She was a graduate, fresh from Chancellor College in 2010 looking for a job when the procurement profession came knocking on Alinafe Banda-Malisawa’s door.
As a girl growing up, procurement was nowhere close to her mind as she had always dreamed of becoming a lecturer.
But upon completing her studies in public administration, she was among the few students identified to go for internship at the Parliament of Malawi where she was introduced to procurement in the administration division.
A year later, she attended interviews for the post of procurement officer. She was successful and was recruited on a permanent basis — marking the beginning of her journey in procurement.
She held that position for four years; and in 2015 following another interview, she was promoted to principal procurement officer and later to chief procurement officer heading the Procurement and Disposal Unit.
“I sincerely thank God for the greatest milestone of rising from an intern to head of procurement. I cannot boast to be the best, the most qualified or the lucky one — it took the grace of God,” she says.
The young woman, who is now the first female president for the Malawi Institute of Procurement and Supply (Mips), has since left Parliament and now heads the procurement department at the National Aids Commission (NAC) since January 2021.
To a larger extent, her background has played a huge role in the success of her career.
She was raised by a single mother whose ability to use her earnings carefully inspired her own good planning habits; cost saving and ability to meet deadlines.
“I also learnt how to utilise scarce resources, and that has become a part of me. These attributes have helped me to embrace this career because I noted that the major challenge in the profession is how to wisely plan and use scarce resources for a good cause,” she explains.
Asked how she feels about becoming president for the professional body, Malisawa considers it as a great honour and a humbling feeling to be the first woman elected to this position.
“I am profoundly grateful to God and fellow procurement specialists. Procurement and supply chain is a male-dominated field and scooping 102 out of 138 votes shows that the profession has confidence in capable people and is not driven by sexist intentions. It challenges me, to be the first female president of the institute,” the procurement specialist says.
As a seasoned procurement and supply chain expert, she takes the helm with insights of the many challenges that Mips faces, especially those relating to poor profiling and visibility; lack of funding; and the negative perception of the profession in the country.
She says: “I saw this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) as an opportunity to take the helm of the institution and steer its growth to surmount the many challenges it faces. Mips has several opportunities at its disposal, and I feel being president will help me unlock those opportunities and elevate the institution to greater heights while exposing procurement and supply professionals that are doing well in the field.”
Additionally, with only few paid up members, she states that as president together with the board, they feel the need to start implementing sanctions in line with section 47 (2) of the Mips Act, on organisations that employ unregistered professionals as well as individuals that are practicing procurement and supply in the country without being registered.
Malisawa also bemoans the negative perception of procurement specialists by the public, often considering them as thieves.
She indicates that this is also what pushed her to vie for the position of Mips presidency, knowing that there are professional procurement and supply chain specialists working and saving resources for their organisations that go unnoticed.
Furthermore, the newly appointed Mips president notes the gap that exists on how well Malawian suppliers pitch to market their products to procurement and supply chain professionals to enhance the government agenda of best buy Malawi and promote the growth of small and medium enterprises as the country advocates for the 60-40 regulation and the Buy Malawi Strategy.
She also feels that a lot can be done to ensure that the nation has a robust, transparent and efficient procurement system.
Nonetheless, she feels that this highly depends on constant collaboration among key drivers and institutions that monitor and regulate procurement in Malawi to help in changing the negative perception about procurement and supply chain.
On a personal front, the mother of three who is always inspired by excellence admits that it has not been easy to get to where she is, with so many challenges along the way.
Among others, balancing life in her various roles as a wife, mother and a career woman has never been easy; but she thanks her husband Franklin for his support — always pushing her to go far.
Malisawa, the third born daughter of Stella Chipeta from her family of four children, was born on June 23, 1987.
Mother of three children — Onesimus, Oriana and Oshea the young woman comes from Echiziweni Village, Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba.
Before going to Chancellor College where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, majoring in Public Administration with a minor in Political Science, she was at Likuni Girls Secondary School.
The 34-year-old holds a Master of Science Degree in Supply Chain Management obtained in 2014 from the University of Bolton, United Kingdom.
She is a full member of the Charted Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) and attained the MCIPS status; and is also a full paid-up member of MIPS.
Her advice to young girls is to take on junior leadership positions to prepare themselves for senior leadership opportunities as they grow up.
She further encourages the girls to belong to a living church, arguing that no matter how qualified, educated, or experienced one is, only a living church has answers to life issues that affect women as they grow.
Apart from that, she believes that having a mentor really helped her, and thanks her mentor Grace Malera, who has been there throughout her career path.