Monica Musonda,The woman who got her inspiration from Aliko Dangote

Monica Musonda became a qualified lawyer back in 1996, and started practicing corporate law soon afterwards working in private practice and in-house for a time period of 15 years. During this time she could not picture herself outside her law career, as she was quoted saying; “If you asked me five years ago where I would see myself today, I would most probably have said something like: “I will be a partner in a pan-African law firm””. She long dreamed to join the pan-African law firm, given she took part in the establishing the Edward Nathan’s Africa Practice back in 2004.

But things didn’t work out as she planned, as she later found herself moving to Nigeria in 2008 where she got a milestone opportunity of working for Mr. Aliko Dangote as the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs at the Dangote Group. During her tenure at this position, she spearheaded a project that established a cement plant back in her home country. It was during her career at the Dangote Group that Musonda appreciated the dynamics of the business world. It opened her eyes to the numerous opportunities that were unexploited back in her home country and Africa in general.

After working in Nigeria and seeing the potential impact that convenient and nutritious foods could have on Zambia’s burgeoning young and fairly urban population, Monica returned to Zambia in 2012 to establish Java Foods. Monica manages the day to day operations of the business and is also responsible for the strategy and capital raising.

By way of background, Monica is a dual qualified English solicitor and Zambian advocate with over 16 years post qualification experience. She begun her legal career working for the Attorney General of Zambia. She then went on to work in private practice for Clifford Chance (London) and Edward Nathan (Johannesburg – where she rose to the rank of partner). She then worked for International Finance Corporation (Washington DC) and for Dangote Group (Lagos) as Director Legal and Corporate Affairs and was later promoted to General Counsel.Monica was the project lead responsible for the Group’s $400m investment into Zambia to build the country’s largest integrated cement plant, due to be completed early 2015. Her experience working with one of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs gave her the impetus to start her own business and in 2012, she moved back to Zambia and set up Java Foods.

Monica currently serves as non-executive director on the Boards of Zambia Sugar Plc, African Life Assurance (subsidiary of Sanlam), Dangote Industries Zambia Limited and sits on the Microsoft4Afrika Advisory Council. She is the immediate past chairperson of Kwacha Pension Trust Fund, Zambia’s largest single employer pension fund. She has also sat on the board of Bank of Zambia (2011-2014). She is a 2013 Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow. Forbes Magazine and Africa Investor named her as one of the leading Young Power Women in Business in Africa in 2013 and 2014 respectively. She sincerely believes that in order to develop our continent, we all must participate and build capacity and so in her spare time, she speaks to the Zambian youth about entrepreneurship and business development.

Another thing that inspired her, the most was the Nigerian entrepreneurial spirit, during her stay in Nigeria she observed very many young people taking risks and venturing out into entrepreneurship. They were not afraid of the risks involved in entrepreneurship, they just believed in themselves. Drawing back on her recollection of her home country Zambia, Musonda took note of how much the Zambian economy was still dominated by foreign investors even after the government opened up the market.

She then identified an opportunity for herself, and drawing from the rich experiences and lessons she learnt working with the “master himself” Aliko Dangote. She moved back to her home country, Zambia and established the Java Foods company: a company that manufactures eeZee brand of instant noodles. She identified how she could tap in on Zambia’s surplus of wheat flour, which she could process (value addition) and sell as pasta and instant noodles.

Working with a visionary is always hard work. He never stopped working, which meant we never stopped working. On the flip side, he emphasized the importance of maintaining humility and focus, being driven and working hard and not being afraid to take calculated risks. His motto is “nothing is impossible. And he was right.