By Hilaire Akollo
When I bumped into Dr Nathalie Beatrice Chinje-N Bodiong (fondly known as Dr Nath) in Cape Town a bit more than 20 years ago, I did not know that I was making a date with destiny. She was a Brand Manager at Woolworths – South Africa’s premium food and non-food retail chain listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Since then, I have been witnessing closely and from afar, the rise and growth of a determined, principled, loyal, passionate and driven woman who is obsessed with Excellence in the areas of private sector development, women and youth entrepreneurship, intra-Africa trade and skills development in Africa.
As the Lead Advisor to the Secretary-General of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Nath has been strategically providing advice behind the scenes on various aspects of the Duties of the Secretary-General who serves as the interface between the Boards and Bank Management. Looking at where she is today, there is no doubt that her past experiences have prepared her to drive efficiently and effectively sustainable investments to Africa by leveraging off her relationships and extensive networks in Africa and globally.
Through Upbeat Marketing, a company she founded in 2004, Dr Nath, a savvy entrepreneur, has skillfully used her platforms to promote sustainable investments in Africa. In that capacity, she created, launched, and successfully executed the infra-Africa trade seminar with the support of the private sector, African missions in South Africa and the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Department of International Relations in South Africa. She is still known today as a pioneer in South Africa in the areas of intra-Africa trade. Many South African businesses have benefitted from her deep expertise and insights on the intricacies of doing business in Africa and are now operating in the rest of the continent. She believes that the African Continental Free trade Area (AfCTA) “is bound to be a catalyst for Africa’s trade and economic prosperity”. Indeed, it has been purported that AfCFTA will be the world’s largest single market, accounting for $4 trillion in spending and investment across the 54 countries. Thus, she encourages the private sector to get involved, and more specifically growth-oriented women-owned enterprises.
Dr Nath is also a consummate educator. She uses her time to empower others, especially the youth and women entrepreneurs on accessing markets and building the relevant skills to scale up their operations and be part of the supply chains of large, multinational companies with a pan-African footprint. Her full dedication to the social-economic development of the African continent has made her the recipient of the 2019 Social Innovation Leadership Award in South Africa.
Despite her overloaded professional diary, Dr Nath remains a devoted mother to her two daughters, Kezie and Jemmie. She encourages them to equip themselves with proper skills, build resilience and be actively involved in the advancement of African economies. As she puts it “I encourage my daughters (and African youth), to be the change they want to see”. She is a committed Christian too. Her path to success was not a smooth road as she encountered challenges along the way in both her personal and professional lives which she rose above thanks to her strong Christian faith.
Whilst Dr Nath may have been living outside of her native home, Cameroon, for now over a quarter of a century, she remains a Cameroonian at heart. She accepted an appointment as an honorary member of the women wing of the Enterprise of Cameroon (ECAM), the brainchild of Cameroon’s top entrepreneur Mr Protais Ayangma Amang.
The road ahead is still very long for Dr Nath and she is taking every day with great anticipation and excitement.