DON’T BE A COPY OF A COPY: INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES LIPENGA
Today’s interview is with Charles Lipenga, a young Entrepreneur/Change-maker from Malawi. This interview will fire you up and challenge to live your dream and be nothing but yourself.
It’s great to have you here today. Tell us, who is Charles Lipenga?
Charles Lipenga is a 27 year old Malawian, graduate from the university of Malawi, 2013 African Union of Architects Award winning young professional African Architect, the 2014 Future Africa Leaders Award winner for his exemplary contribution in education and youth development in Malawi, a YALI (Young African Leaders Initiative) and Mandela Washington fellow, and the 2015 Drivers of Change nominee by Southern Africa Trust for creating solutions for youth unemployment on a mission to eradicate poverty.
He is also the Ambassador of Tomorrow People Org. from Serbia bringing innovations, creating opportunities and developing counties in education. Constantly addressing the importance of education and its strong correlation with economic, political and democratic development, educational systems around the world, and the role of education in achieving SDGs.
Charles is the National Youth Ambassador of Building Bridges from Netherlands. Charles received ownership over the Building Bridges project and identifies local youth entrepreneurs, organizes events, creates blogs and leads other youth ambassadors to find and create solutions to foster youth employment.
In 2015, He was awarded The Youth Personality of the Year by Royalty Inspire. Awarded the 2015-2016 Future Forward ASHOKA Change-maker as the best Young African Leader in The Future of Work in Africa: Innovations in Youth Employment Category sponsored by MasterCard Foundation. Also awarded the OFID scholarship as the active and impactful One Young World 2015-2016 Ambassador, hosting annual gatherings of over 1,500 of the brightest young minds, from more than 190 countries. Creating opportunities to make lasting connections and advocate positive changes throughout the world.
2016-2017 National Youth Ambassador for The Malawi Community of Practice which was derived from the Africa Community of Practice (AfCoP) which is a coalition of Results Practitioners whose main objective is to enforce the implementation of development interventions through the Managing for Development Results (MfDR) approach in order to improve the lives of people in Africa.
Charles is also the Co-founder and Chairman of the award winning ‘2015 Best Leadership Company’ known as Maestros Leadership Company that is in the business of engaging people in mind transforming training and organizations for a brighter and successful future. Creating revolutionary changes in Africa by making knowledge and information accessible by everyone and getting them involved in life changing projects.
What exactly is the story behind Maestros Leadership Academy?
MAESTROS LEADERSHIP ACADEMY was derived by Charles Lipenga & Evalister Kuwali Chaka from the need of providing mind transforming trainings & development tools for organizations, government institutions and the youth. My extraordinary team and I saw how Africa is challenged in good leadership and also lack necessary tools and excellent performance strategies.
The word Maestro means a great or distinguished figure in ‘any sphere’. (For example: “a movie/ football maestro”.) A maestro can also be referred to as, a virtuoso, master, expert, genius, wizard, prodigy. We intend to develop leaders in every industry; so our work, is therefore to help in challenging minds to harness Africa’s potential in the development of leaders with purpose, motivated by service to humanity and driven by sustainable results to achieve an Africa that is politically, socially and economically successful.
Growing up in the so called “The poorest country”, Malawi. We just had to establish the headquarters there. We took a stand in my nation first to bring change. Through the campaigns, we have raised a team of 5000+ highly motivated young people across Africa in 21 countries. Realising you can only give what you have, we invested in ourselves and now we invest in the lives of young people, for their future, the future of Africa and the world through this establishment.
Tell us about “Project Inspired”?
One of our long term goals is to facilitate a change in the academic curriculum by the addition of leadership, entrepreneurial and mind-set building courses. Through Maestros Leadership Company, we established an initiative called PROJECT INSPIRED; where we constantly seeking for ways to reach out to the youth of in Africa with the aim of inspiring them for success in spite of all odds.
Targeting to promote THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION on a global scale and also promoting the 4th Sustainable Development Goal by ensuring inclusive and equitable education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, by raising leaders through different initiatives, where many have taken the banner of responsibility in their societies, and doing the same. It does not only have a just replica effect, but most importantly, it is sustainable throughout the nation and also active in college chapters.
PROJECT INSPIRED is one of many initiatives under Maestros Leadership Company aimed at reaching out to young needy children; from orphans, streets kids to students with physical, spiritual and mental empowerment. Project inspired programs are organized and fully funded by maestros and partners. Project Inspired also birthed MALA (Maestros Leadership Awards) whereby the company awards schools, and the package includes;
- full year scholarship program for all enrolled students.
- School materials package for all.
- Leadership, Innovations and Entrepreneurship course for students
- Teachers’ professional training & development course.
- Computers for ICT courses
The team is reaching out to more than 50,000+ people/ year on different levels, from primary school students Under Maestros Primary school project with Mentorship Programs, Free Maestros exercise books and free Uniforms Secondary students under Project Inspired Campaign. Recently this initiative just adopted one of government schools known as Njamba secondary school within Malawi and made it free learning institution. Giving academic scholarships to 514 needy students. FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL.
What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
I believe that women seeking or striving to become like men lack ambition.
Of course many might disagree, but this world has fed us to believe we have to be equal, we might never be, and perhaps we don’t need to be, our significance is in our differences, I think we should strive to be the best we were meant to be; women or men, Africans or Americans, short or tall, black or white, rich or poor.
The very thought of aiming at becoming someone else, devalues the very image God made us to be, don’t be a copy of a copy.
To what do you attribute your success?
The training I got from Church. In 2006, I got exposed to the teachings of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, the president of Believers LoveWorld (BLW) Inc. Listening to him I said, “Truly I have been dreaming too small.”
He was born and raised in Nigeria, Africa, but that did not stop him from envisioning a better Africa and reaching out to all nations. Most of us are too focused on our backgrounds that we fail to see the future.
He is a successful author, one thing I always dreamt of when I was young. His teachings changed my paradigm, therefore changed my life.
What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way that you work? What was the lesson, and what was it like before and after?
The teaching on “Working on becoming not having.” Growing up, I was so concerned about having things and positions, but my life changed tremendously when I started working on becoming relevant, the positions and things followed.
I once wished for the position of the UN general secretary, I was obsessed with the United Nations; I thought my life meant nothing if I didn’t work there, because I believed only on such a position, could one make significant difference. Little did I know we can all make a change from where we are, and we are necessarily positioned to effect a change.
What is your productivity secret?
I believe I am very ambitious, highly motivated, when I learn something, always inspired to do, to see the vision coming to pass, and my work is what I am passionate about, so it becomes easier to get things done when you are working on your passion. To add to that, the secret to my productivity is my team, I have the best team with the combination of passionate, innovative and administrative minds.
What is the best advice you received recently, and that you still follow?
My partner taught me that, “You cannot lead people you are in competition with.”
For you to lead, you have to be ahead of them, you cannot be lazy or aim low, for you to raise others up, you must be on a higher level yourself. Do not find yourself in competition with those you are trying to lead.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
Quitting my architectural business and transitioning myself from the technical industry to the administrative industry, now fully focused on building Maestros Leadership Academy.
How do you use social media?
Social media is a very effective tool in promoting our Maestros brand. Apart from promoting the brand, we also use it in awareness and promotions campaigns, sharing knowledge and updates through the same platforms. My Company is on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.
How was growing up like for you and what was your childhood dream?
In the year 1998, I came across the concept of UNITED NATIONS, and it was my first time to see Sir Kofi Annan who was the Sec. Gen at the time. As a Grade 5 student, in class I proudly announced “I want to be Kofi Annan.” My teacher giggled and replied, “You can’t be another person.” So I said “I want to be the President of all Nations.”
The class laughed, I even suspected that I was not communicating my ambition very well, but anyway, my understanding of being the general secretary of the U.N. at the time was being a president of many nations. I did not dream of becoming a president of my country, I felt like my influence to impact, to change will be limited. I dreamt of making the whole world better.
What would you most like to learn that would help you in the future?
I would like to learn and master the art of Coding. I believe in the words of the late Steve Jobs (Co-Founder of Apple), “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
The best technology-driven start-ups have a “Show Me” mentality at all levels of the company. If I have the talent to turn my great ideas into a working prototype, this significantly increases the likelihood that it will become a reality.
Tell us about your favourite books.
- RHAPSODY OF REALITIES by Chris Oyakhilome PhD
Is the #1 Daily devotion; inspiration and divine energy all wrapped up in a new book that comes out every month. This books also guides one to have a bible study.
- 25 WAYS TO WIN WITH PEOPLE by John C. Maxwell
5 ways to win with people is broken into 25 pieces of advice to “win with people.” Anyone that has interaction with people (pretty much everyone) must read, most especially when you are or want to be a leader like me. Having a lot of people with difference cultural background, personalities, preferences in the same team can be overwhelming, you need the skills to communicate well and win with them to achieve great things together. Maxwell has practically showed working concepts.
- RICH DAD POOR DAD by Robert Kiyosaki,
The #1 Personal Finance book of all time, tells the story of Robert Kiyosaki and his two dads—his real father and the father of his best friend, his rich dad—and the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for me.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a good balance between personal advice and financial guidance for a beginner book for investing. Great book for younger adults and even teenagers. This is an excellent book for those looking for an introduction to understanding basic financial wealth strategies outside of day job. The millennial generation is one that desires wealth through other avenues outside of a cubicle. This book outlines how a professionally risk averse “poor dad” sees the idea of money and how a strategically risky financial savvy “rich dad” sees money. One big common denominator is education. Education is important and having your money work for you is imperative.
How do you find inspiration?
Titus 3:14 the bible says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
The bible urges us to be more diligent in our works for a purpose. I see myself as the one to provide for the urgent need of others, I am daily inspired to live a productive life.
The message Translation says, “Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives.” – Titus 3:14
If you have one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?
It’s not the ‘WHAT you do.’ Rather it’s the WHY YOU DO IT. Do it for the right and beneficial reasons. Your “Why” will be your foundation and backbone to move forward, even when the going gets tough.
And what’s your thought about Under35CEO?
One of the great challenges and needs in Africa is transformational leadership; to identify a need, create an inspiring vision for the future, to let others buy into that vision, and recognise each other’s efforts. I find Under35CEO doing the exact needed thing for us to promote one another other in the process of transforming Africa and the world at large. So kudos to the whole Under35CEO team.
Finally I would like to quote Jim Rohn when he said, “Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.”
There is a bigger picture out there, yet many of us are so much entangled in proving some people wrong, we are dragged by the resentment and anger over others, we are drugged by the by the ideology of taking all the credit, that we is the bigger picture. Today, make a decision to work with others and make a change.
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