LILONGWE ( Stephen Mgalileya Ndhlovu) –Vice-President Saulos Chilima, according to State House website, was born on February 12 1973. What this means is that Chilima became Vice-President at 41. At 37, he was appointed the managing director of Airtel Malawi.
This feat in our political context is remarkable.
There is nothing that would make Chilima attain such a high office at Airtel other than leadership potential and business acumen—nothing indeed other than his remarkable performance within the system and where he served prior to Airtel.
During his reign at Airtel, the telecommunication company, it can be claimed, was more popular than DPP and MCP combined.
According to the State House website, while at the helm of Airtel, Chilima grew the company’s customer base from 1 850 000 in 2010 to 2 800 000 by 2012.
Before then, he hit milestones set out for his sales and distribution portfolio: growth to $150 million in forecasted revenues in 2009 and an increase in subscriber base from 357 000 in 2006 to 1 850 000 in 2010.
During his tenure as the chief executive officer, there were numerous innovations. Airtel jingles were the order of every hour on radio stations. Airtel T-shirts were almost everywhere, perhaps won by every seven people in a group of 10. Airtel suites were planted almost at every corner in the districts in Malawi. Remember Yabooka and Mr Money?
Chilima’s decision to be Peter Mutharika’s running-mate in the 2014 Tripartite Elections, ditching the lucrative post at Airtel, was a mark of boldness. It shows how much he can dare, stretch and apply himself.
While serving as the Vice-President of Malawi, Chilima has applied himself in many ways.
He has been known for his excellent time management and strict application of decorum required of professional life.
Examples have been cited where officers reporting late for meetings or dressed shabbily have been closed out and sent back, respectively.
Judging from the transformation that went on at Airtel during his tenure, it could be said that he has the judgement and audacity to initiate change.
As a Veep, his energies are limited by how much room he is given to manoeuvre. He is a vice, perhaps often acting on instruction and in a delegated capacity, and providing advice, which can be taken or ignored.
Chilima has also demystified the presidency, at least the vice-presidency. He is a gentleman who mixes freely with people at church, conferences and other functions.
Chilima, it could be argued, is an embodiment of the kind of leadership that this country needs.
Looking at his professional track record, he has potential that the country is not exploiting.
Many within the ranks of DPP have and may still try to silently block Chilima from unleashing his potential and attempting to run for the presidency on the ticket of the party.
But, if truth be told, DPP should ignore Chilima at its own peril.
He became CEO of Airtel Malawi without anyone’s help. He was spotted for the running-mate position by Peter Mutharika based on his achievements as well as his sales and marketing acumen‑‑‑‑without anyone’s help. He built his resume, skills and networks on his own.
Well, DPP can ignore him, but remember that he does not need anyone to be spotted or turn around situations.
The ruling party and its stalwarts should not lie to themselves that it did not benefit from Chilima during the 2014 election.
He belongs to a cadre of young world leaders in the legion of former US president Barack Obama, France’s incumbent Emmanuel Macron, San Marino’s Vanessa D’Ambrosio and others, who have attained power on their own track record.