Alumni in the spotlight: Dingani Banda
From a small town in remote and financially disadvantaged rural Eastern Zambia to a senior position at the country's Revenue Authority in its capital, Lusaka, via Coopers & Lybrand and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). This is the life and career trajectory (so far) of Dingani Banda (Full-time MBA 2008).
Story by Brian Bollen
Born in 1973, Dingani Banda spent most of his childhood in the rural districts of Chipata and Lundazi, where he completed primary and secondary education before moving to the capital city as one of four students out of a school population of around 200 selected to attend the University of Zambia. There he studied for a BSc in mathematics as a major with a minor in computer science and graduated in 1996.
Obtaining a degree is not a guarantee of immediate employment in most developing countries, notes Dingani. He spent about nine months job-hunting in Lusaka before landing a temporary position with a local start-up computer firm. He stayed there for about six months before getting his first “real” job as an assistant consultant with the then international professional services firm, Coopers & Lybrand (now operating as Grant Thornton in Zambia).
He spent what he describes as four rigorous years at the firm serving clients from varied industries and working on complex team-oriented assignments. ‘The depth of experience attained from this exposure was priceless and provided a springboard for my early career exploits,’ he recalls.
‘When I decided to leave consultancy, among other job offers available, I decided to join a local water utility firm as a billing systems administrator and seven months was later promoted to head the IT department at the age of 28, which was unconventional then. I was working on four-year “career spans” then and in 2004, I chose to pursue a career in tax administration with the Zambia Revenue Authority as an assistant commissioner responsible for data management and intelligence.’
This is the position he held at the time he was given the opportunity to pursue an MBA at RSM through a scholarship from the Netherlands Fellowship Programme. ‘This is provided through the courteous generosity of the people of Netherlands. I will forever be grateful for this rare opportunity,’ he says.
‘The courses were exciting and provided aspects that I could relate to in practical life. But what stands out is the team dynamics among students, which were great, and the desire for excellence in group work was phenomenal. The business case competitions and pitching before real-life captains of industry was an exceptional experience which effectively prepared me for the current application of principles in both my personal and professional life,’ he says.
Dingani credits his time spent studying at RSM as playing a crucial role in his career development since. ‘The practical approach of the RSM MBA, in which there is a high level simulation of a real-life work environment and its related dynamics, provided an easier transition from the academic to the pragmatic application of the knowledge,’ he says. ‘The opportunities and platforms I have accessed have been beyond my initial imagination.’
‘For me, the Personal Leadership Development had the most profound impact on my life. With my humble rural background, the RSM experience greatly raised my confidence and expectations of how I could contribute to better my family, community and nation.’
Speaking of family, Dingani is happily married to his university sweetheart, Helen, who is a corporate lawyer. They have three children, a boy and two girls: Khumbo (aged 16), Amana (8) and Sopani (5).
During the RSM programme, Dingani spent three months researching and consulting at Rabo International Advisory Services, and was attached to an affiliate bank based in Zambia. As part of the project, he worked on the concept of mobile banking as a distribution channel for services. This resulted in the implementation of one of a number of successful and pioneer mobile banking products on the Zambian market.
Upon graduation from RSM, he served as team leader responsible for business process re-engineering in the modernisation project for the Domestic Taxes Division. He held this position for about two years before being promoted to the position of deputy commissioner (director) in charge of operations for Customs Services. He was formally appointed to this position in March 2012. Five years later, in March 2017, he was re-assigned to lead the Zambia Revenue Authority’s newly created Modernisation and Corporate Strategy Division.
‘Overall, I am pleased to have been involved at a high leadership level in successfully executing cross-cutting transformational modernisation reforms in tax administration in Zambia in the past couple of years,’ he says, summarising the progress made on his watch.
Domestic revenue mobilisation
One of the fundamental expectations of his current role is to assist through strategic reforms to drive Zambia's Revenue to Gross Domestic Product ratio from around 16 per cent to above 20 per cent over the next few years. Indeed, at the time of writing, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 Report ranks Zambia among the top ten reformers, and two of the key reforms relate to activities in the realms of tax administration.
Dingani led the implementation of a revised data capture model for Customs declarations, which has led to the generation of additional funds that are used to sustainably support some of the modernisation reforms. ‘Tax revenue is the “life blood” of any nation,’ he says. ‘Zambia depends highly on domestic revenue mobilisation for the execution of its national budget, and in the 2018 fiscal measures the expectation is to collect 68.5 per cent of the national budget from domestic sources.’
After all this positivity and in particular his enthusiasm for his time at RSM, is there perhaps, anything on the downside he would like to share? ‘Coming from the hot and sunny Sub-Saharan Africa, I would say winter in Rotterdam was not a pleasant experience for me,’ he laughs. ‘But I guess that was part of the experience ...’