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Lee Muzala,The Brains Behind Mpoto

Lee Muzala is one of Zambia’s most talented ICT4D specialists. He is specialising in the design and development of applications, databases and websites. CEO of private ICT consultancy firm Trio Consult Ltd. (www.trio-consult.com), Lee manages Mpoto and a number of other projects, including Study Mate (www.studymate.info).

Are you fed up of finding out about opportunities only after the submission deadline has passed? Mpoto is a new on-line tender information service for Zambian companies and foreign companies interested in doing business in Zambia. A few clicks of the mouse will take you to www.mpoto.info – the home of tenders and business opportunities in Zambia. The brain behind this new service is this is Lee Muzala.

Women in Leadership (Wil) talked to Lee about Mpoto and some of his many other exciting ICT initiatives.

Q: Lee, where did the idea for Mpoto come from?

A:Mpoto was born out of the frustrations I experienced as a startup entrepreneur in trying to find out about tenders and business opportunities easily and quickly. So I used my IT skills to set up a platform that would enable me and other entrepreneurs to get hold of information about in-progress tenders.

Q:When you graduated did you think then that you would be transforming the way business is done in Zambia?

A: I trained as a systems analyst and computer programmer, way back in the mid-1990s. I knew that one day those skills would help me contribute in one way or another to the way that business is done here. I remember my first job was creating computer programmes - accounting systems, fuel management systems, warehouse control. Over the years, I’ve designed and developed a range of information systems for various organisations so in a sense my current projects are an extension of the work I started several years ago.

Q: You’ve talked about your education, what else do you think got you where you are today?

A:I firmly believe that no-one can make things happen for you. You have to do it yourself. And to succeed, you have to work hard. The ICT industry is very competitive and has a number of different specialised facets. I chose to focus on those things I could do really well and consistently perfecting them. It sounds like a cliché but it’s true to say that you also have to have a passion for what you do. I have always wanted to do things differently or to do the things that other people may deem impossible. The feeling of overcoming these challenges is awesome. I love researching how things work and coming up with ways those things can be made even better using ICT. Being one step ahead of the competition has always been something I cherish and strive to achieve. By the time my competitors have caught up with me, I’m already on to something new.

Q: If you could meet and be like one person in the world (living or not) who would that be and why?

A: Bill Gates! That man has been an inspiration to me and the way I work– always striving to make a difference and leave an impact. Bill Gates, being an expert programmer himself, was closely involved in all of Microsoft’s creations and was never carried away by the billions he made along the way. One would have thought that after making so much money, he would have retired to an idyllic island to relax but instead he continues to focus his time, energy and his billions on making the world a better place through his philanthropic foundation. Through my years of admiring Bill Gates and his achievements, I have seen that he is not a seeker of fame and fortune, even though he has both. To me, he comes across as a maker of impact. He has achieved all this through Microsoft on the one hand and by reducing inequality on the other hand through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is doing very commendable work around the world, including Zambia.

Q: After Mpoto, what’s next for you?

A: My goals have helped shape my life and career. I started my business because of the long-term goals I had set for myself. One of my current goals is to start a fund that will help a whole bunch of orphaned children to receive a decent education. Right now I am working on the Study Mate project that will see Zambian students discover digital learning and revision materials.

Q: Is there a book, movie, song, poem, saying or quote that has changed your world view or carried you through difficult times?

A: That has to be the movie Hotel Rwanda. In as much as it exposed the harsh reality of terror and hatred among countrymen, it also taught me about the importance of world peace and tolerance. I have a friend of Tutsi origin, now settled in Canada. Right at the height of the genocide in Rwanda we were with him at college at Evelyn Hone and I remember very clearly his moments of insecurity. The movie helped me understand his fears.

Q: What advice would you give to our readers about being successful entrepreneurs?

A:My simple advice to anyone reading this article is to know what you do and do what you know! I have seen many people go into the same business as their neighbour, friend or relative. A business built around your individual strengths and talents will have a much greater chance of success. And remember, it’s not all about profits, but also about being happy managing and growing your business day in and day out.

Q: And finally Lee, would you care to share a book that has made a significant impact on you.

A: My book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman is a Nobel Laureate and in this book looks at how we think, react and reach conclusions – fascinating stuff.

For more email: info@alchemyhrss.com

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