Referring to her time in Mozambique, Nilza Mngomezulu says: ‘You won’t know the limits of your strength until you test yourself.’ This statement has proved to be her motto in life
Growing up in an underprivileged family Nilza soon realised that she only had one option to get into university and ultimately realising her dream of becoming a chartered accountant – to do exceptionally well at school. Exceptional it was – five distinctions including a perfect score of 100% in accounting and recognition as one of the Top learners in Gauteng.
This achievement caught the eye and earned her financial support from Deloitte and the Department of Education. This allowed Nilza to follow her dream and study BCom Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg, enabling a career path that would ultimately lead her to becoming a Chartered Accountant in 2014. Today, the CA(SA) designation has opened more career opportunities, recognitions, afforded her the ability to travel, improve her quality of life and provide her with a platform to empower young high school girls.
Today, Nilza Mngomezulu CA(SA) is the Head of Finance: Insurance – Absa Regional Operations. She is responsible for overseeing various Finance outcomes for Absa Group’s five regional Insurance businesses outside of South Africa (Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana). She was previously the CFO of Global Alliance Mozambique, a wholly owned subsidiary of ABSA Group Limited. Nilza is also a Top 35-Under-35 alumnae, having been a finalist in 2019 and Co-Founder of Phenomenal Women Foundation (PWF).
With the flexibility of remote working, Nilza is serving all these countries from South Africa, which means more time for her family and studying towards a Master’s in business leadership.
What must someone consider if they would like to work outside SA?
Working outside of your home country will expose you to new cultures and new ways of thinking and working. This will enhance your soft skills by requiring you to be more adaptable and improve on your communication skills. The experience and independence you gain from working outside of your home country are more valuable in today’s workplaces than having the technical skills.
You won’t know the limits of your strength until you test yourself − just one more reason why working outside of your home country is a fantastic experience.
Thinking on your feet is one of the best skills you will gain while working abroad. Learning to deal with the unexpected and overcome obstacles.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s asking for directions or getting help opening a bank account, sometimes it can be tough to swallow your pride and ask for help.
You get out what you put in − If you make an active effort to learn the local language, respect local customs and adapt to local life, you’ll have a much more enriching experience than if you stay in a safe English-speaking environment or at the hotel. This will minimise feeling like an outsider and being homesick.
What was your role in Mozambique?
I was appointed as the Chief Financial Officer of Global Alliance Mozambique, a wholly owned subsidiary of ABSA Group Limited. Global Alliance is one of the largest insurance providers in Mozambique and specialises in life and short-term insurance as well as pension fund administration. I was one of the key players in driving Absa’s strategy, which was growing its market share in the African continent. I assisted in driving the company’s strategic initiatives to turn around the business from loss-making in previous years to profitability in 2018. I played an active and collaborative role in the closure and remediation of open risk and compliance issues, which contributed to the improvement of the overall control environment and the implementation of tighter controls and streamlined processes.
What were your key lessons during your time in Mozambique?
Working in Mozambique taught me to appreciate each day, even the bad days. It’s a great lesson in letting go of expectations, embracing challenges, and maximising the moment.
Improved language and communication skills − learning other languages while teaching my colleagues the languages I speak.
Gaining insights into another culture − I learnt more about their history, laws, and regulations. Travelling and interacting with locals was key in exploring a new culture.
Having an open mindset − I had to adapt to different cultures, different ways of doing things, and had to always think outside the box. I invested time to understand the country’s laws and regulations that had an impact on my role.
What do you miss most about Mozambique?
I miss its wildlife, beautiful beaches covered with soft golden sand, and rich cultural heritage. I always looked forward to the breath-taking beach view from my office.
Would you say that your experience in Mozambique prepared you for your new role?
Yes, definitely. It has exposed me to the opportunities and challenges that the African continent faces. I am now able to build relationships quickly which will assist me in managing the five African companies that I currently look after. This experience helped me to adapt quickly and think outside the box, but I will still have to invest time in understanding the dynamics of each country.
The kind of doors the designation opens?
It opens the door to a vast range of exciting career opportunities in every sector of business and finance, both in South Africa and internationally. Chartered accountants are in constant demand both at home and abroad, as they are recognised for their technical competence, professional standards and veracity.
Becoming a CA(SA) combines innovative education with mentored work experience to produce accountants who possess a greater ability to analyse and interpret business problems and develop dynamic solutions.
What was your experience as a Top 35 finalist?
It was really an incredible and humbling experience. I had the privilege to connect, interact and build lifelong friendships with top CAs(SA) in the country. This platform has improved my personal brand and has opened endless opportunities.
Tell us more about the Phenomenal Women Foundation?
The organisation was as a result of my passion for education and youth development – the main objective is to address a wide range of social issues facing women and high school girls. This is basically me giving back to the community in which I grew up and the larger society. I utilise my life and working skills to instill leadership skills in the younger generation. I want young girls to open their minds and realise, as I did, that with hard work the opportunities out there are endless.
Travelling helps me relax and relieve stress. When I am refreshed, I focus better at work, make more thoughtful decisions, and my productivity and creativity improve.
Your definition of integrity?
Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. As Finance professionals we have a responsibility to protect and maintain professional standards by representing true and accurate information at all times.