The twists and turns in Angela Ndambuki's life

Angela Ndambuki, 40, is the new Regional Director of sub-Saharan Africa at IFPI, after being the CEO at the Chambers of Commerce.

What you need to know:

  • The former singer in the girl-group Tatuu talks about getting fired, a music reunion, and fighting to get ahead.
  • Angela, 40, is the new Regional Director of sub-Saharan Africa at IFPI, after being the CEO at the Chambers of Commerce.

"I don't want to see you. Go pack your things and get out". These were the words that marked the end of Angela Ndambuki's first stint as CEO at the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) after just eight months.

"I didn't know that it was challenging being a female leader until I came to KNCCI," she says ruefully, "It wasn't about what you wanted to achieve or your vision for the organisation …it was a very confusing time," she adds.

Angela, who doesn't look anything like her 40 years, found it difficult back then to shake the 'young and inexperienced' stereotype as she faced opposition and male chauvinism at work.

For those who remember the rumour mill surrounding the unceremonious sacking, you would guess that indeed things were not at all rosy. "It was a challenging, disturbing time for me and my family when I was fired. It was abrupt, it's true. I was called into a meeting in the morning and presented with my KPIs after just eight months," Angela, a married mother of two daughters says.

It was even more of a shocker because not only did she feel she had increased visibility for the organisation, she had also increased its income.

She decided to settle the matter in court and sued for damages and to be reinstated "They had no grounds to fire me. I am passionate about my work and I didn't want all my hard work to go down the drain," the former musician, of the girl-group Tatuu, says.

Perhaps it's the fact that she grew up the youngest in a family of six, equally doted on and protected, so forging ahead fearlessly was second nature. Or perhaps it's because, for whatever reason, she always had to prove herself whenever she performed exceptionally. Be that when she was the best in class as a youngster, or later in life as an adult. Or perhaps it was simply her confessed stubborn nature. Whatever the case she wasn't going to take the dismissal lying down.

Thankfully when a new leadership came in, she was brought back after 14 months to finish her three-year term. Misgivings? She had none. She was keen to finish all she put in place. She did, however, search herself and decided that she needed to create a clear vision for what she wanted for her career. So she sought the services of an executive coach. "I came back to work a different person. I also wasn't impacted quite so hard by what people were saying about me," Angela who credits her husband, Roy Mutungi, as her pillar, says.

The coaching made her aware of her endless possibilities. "I got the recipe for living a purposeful life," she says.

A neo-soul song plays and takes me back to a special place and time and I smile. This is the power of music. In Angela's own words, "people turn to music when they're sad and mourning, and when they're happy and celebrating."

Do you ever wonder how much your favourite local artiste makes from that song you love to listen to?

Music is property as much as a plot of land is property. And so it is protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). This is what Angela is all about. Ever since she took an IP elective back in her law school days, she was hooked. What she didn't know at the time was that it would set her on a path that would define her professional career.

So in what seems like a full-circle, her appointment as the Regional Director of sub-Saharan Africa at IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), the organisation that represents the recorded music industry worldwide, is squarely up her alley.

Angela's early singing days were the mark of a carefree period steered by youthful adventure. In 2003, with friends Angela Mwandanda and Debbie Asila, they started the girl group Tatuu. Angela is quick to remind me that she had already completed her Law degree by the time she made her debut into music and was working at the National Commission on Human Rights. "I love music but law has always been my passion," she says. She is still close with her Tatuu friends, Angela (Shinde) and Debbie but no, a singing reunion is not imminent.

She admits, however, that being in Tatuu gave her a deeper understanding of the plight of those in the industry.

Before her KNCCI appointment, there was the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK). In 2009 when PRISK was formed, Angela says, "nobody knew what copyright was so we began with educating the music industry. We then changed the laws to ensure that creatives could get paid for their work. Before that, people would take advantage of and use music without paying for it," she prides.

Three years of fighting an uphill battle for artistes saw her among a handful of capable candidates for the top job and emerged the front-runner as CEO where she continued to put the structures in place that many would thank her for today.

Over the years, Angela's success has not gone unnoticed. In 2017 she was voted Kenya's Top 40 under 40 Women by the Business Daily and in 2019, she appeared in the Top 100 Women CEOs in Africa, a list that was published by Reset Global People in partnership with Pulse and Avance Media. As she gestures to the plaques behind her right shoulder, she says, "I am usually very proud when I receive these accolades but the minute it's done, life has to continue. I have to move on and concentrate on the people that I want to impact."

A master's degree later, Angela was hungry for a bigger challenge and was soon announced to be the new CEO of KNNCI in 2017.

"I yearn to make a difference," she says. At KNCCI it was all about supporting small businesses. At IFPI, it will be all about merging her creativity and analytical expertise.

By dealing primarily with the recording industry, she'll ensure that the correct policies are in place and that the rights holders deservedly get their dues. Statistics from the Kenya Copyright Board estimates that 98 percent of music is reproduced. "Those who are making money off this work haven't invested or added any creative input to it," says Angela. "Look at the US the recording industry contributes to the economy in a big way."

Making sub-Saharan music big business is her new role. "I hope to also empower women in the creative industry," she says.

If you are looking to combine your creative mojo with a professional career, Angela advises that it pays to follow both your passions. "I'm a living example that you can combine both. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. You must dream it to achieve it," she concludes.

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