Monica Musonda worked for Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, for 15 years. The Zambian-born lawyer served as the director of legal and corporate affairs at Dangote Group, where she oversaw the construction of a Dangote cement factory in Zambia.
A qualified lawyer since 1996, Musonda’s dream wanted to be a partner at one of Africa’s top law firms. However, everything changed for her when she moved to Nigeria to work with the Dangote Group. “It opened my eyes to business, to the different opportunities that our continent offers, and to a new thinking,” she told Howwemadeitinafrica.
According to her, she was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of young Nigerians who were taking the leap and working for themselves. “They are not afraid to risk everything for what they believe in,” she said.
While working in Nigeria, she occasionally took trips back home. At home, she noticed the Zambian economy was dominated by foreigners and locals played little role in the local economy. With the support and encouragement of her ex-boss, Dangote, she moved back to Zambia to establish Java Foods. The company specializes in processing surplus wheat flour into instant noodles and pasta.
Despite her experience with Dangote Group, establishing Java Foods did not come easy for the lawyer turned entrepreneur. One of the challenges she confronted was the operational startup cost like distribution and market. “You make a number of assumptions when you start and then quickly realize that the market is in fact very different and the consumer in Zambia (and Southern Africa) is driven by different things,” she said.
Musonda is a dual-qualified English solicitor and Zambian advocate with over 16 years of post-qualification experience. She started her law practice working for the Attorney General of Zambia. She later moved to work with Clifford Chance, a private law firm in London, and Edward Nathan in South Africa where she rose to the rank of partner.
Musonda also worked at the International Finance Corporation (Washington, DC) before being hired by the Dangote Group as Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs and was later promoted to General Counsel.
At Dangote, she was put in charge of the firm’s $400 investment into Zambia to build the country’s largest integrated cement plant.
Working with Dangote is one experience Musonda cherishes most. According to her, her former boss brings out the best in all his employees.
She said: “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.”