5 minutes with: Priscilla Mutembwa
Résumé: Mutembwa, FCMA, CGMA, is managing director of Cargill Cotton Zimbabwe in Harare. A computer programmer and systems analyst turned management accountant, she has work experience with UNICEF, Coopers & Lybrand, British Railways and British American Tobacco.
Those lamenting the loss of predictability might take a tip or two from Priscilla Mutembwa, FCMA, CGMA, who has become a master at dealing with the unpredictable nature of her business and region. As the managing director of Cargill Cotton Zimbabwe in Harare, Mutembwa contends with all the supply-and-demand intricacies that are inherent to any commodities-based business. But she must do so in an economy with multiple official currencies and a challenged infrastructure. Sudden introduction of new legislation, such as a 2012 law that authorised the government to set the price cotton merchants have to pay to farmers, only adds to the uncertainty.
So Mutembwa finds control where she can. One such place: the cotton farms that are essential to Cargill’s supply chain. The business works with more than 40,000 small farmers who grow cotton on contract. Cargill provides the farmers seeds on credit, buys their crops, subtracts the credit and pays them the difference.
“We provide essential financial, technical and in-kind support to farmers to enable them to access necessary crop inputs, such as planting seeds, fertilisers and pesticides,” she says. “This supports farmers and helps to improve yields and enables them to improve their incomes.”
“We also ensure farmers are paid immediately in cash. This has improved the cash flow of individual farmers, reduced the number of unnecessary and long journeys they have to make to the buying stations and helped them cope with substantial increases in the cost of fuel, electricity, utilities and labour.”
THREE RISK MANAGEMENT TIPS
Mutembwa offered these tips on managing complex risks:
1. Keep pace as much as possible with what is happening in the business environment and implement solutions as quickly as possible.
2. Use good communication skills, which are key in translating complex situations into easily understood language and concepts that can be addressed at all levels.
3. Be tenacious and stick with the job — even when it feels impossible to continue.