When Maybin Madiba Mudenda was 15 years old, he sold CDs and blank cassette tapes across the back of threadbare seats on the train on his way to school from Livingstone to Lusaka. It is a heck of a long train ride to where Mudenda sits and sells now, in a leather backed chair with a polished table in his offices at African Grey Insurance, in the heart of Lusaka. In his pocket he has over $9.5 million, enough to buy a pile of CDs that could derail a train or match his mountain of ambition.
“Give me five years and I’ll be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA magazine, there with Adrian Gore and Patrice Motsepe,” he says with a smile.
It may take longer. On the FORBES AFRICA 50 Richest List, Motsepe is ranked 11th with $2.7 billion and Gore 45th with $460 million.
It’s not a worry for Mudenda, who makes his money carrying risk. He is of a new generation of confident, cool and savvy Zambians. He started out in logistics for Oxfam and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the drought ridden bush around Nangweshi, in the Western Province of Zambia. The contracts dried up, so did Mudenda’s job. Out of the blue stepped the appropriately named Saviour Konie, known as the father of Zambian insurance. Konie gave him a chance as a salesperson for ZIGI Insurance in 2000.
Money proved the spur. Mudenda’s first commission was $2,000.
“Now that’s when life started to get interesting,” says Mudenda.
A year later, he was confident enough to make a bold move to sell in Zambia’s Copperbelt, the lifeblood of the Zambian economy. The mines needed insurance badly, but few took the trouble to sell it. Mudenda didn’t need an invitation and made $50,000 in his first year.
No sooner had the dust settled on the copper mines, along came another piece of luck. Sandra Valenzo, an Italian working in Zambia and owner of VS Cargos, wanted to move large amounts of copper. Again Mudenda stepped in and oversaw the movement of 10,000 tons of copper from the Democratic Republic of Congo to South Africa in a deal worth $250,000 that earned him 20% commission.
Twelve years later, Mudenda is a multimillionaire. He’s never looked back. He holds 50% of African Grey Insurance which is valued at $6 million and 20% of Genesis Finance Limited which is valued at $3 million. He also owns the $1-million Insizwe Consult , a $2-million 2,000-hectare farm, Muccabella Farms, in Chisamba as well as the Kabanana House and Halen Kaunda House, in Lusaka, valued at $650,000 each.
Through a string of canny deals, Mudenda has also garnered shares with H&F Hydraulics, a company based in South Africa worth $125,000, and 25% stakes in Burton Karya Resources and Kurema Resources.
“The new generation now wants to come out. The older generation still lives in the fear that if you talk about your wealth, the politicians will still come and haunt you. You will find guys that will call you and say ‘no you mustn’t tell people about your wealth. People will put some sort of juju on you. You are attracting commissions to you’. I have got nothing to hide,” says Mudenda.
Among his assets are cars that are the envy of most people he passes in the street. A Mercedes Benz SL500, ML500, E300, the new S Class and a Land Cruiser are parked in his garage. It is a long drive from the tiny apartment he shared 15 years ago.
“We used to have nothing. We used to live in a little two bedroom flat in Northmead, Buchi Road. My mom gave us a Toyota Camry 1998/99 model. We were comfortable, but we didn’t have all these luxuries,” he says.
Mudenda says Zambians must not be afraid to start their own businesses.
“The next generation must go for what you think is right for you. Most young Zambians believe in being workers. They are so scared of being entrepreneurs. But you need to go out and fight to get the business. I’ve got files of people who I’ve been to school with that could do it. You know what I’ve started doing now? I’ve started employing them as agents. That’s what Konie did for me,” says Mudenda.
Mudenda might not be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA anytime soon, but with more deals on the way he could put himself in the fast lane. At the very least he plans on shaking hands with the men he looked up to when he had nothing.
Source: FORBES AFRICA