Career Path With Singer Turned Regional Director, Angela Ndambuki

October 26, 2020

Former member of the all-girl group Tatuu Angela Ndambuki is a lawyer who has previously served as CEO at Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) and Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).

She is currently serving as Regional Director of sub-Saharan Africa at IFPI.

Angie spoke to Nation about her career path.

Briefly tell us about yourself.

It’s difficult to describe oneself because it’s almost always never what other people think, so I took the opportunity to ask others what they think of me instead. To my girls, Tili and Keli (who have forced me to include their names) I’m amazing and the best mum in the world.

To my husband I’m a go-getter, loving and caring. To my larger family – parents and siblings – I’m the little one. To my colleagues, I’m proactive and take initiative, an achiever and also ‘bad news’ (laughs).

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born in Mombasa, the last born in a family of six children. I had a great childhood, with a very strong supportive family. I guess that played a big role in who I am today. I loved music from a tender age, I remember my sister used to come from school and teach me all the songs she’d learned and we’d sing and harmonise together. My parents never restricted my artistic side despite me enrolling in law school. They gave me space to explore my talent and interests and for that, I’m grateful that I lived a full life. I was acting at phoenix players and doing keshas (all night reading) cramming cases and jurisprudence.

Education background?

Well, if I tell you I went to four primary schools, you will first wonder whether I was a wayward child, but that wasn’t the case. I began my primary schooling in Loreto, Mombasa, then we moved to Nairobi, where my sister and I joined Loreto Valley Road.

When my sister went to high school, my parents — being protective — moved me to be with my brothers at Aga Khan. When they left for high school, I was sent to Lukenya Academy –my aunt’s school, where I did my KCPE exams to later join Loreto High School, Limuru. This time, I guess my parents thought I was old enough to be by myself.

I went on to join the University of Nairobi to study law. After a few years of work, I did my Masters in intellectual property law at the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

How has your career progressed over the years? 

After law school, I joined a Dutch NGO — Great Commission Church International, which dealt with women’s rights. I was offered an impressive salary of Sh100,000 ($1,000) a month as an executive officer, which I doubled writing contracts on the side.

I took a motherhood break and later joined the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, first, in their internship programme and thereafter, as a consultant, which gave me the experience to take on my next role at the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (Prisk); a collective management organisation that administers copyright and related rights on behalf of performers.

At Prisk, I was appointed first as the general manager and went on to become the CEO. There was a significant amount of policy and advocacy work, which prepared me for my subsequent role as the CEO of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) to coordinate the overall advocacy role for all sectors of the economy as the voice of business.

I have now joined the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry as the regional director for Sub-Saharan Africa, with an expanded role to enhance the commercial uses of recorded music, promote its value and campaign for rights of record producers across 46 countries.

What do you remember most about your career journey? 

I remember my highs and lows in equal measure. Achieving milestones such as having a law change after intense lobbying or being feted with various accolades was a real high for me.

My low was getting fired at KNCCI for no valid reason, hence my taking up the matter in court. A subsequent high, however, was being re-instated to my position after a settlement agreement with KNCCI.

What has been a key driver of your growth? Lessons learnt, celebrations and failures. Attitudes, habits or principles?

Persistence: You only engage in endeavours that you are committed to and which you believe have a purpose. I purpose to bring positive change wherever I go, a purpose which drives you to your desired goal and at the same time, you find you have positively impacted and changed peoples’ lives, won recognition even made enemies along the way but all in all, you have inner satisfaction knowing you did the right thing.

You also learn that although your overall mission is to positively change the world around you, this does not mean that everyone will receive you with open arms as there are beneficiaries of inefficiencies, lack of systems and even total collapse of these structures. Luckily, you will always have people who push you even beyond your personal belief — the true heroes who are rarely mentioned.

Failures, although painful, are important in teaching you real lessons from life experiences that tend to stick in your memory longer. Failures help shape us and expose our strengths at the same time. At all times, my attitude is that of a winner, even with losses and hurdles, as I understand that no one should ever believe in me more than I believe in myself.

Resilience is key; when life throws you lemons, make some lemonade. Don’t be afraid to change or adjust along the way, to be able to adapt to circumstances is a great skill and one has to build resilience so as not to crash and burn. Never let anyone put you down for something you know you can do.

Who can you single out that helped in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?

Family. My career means I have to juggle multiple duties at the same time. Being a CEO shouldn’t make me less of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister or a friend. The pressure is to create the balance in the ecosystem that ensures you can be counted every time you are called to stand up in any of these roles.

That said, the truth is at times you fall short — not having the time to spend with your family, having to work late or attend very early meetings.

Unless you have an understanding family behind you, your career trajectory might take a different direction. I am grateful for my family, and especially my husband, who has encouraged me through the highs and lows.

What are some of the key decisions you made in your career?

First it was a big decision to leave Prisk, an institution I set up with my expertise in the field of copyright and related rights and particularly in collective management. After almost 10 years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, leaving was a risk, knowing that I was going to an organisation I knew little about its history or politics. No regrets though, as it has marked by career development.

Going back to KNCCI the second time as CEO, an institution where I had earlier been sacked without procedure, takes courage and forgiveness, and this is where your mission and purpose have to be the driving factor. To echo the words of Nelson Mandela: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”, meaning you have to work with people who have stabbed you in the back before, with the hope that you can change the organisation and in the process, change them.

I am happy I left the chamber with more success than I would have imagined, and as a bonus, with more friends than enemies. They even threw a party for me as the outgoing CEO — a first in KNCCI’s long history, thanks to the great leadership of the chamber president, Mr Richard Ngatia.

Further, my decision to join IFPI was sort of a personal one — being a creative and having been empowered through my skillset as an intellectual property lawyer. Africa needs people to champion the rights of the music industry, because much of our population is young — they are at the height of innovation and creativity, we are almost at the time of harvest and we must ensure we have the right infrastructure in place — be it policy, skills, equipment etc, to make sure we are ready, just like other regions in the world.

We have to remain competitive at all times and embrace creativity in the digital space. I am excited at this new role and I am looking forward to making a difference.

What is your current role?  

As the IFPI regional director in Sub-Saharan Africa, I am tasked with promoting the value of recorded music, campaigning for the rights of record producers and expanding the commercial uses of recorded music across 46 countries. As a result of my activities, we should see the region’s recorded music industry grow through jobs and increased investments. We must also start to see diverse cultures from the region emerging for the world to see … so that this value is not just felt in the recording industry, but the whole society.

I will, therefore, be working to ensure that our members get full value for their works, that their creations and investment in music are protected through the right policies, and that the organisations charged with enforcement are empowered to carry out this duty. I will work hand in hand with industry players to expand the commercial uses of recorded music so that we can get full value.

I am happy that we have seen revenues coming from online streams, but this is not enough. We must utilise every available channel across the world, while ensuring there is content protection and enforcement. Piracy, for example, has shifted online; marked by illegal streaming and downloading sites.

In Kenya, for instance, from 2018 to 2019, web download was prominent, while in 2019 to 2020, stream ripping became the more dominant method of piracy. There was a 22 per cent increase from 62 million to 75.7 million visits to illegal sites or platforms.

Addressing these challenges and advocating policies to fix these issues so that artistes and record companies can benefit from their talent and investment is key to my role.

All in all, music I believe, can be the avenue through which African products and culture spreads to the world.

What would you say to the youth in Kenya and Africa today?

I know times are hard, the economy is not performing as required, there are no jobs and everything seems to be headed in the wrong direction this year. Tough times bring out the best in us; necessity is the mother of invention.

It is at such times that we are encouraged to think beyond our desired careers. It is time to be creative.

We are at an opportune moment in history where technology allows us to look beyond our horizons but to think of the market as the global village we now live in. Never be afraid to try something new, experiment, fail, rise again and never extinguish your dream.

Your parting shot? 

For those going through tough times, things will get better. Be the seed that when buried, does not die out, but grows into a tree of life. Shine on!

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