advantage of real-life inspirational examples of women who have achieved so much.
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