Victoria Kapenda Director of Planning and Development Services at the Kavango West Region
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
This statement, coined by one of the world’s most celebrated revolutionaries Captain Mao of China, is an accurate way to describe the rise of Victoria Kapenda, the former Ruacana Chief Executive Officer who is now the Director of Planning and Development Services at the Kavango West Region.
Like a blossoming flower, Kapenda started her career path at the Ministry of Health and Social Services where she gained valuable exposure to institutional development and business functions.
She then decided to enroll at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) in 1999 to study Personnel Management. Afterwards, she went to the Netherlands in 2004 where she obtained a diploma in Urban Management Programme at the Institute of Housing Studies. These qualifications helped in her meteoric rise to the top of the Namibian corporate ladder.
Kapenda believed in education being the first step to a better life and pursued her studies by doing a course in local government at Namcol in 2007. She also studied for a Bachelors in Public Administration Honors at the Mancosa College.
She is currently studying towards her Masters degree in Business Administration.
After her demanding studies, Kapenda worked her way to a managerial position as the CEO of the Ruacana Town Council.
Kapenda reflects on her time as CEO and says, “We had to endure difficult conditions at the inception when we operated from a two bedroom house (as a Village Council) whilst waiting for the office building to be completed but now we can say we have really grown.” She also mentions that, “The process of convincing and educating residents about the proclamation of Ruacana (as a Town Council), since many were resistant to change and were not willing to pay for the basic services as well as vandalism of properties by some inhabitants, were some of our biggest challenges.”
According to Kapenda, the Ruacana Town Council also faced the challenge of making sure that their community has serviced land.
”Unemployment is a challenge experienced nationally. However, we have adopted a participatory approach, where consultative meetings are held regularly with the youth in order to discuss issues that can contribute to the upliftment of their living standards, like how they can acquire loans to start their own businesses,” she says.
Kapenda also emphasizes that, “Council also has a brickmaking project where community members are employed on a rotational basis. This is done to allow for skills transfer and capacitate the communities, and as a result, some of them have started their own projects and employ others.”
In addition, the town council ensures that contractors employ local people when tenders are allocated to them.
Besides the challenges, Kapenda has never lost hope in upgrading the town due to the Ruacana Water Falls, which is the one of the major tourist attractions in Namibia.
“The town is special because it has the falls in the country, the mighty Ruacana Falls (120m high and 700m wide in full flood) together with the Ruacana Hydro Electric Scheme forms a natural Base for excursions into Kaokoland and to the Epupa falls,“ she says.
She also mentioned that, “If the Water Fall is fully upgraded, it can contribute immensely to the Namibian economy as many tourists will visit the country. In addition direct benefits that can be derived from the waterfall include drinking water, irrigation for agricultural land, tourism activities, fishing and contributing significantly to the overall well -being of the people of the area.”
She also added, “It is important to note that the full potentials of the waterfall are yet to be harnessed due to lack of commitment from stakeholders, especially the Government, to invest in the development of the waterfall.” She says, “Developing the waterfall will not only be a source of revenue to the government, it will equally generate substantial employment, thus reducing the burden of unemployment in the town and the country at large”.
Commenting on the maintenance of the waterfalls, she says, “There is nothing we can do to maintain the Ruacana Falls except from cleaning the surroundings periodically. Hence there are plans to upgrade and beautify the area in the future.”
Although Kapenda is leaving the town council, she has accomplished her mission, “The council has received many awards under my leadership, so I will leave the council as a happy women.”
Quizzed about what it takes to hold such a position, Kapenda reiterated the importance of being creative, focused and possessing the ability to be receptive to feedback.
Kapenda reveals that before she leaves the town council, she will leave a few plans for the council. These plans include the crafting of the third strategic plan for Council which will be effective from 2016, the establishment of new extensions, the construction of Council’s bungalows, cultural village planning, provision of services to various areas including new ones due to expansion of town boundaries and various new developments by investors such as construction of a filling station in Oshifo and accommodation facilities.
Kapenda says, “I will not stop dreaming, therefore I see myself having moved from one management position to the other, and I would like to make a positive impact in every community I will serve and help achieve the targeted goals in each institution I will be employed in the next 10 years.”
She also advises all the young women who are aspiring to be leaders in Namibia to keep pushing for their ideals when prudence says quit.
She says, “Success in leadership is attributed not only to what you do it is dependent on who you are. We set young leaders up to fail if we encourage them to envision what they can do before first considering the kind of kind of leader they want to be. This holds particularly true for aspiring young women.”