Lydène Kombo-Packou CA(SA), from Brazzaville in the Congo, is the Head of Internal Audit and Forensic Services at MTN Congo. She came to South Africa at 16 in 2005. Financial support for her studies was provided by her mother who earned around R8 000 at the time.
‘I had only one choice – to make it,’ she says. ‘Language was a barrier, and I took English classes for more than six months. Tertiary education is expensive in South Africa and I did not have a bursary. After several rejections, I was offered a place at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) but first I had to pass tests. I got a 50% pass, and the rest is history.’
In her fourth year, KPMG offered Lydène a contract. The next challenge was discrimination in the workplace for being black, not assertive enough, a woman, and having failed the first board examination. Thanks to her smarts and excellent managers and partners, including the late Mathumo Mapaya, who became her mentors, she grew into a resilient, confident person.
‘The CA(SA) training not only equips you with professional skills but also instils in you leadership values and prepares you for the real business world. You do not get put into the “accountant” box. With my qualification I have been able to open doors that are closed to many. Be warned, though, it is not for the faint-hearted.’
After an absence of more than a decade, she returned to the country of her birth. ‘I had a comfortable life in South Africa, but the drive to go back home grew stronger every day. I was approached by PwC Congo and took a cut in salary in return for gaining valuable work experience in Central Africa, a rather challenging environment to be in. I had the advantage of knowing the culture, as well as a strong academic background and professional experience.’
At age 30 she became the youngest executive at MTN Congo. Lydène is drawn to good causes, especially those promoting women and youth empowerment. In 2017 she joined the Butterfly Association which offers English classes for girls, motivational talks, women’s rights seminars, and yearly projects to equip young women with skills.
‘Together with my sisters, we have a project dear to us that will focus on the rights of young girls, sponsoring tuition fees, mentoring, and putting an end to violence against women,’ says Lydène.
‘At PwC Congo, I had the privilege of working as a financial professional for the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and malaria. During this time, I worked closely with the country team at the Global Fund Secretariat to evaluate and monitor activities before, during and after the implementation of a grant. I learnt that I could use my skills and my passion to accelerate the end of these diseases. I feel humbled to have worked in that environment. At MTN Congo, my colleagues and I are putting in place a women empowerment programme which is an initiative of the MTN Group.’
She is aiming to one day be on the covers of Accountancy SA and Forbes magazine. ‘I have two sisters and four nieces to inspire. This is why I have chosen to invest in further education for the next 18 months, and I will be doing an executive MBA with HEC Paris. Who knows what will be next? CEO, Group CEO, Entrepreneur? My biggest dream is to inspire at least one young woman every day to have the courage and strength to be herself and to pursue her dreams even when she can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.’