David Namwamba loves to make a name for himself. The Zambian economist and entrepreneur won a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: working with Goldman Sachs and then facing off in the gubernatorial primary of Ontario, Canada. He also happened to win his first television interview by responding to the interviewer’s question about whether he sleeps before going to bed.
Mr. Namwamba, 42, arrived in New York from Zambia last month and found the process of moving to another continent — and building a new life — both more thrilling and humbling than he could have imagined.
“I’m in an incredible situation,” he said in an interview after his first evening in the city, which ended with a triple-ticket dinner for 20. “What struck me was how, in those five days I visited all the necessary cities — Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Washington, D.C. — I realized how much business I could do — from Ontario to Chicago, anywhere I can network in the U.S. and Europe.”
Although he got a job offer from Goldman Sachs a few weeks ago, Mr. Namwamba said he was still trying to weigh the opportunity. “This is about wanting to give something back,” he said. “This is about exposing the kind of global economy that Canadians and Americans can tap into.”
Mr. Namwamba spent his childhood in Katanga Province of Zambia. Since 1980, his family owned a coffee farm, operating in fear of violence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. In his 20s, he worked with various NGOs and in development sector in Zambia. He was awarded the Oliver R. Dingle Foundation International Fellowship, and he worked at the UNDP Development Program in Zambia.
The Global Citizens Festival
In 2009, Mr. Namwamba created the Africa Youth Growth and Opportunities Fund. In the program, he brings in more than 500 young entrepreneurs from Africa to learn business skills from Goldman Sachs. The class conducts market research, portfolio management and market analysis. A mentor gives lessons about how to create new financial products and strategies.
“I gave the fund new partners and new focus,” he said. “It’s leveraging partnerships, not just partnerships with the bank but partnerships with the private sector and governments, and changing the economic landscape in Africa.”
That’s the mission he will carry with him to Canada: building bridges between Africa and global business.
“In the U.S., the CEO group meets twice a year to look at priorities, about new international business opportunities, and education for entrepreneurs,” he said. “But Canada has no government incentives for small business. The difference is really noticeable.”
Mr. Namwamba recognizes he needs time to decide. “I might decide to stay or to go,” he said. “I could have taken the job in Canada and then I could have gone to Vermont or the U.S. Northeast.”
He has a wife, Janet, and two young children. He wants to spend more time with them, not worrying about his schedule. That is, until his destiny seems likely to take him elsewhere.