”I want to support innovative tech ideas that address societal solutions in Zambia”

Mumbi E. Mwelwa from Zambia had the honour of addressing her fellow SI scholarship graduates at the SI diploma ceremony. We interviewed her about her experience in Sweden and how she hopes to impact the future of her country.
Profile picture of SI scholarship holder Mumbi Mwelwa from Zambia.

Mumbi had eagerly anticipated for Sweden as her opportunity to continue learning and developing after a decade of working as a librarian in Zambia. The concept of continuous learning is something very dear to her, and learning from Sweden was an intention she had set early on.

-I’ve always admired Sweden. Because there are all these innovative companies that are created here. You think about Skype, you think about Spotify, Volvo and I didn’t even know this before, but Bluetooth technology was invented here in Lund. So it got me thinking, what is it about this place? How is it that they think? What are their systems? How do they do what they do and are so on the pulse of all of these innovations? That was the main reason why I chose Sweden.

Mumbi applied to the Master of Science in Information Systems programme at Lund University. After one year of trying, she managed to secure an SI scholarship to finance her studies on the second year, but the SI scholarship meant so much more to her, she explains:

– I’m a big believer in the power of community. I remember seeing a photo on the SI website of the global professionals seated in a row and I thought wow, okay, these are people from different parts of the world, that means I could be one of those people too. I believe that learning doesn’t just happen when you’re sitting down and taking notes. A good percentage of it also happens from interacting with your peers. The SI Scholarship for Global Professionals did not only offer a scholarship, it also connected one to a community of proactive people, and that was a major motivation.

In the 10 months that Mumbi has studied in Sweden, she’s had the opportunity to connect with Swedes as well as internationals. She shares that the exchange of cultures has been of significant value to her experience:

– If anything, I am so grateful for the connections that I’ve made. The SI scholarship holders are so motivated, so intelligent, they have important principles that keep them being the types of people that push for solutions. That’s one of the biggest takeaways for me. But I also came with the intention to learn a lot about the Swedish culture, so I’ve had an adopted Swedish family that I met my first weeks here. They explained various cultural aspects to me, I got to see how they were with their children and the social differences between Zambia and Sweden. It really helped me understand the nuances of the culture.

When asked what her main takeaway has been Mumbi answered:

– There are a combination of things. One is the respect that Swedes show towards each other, children and adults alike. There is a flat hierarchy where everyone is given the same respect and that’s different from what I am familiar with. The shared values that Swedes have in terms of working as a team is the second part. There’s one mind when people come together, there’s unity and trust allowing you to really move forward. I think this is quite impactful and something you can apply into so many different sectors.  Lastly, the most invaluable thing about being here is that Sweden has given me the gift of leading me back to myself. Most of us scholars are leaders in different spaces, but leadership isn’t so much just about working with other people, it is also connected to learning how to lead yourself. So, in quiet moments of reflection, I’ve been able to go back, reflect and challenge my values. Leadership really starts with you and thereafter, you’re able to impact and influence others.

Mumbi will be graduating this summer, but she intends to continue learning and in 10 years, aims to be in a position to influence policies in her country:

– I really want to be involved in decision making at the level of governance. I aspire to develop the digital policy in my country because there is a lot of work that I think can be done. Whatever decisions are made at the top, trickle down and affect every citizen. You need people that are competent to be making these types of decisions, and although I don’t see myself as a politician, I believe being able to contribute to policy development is so crucial.

– I also want to give back to the education sector through advocacy. Knowledge is valuable; questioning is valuable and being curious is valuable. With curiosity comes creation, that is something I enjoyed experiencing here in Sweden. I think more people in my country need to encounter this, and need more spaces where they can develop ideas. I want to find ways of replicating that to support innovative tech ideas which address societal challenges.

Lastly Mumbi encourages people to apply for the SI scholarship:

– I want more young people from my country and from different parts of the continent to be aware of opportunities such as the SI scholarship. I want to encourage them to apply, you never know, you might get it – you might not, then just try again. I applied twice before I was able to come here, and it’s been such an honour to be in this space and to be selected.