Jan 21

‘This is the right time to return to Zambia’

This is the homecomer story of David Chansa, Chief Risk Officer at FNB Zambia, who returned to Zambia last year after living in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa for 25 years. Homecoming Revolution facilitated his return home through its executive recruitment services. 

I had only worked in Zambia for just over two years post-graduation from university.  I made the decision to leave because of the tough economic conditions during the last years of Kenneth Kaunda’s rule.  At the time, there was very little for a young professional to look forward to.

I left Zambia for Swaziland as it offered opportunities for “economic refuge”. I started out teaching as it was the quickest job I could get. I then decided to develop myself as an accounting professional via self-study. I moved to South Africa after completing my studies as Swaziland offered limited opportunities to absorb newly qualified CA’s into their system.

I did not work on expatriate terms but rather on local conditions as I was a permanent resident who later naturalised as a South African.  I think the treatment you receive as an expat is often a mirror of what you give.  There are a few odd instances when this correlation does not hold, but this phenomenon is not unique to South Africa.  I think I observed this in other markets that I was exposed to.  I felt that I was treated quite well.  The opportunities are obviously unequal but this is to be expected as is the case in all jurisdictions for non-indigenous workers. Incidentally, the one instance I had of unfair treatment emanated from a non-South African leader, so expat on expat violence is perhaps a bigger threat in the workplace.

South Africa was a great place to work.  It had lots of opportunities for those willing to put in extra effort, but as with all economies when they slow down, the pressure gradually becomes apparent on employees of foreign origin.  This does not take away from the great time, opportunity and growth that I was privileged to receive during my time there.

I felt that after 25 years away from Zambia, there was a lot I could contribute to rebuilding the country and somewhat pay back for the free education I received. I also wanted to be able to make a tangible difference to my community through projects that uplift the level of financial literacy. In addition, I had always felt that I would return to Zambia when I retired and working in the country until retirement should give me a better landing platform.

I made the move in December last year after getting a job with FNB Zambia.  Being back home has been awesome! People at work have been receptive to the ideas I contribute and reconnecting with friends and family has been a wonder.

The worst thing about being home is the bureaucracy on clearing personal goods at the border.  It takes so many days that you almost feel unwanted.  It does ultimately come to pass, but at huge time cost.  The government needs to work out a solution around this as the unnecessary friction created by the so-called clearing agents working in cohorts with the customs officials can only be there to advance corruption.  The inefficiency by these able-bodied officers is shocking.

This is the right time to come back to Zambia as there is quite a lot happening.  You will be surprised at the little difference in the quality of life, so it is not really worth being out there as a foreigner when comparing the lifestyle you would have back home.