Clever Mpoha Built Pan-African Global Supply Chain and Logistics Company Giant from Ground Up
Like many self-made entrepreneurs who achieve stellar business success, Clever Mpoha recalls a simple but powerful childhood experience that would set the tone for his life.
Growing up in the remote village of Nzoche, Zambia, Clever loved to hunt, fish and explore the savannah grasslands where rabbits and impalas ran freely.
On one significant day, Clever snagged a huge fish from a river and proudly brought home his magnificent catch. However, he came down with a serious bout of malaria that same day. In fact, he became so ill he could not eat “a single bite.”
Other villagers broiled the fish and were soon enjoying savoury morsels of tasty “fish steaks.” Clever said the vexing incident burned a lesson into his mind. He wrote it this way in his recently published autobiography:
“Sometimes, people who don’t work hard at all enjoy the benefits of other people’s labour.”
From that day forward, Clever Mpoha was determined to take charge of his destiny. He would work hard and build something of consequence in the wider world beyond tiny Nzoche. Fortunately, nature has equipped him with some tools to get the job done. That included a keen intelligence and the vision to move beyond his village to create something special.
As a student, one of Clever’s teachers suggested he was aptly named. But he was more than just “Clever.” He was brilliant. He mastered his secondary education curriculum across a range of subjects from math to history. Excellent grades gained him entrance to the ZAMIM School of Accounting in Chingola. There he completed his United Kingdom Association of Accounting Technicians Level III degree.
Even before the ink was dry on his diploma, Clever was looking for a job. The year was 1994. In those days in Zambia, most professional-level jobs were held by whites and Indian nationals. Clever’s goal was to become the “first local” to land a job as a Finance Director.
He was soon hired by a company called Kabwe Industrial Fabrics Company (KIFCO). Other job offers followed thereafter. He moved to Kitwe to accept a position with Suntrust and then moved on to Barloworld, a leading industrial firm. With these jobs, Clever gained a wide range of experience working as a Payroll Administrator, Financial Accountant, Credit Controller And Strategic Financial Advisor.
Clever said his experience with Barloworld allowed him to absorb insights on how business and investments worked among major companies. His experience as a market analyst poring over data gleaned from the mining industry and other commodity sectors gave him an invaluable perspective on how products flow across various commerce ecosystems. He honed his skills at crunching numbers and managing money flow.
Though he loved his jobs and was earning a moderate income, Clever nevertheless felt an inner nagging for something better. It was in 1997 that another important event would come along to change the trajectory of his career.
Clever had long been an admirer of the motivational speaker and leadership consultant, Dr. Myles Munroe. He learned that Dr. Munroe would be traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa, to lead a business seminar. Clever became determined to become a delegate to the conference.
First, he would have to arrange transportation from Kitwe to Johannesburg. That proved to be something of a logistical challenge. With limited finances, he arranged to take a bus from Kitwe where he would then catch a train to Livingstone. In Livingstone, he would connect with a train to get to Johannesburg.
However, the bus failed to arrive at Livingstone in time to catch the train to Johannesburg. Refusing to give up, Clever asked around and discovered a cargo train was soon heading to the South African capital. It didn’t carry passengers, but Clever used his charm and persuasive skills to convince a train office to attach a small passenger wagon to the cargo train.
“Circumstances might have spoiled a life-changing trip. I did not let circumstances dictate my destiny,” Clever wrote.
In short, Clever made it to the Johannesburg seminar on time –- and it turned out to be the game-changer he hoped it would be. Clever said Dr. Munroe’s enthusiasm and knowledge lit a fire inside. When he returned home, he told his wife: “I can no longer work for another man.” He said he was tired of letting someone else decide how much money he should be paid each month.
That was his declaration of personal and professional freedom. Clever was determined to launch his own company. Of course, just as he was too sick to eat his childhood fish and had missed the train to Johannesburg, another roadblock stood in his way.
Clever had almost no financing to fund a start-up.
That did not stop him. He scraped together the equivalent of about $1,000 in U.S. dollars and founded a small-scale procurement and logistics solution company called SAVENDA Management Services Limited.
In addition to a thousand dollars, the primary asset of the newly formed SAVENDA Group was the focused and driven mind of Clever Mpoha.
Today, SAVENDA is one of Africa’s leading supply chain and logistics company and enjoys annual revenue of more than $300 million USD. It currently employs has employed over 1,000 people and has a presence across several African countries.
Clever said his vision for SAVENDA Group from the beginning was to make it the preferred operator in the supply management and logistics sector, not just on the African continent but globally.
It achieved a big step toward that goal recently when SAVENDA was appointed the distributor of telecom equipment for Huawei Technologies, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies.
SAVENDA has also recently landed new contracts to supply services to various sectors including mining, telecom, power, water and World Bank projects. , repair and maintain power generators at base stations for MTN and Airtel in Zambi
Industry observers say that Clever’s accomplishment of building a multimillion-dollar company with an international reach by starting from near nothing is among the most remarkable achievements in recent African business history.
Today, Clever still gives credit to his humble beginnings in the village of Nzoche and the Nyika Yuba Tribe to which his family belonged. He said trade and merchandizing was a core component of Nyika Yuba culture –- a quality he built upon to craft a remarkable career.