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avengart2As the divisional director of health operations at
multinational health insurance provider Liberty Health, Mbali
Khumalo is responsible for the operational centre that supports and
oversees Liberty Health’s in-country offices across Africa, as well as
operations for the South African medical scheme administration
business. It is a far cry from Khumalo’s first job as a bank teller in
Durban, and a testament to the determination and grit that has
propelled her career well beyond her dreams.
Professional drive and a commitment to demonstrate her worth
rather than speak about it, saw her accelerate through the ranks of top
South African corporates in the banking and insurance industries.
“When I graduated with a certificate in commerce, fresh faced,
with very little job experience under my belt, I
promised my cousin that I’d be managing a
branch in the next 10 years,” says Khumalo.
Thirty years later, she still sets herself stretch
goals and acknowledges that a combination of
support, a thick skin and readiness to adapt to
new challenges and areas of expertise has helped
her achieve them.
In 2015, Khumalo was approached by the
Harvard University Center for African Studies
in Boston, Massachusetts. She was recruited for
a leadership programme, on condition that she
use the experience to drive development and
growth on her home continent. Of the
experience, she only has positive things to say:
“It has been a really life-changing experience—
provoking a lot of reflection and inspiring me to
keep working hard toward real impact and
empowerment back home.”
Within the programme, Khumalo was one of only 21% female
participants—the highest percentage the course has seen yet. “Gender
disparity in boardrooms and business is an international concern; we
are making progress, but we still have a way to go.” Within Liberty
Health, she says there has been a marked change in the demographics
of the leadership since she started at the company in 2012.
Throughout her career, performance-based acceleration programmes,
mentorship and coaching programmes have assisted her to gain
valuable experience and exposure, and she sees these as key to
continuing to transform the business landscape.
Khumalo’s career also demonstrates her refusal to back down from
a challenge; “There were many points in my career that required me
to learn a completely new set of skills, new industries and regulations,”
she says. This is how her first transfer to medical insurance happened:
“I was attracted to the challenges of working in healthcare and making
quality care accessible to more people. The people who work in
healthcare are very passionate.”
Khumalo never passed up an opportunity to learn and study
further, expanding her insight into global trends through programmes
at international universities.