Don’t jump in blindly, weigh the benefits before you commit

Angela Ndambuki is the CEO, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI). PHOTO| COURTESY

Angela, a former student of Loreto High School Limuru, is an alumnus of the University of Nairobi and University of Edinburgh, where she studied her Bachelors of Laws, and Masters of Laws in Intellectual Property Law respectively. She was the CEO of Property Rights Intellectual Society of Kenya (PRISK) before the appointment. Before all these, she was part of the all-girl music group, Tattuu.


What challenges did you face as you went about re-inventing yourself from musician to becoming a professional in the corporate world?

It was not a difficult transition because singing was a hobby. We formed the music group after I had attained my Bachelor of Laws degree, so I did not consider music my career, though I loved it. I was a lawyer in the making, so where I am today was a natural progression.


What advice would you give a young person considering a drastic change of careers?

My advice is simple: take one thing at a time and weigh its benefits before giving it your attention.


At 38, you are certainly the most youthful CEO that KNCCI has had. What motivated you to apply for the job? 

I am drawn to making a difference wherever I work. I was looking for a bigger challenge than the one my position as the CEO of Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) offered.


Why do you think you were picked for the job? 

From the feedback I received, KNCCI was looking for young, vibrant and visionary leadership to drive it to the next level. My experience in association management and advocacy rhymed with Chamber’s vision. This convinced the board that I was the right person.


What was your first day like sitting on your second CEO’s chair?

I was very excited about all the opportunities ahead. My first assignment was in Dubai, where I made a presentation on the business opportunities available in the country. I realised that my role was greater than I had expected, as I represented the country’s business voice internationally.


How does your law career influence your management competency?  

My legal experience enables me to think analytically when handling weighty matters of management. I worked with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and Performers Rights Society of Kenya which both dealt with rights issues in different capacities; human rights and intellectual property. At the Chamber, I am applying this experience in various capacities.


What is the core mandate of KNCCI?

This is a member-organisation, the voice of the business community, and so advocates for the creation of a favourable commercial, trade and investment environment to support enterprise expansion in trade development, policy and advocacy, SME development and county development.


Does the Chamber have room for youthful entrepreneurs?

Yes, KNCCI has a programme called Youth in Business, whose sole focus is the youth, as well as the Youth Enterprise Committee, which teaches them how to utilise the 30 per cent procurement opportunity the government set aside for them. We also have programs in capacity building, access to finance and markets. Chamber’s County Business Development Centers provide information and training to this age group on how to participate in trade and investment. Also, we recently launched the Import and Export (IMPEX) Business Club and the Chamber Enterprises Club members’ networking. Our plan as Chamber is to make 2018 a year for the youth to create robust enterprises. Our focus on this group is further exhibited by the new Women Youth and Disabled (WYD) Club that will focus on supporting start-ups by women, youth and persons with disabilities.


How can youth in their 20s apply to become KNCCI members?

All you need to do is register online through our website One could also contact our membership department for more information. You also have the opportunity to register to be member of any of the 47 County Chapters.


The industrial and employment sectors have raised concern about lack of adequately skilled youth to drive Vision 2030. What are you doing to address this concern? 

KNCCI has signed a memorandum of understanding with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), the aim to see how we can spruce up labour skills for the market. Partnerships with the Strathmore Business School and Riara University are in the pipeline. KNCCI is also actively involved in programs such as Kenya Youth Employment and Skills (KYES), Kenya Education for Employment Program (KEFEP), International Finance Corporation (IFC) on corporate governance, and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on SMEs’ business impacting skills.


What advice would you give the youth regarding employment and entrepreneurship?

If you’re determined to be an entrepreneur, be innovative by focusing on solving a social need. You can achieve this by turning your passion into an activity, not necessarily through a career or employment.

A job, however, gives you an idea of how a business operates in terms of professionalism and development, but it’s not a guarantee of running a business successfully. You can always receive training on how to run a rewarding enterprise though.


Are you a member of any professional or social clubs/associations and how does that impact you?

I am a member of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), valuable networking forums that have make it possible to share best practices.


What do you do for leisure?

I love listening to music and watching theatre performances, having been a thespian with Phoenix Players back in 1999.

I also enjoy spending quality time with my family and catching up with friends. I plan to take up a hobby, but time is a bit restrictive right now.