By Victor Angula|
Martin Kaali Shipanga, founder and chairman of Shipanga Holding (Pty) Ltd, is one man who seems to have risen out of the township without leaving his roots.
The native of Katutura, Windhoek, born to parents who had settled in the capital city before Independence, Shipanga’s journey has taken him from humble beginnings to becoming the chief executive officer of the City of Windhoek, MD of Nedbank Namibia, and then chairman of Shipanga Holding.
Shipanga Holding, a holding company of various subsidiaries such as Shipanga Medical Services, Shipanga Financial Services, Shipanga Farming & Game Farm, Shipanga Natural Resources, Shipanga Properties, Shipanga Security Services, Shipi FM, Tusk Mobile & Electronics, and Mamma Fresh – such is the reason Martin Kaali Shipanga’s profile has risen through the sky of the private sector although the man still seems to be grounded into the community.
In his own words, here is what Shipanga has to say about himself:
“I am a child of parents who were hardworking peasants; I come from those humble beginnings. And there is something I value tremendously which my parents gave us: it’s to love other human beings. And to love education.
“There is a lot that education has done to me; I don’t think I would do things the same way or think the same way. So I like to encourage our young people to take education serious. They will appreciate it eventually.
“Of course my parents could not afford to send me to university, it was expensive. But I was an ‘A’ student throughout my high school. So I was fortunate to get a bursary to go to the Witwatersrand University for my first degree. It was tough there, as a black child, from Namibia.
“And so my love for books took me through. I still read books today.
“My first job was as a petrol attendant. But eventually I got an opportunity to serve in the City of Windhoek for ten years. After that I went into the private sector, where I helped to make Nedbank branch out and become a bank for ordinary people, for the bank to transform.
“It was a good job. They give you a home, car, gardener, petrol card, entertainment, and a nice salary which translated into several millions every year. So it was nice being there. But then I decided to leave and try out something else, something that brings my capability closer to the people.
“God has gifted me with a brain and ability to work and so I decided to go and try it out and give myself out.
“People thought that I was losing my mind. They said, ‘young man are you OK? Where are you going?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’ They tried to convince me.
“I’m very shy. And I don’t drink alcohol. So you won’t find me at a bar. I have no social life. I read books a lot. So all businesses I started have a strong social component.
“One of my businesses with that social component and community feel is Mama Fresh. That mama on the picture of Mamma Fresh is actually my mother. My mother was a trader. What we sell at Mamma Fresh is exactly what she used to sell, on a small scale. That picture was an honor to her, because I took her business and commercialized it.
“Another one with a strong social component is our health care services. The biggest budget of government goes to education, and I love education. The second biggest goes to health, and I love health too.
“So I said we are going to set up a medical services supply business, which we did in 2016/17.
“We come from a history of a very divided country. And our young people don’t understand where we come from. We are the way we are because of the way the system was designed by the apartheid laws. At Wits, getting there was through a quota. Many academically gifted children didn’t get the chance. We don’t want this to be an excuse, but it’s the reality.
“Today industries and the economy are white dominated. But those of us who have gotten the opportunity to rise above the obstacles and get in we want to inspire black children that they can also do it. For them to say ‘that black guy is like me, if he can do it I can also’. We have students all over the world, and they can come back and do something meaningful for our country.
“I’m busy writing a book, which will provide lessons for those coming after us. No one was there to advise us. But now we have the chance to advise those coming after us. And I want all likeminded people to do the same for our country.”
In the photo: Martin Kaali Shipanga, pictured at St. Martins Hospital in Oshikuku where his company donated some medical supplies earlier this month.