Jimmy Kasamale, Tobacco Asia subscriber
General Manager, Malawi Leaf Company
In 2007, 33-year-old Jimmy Kasamale took over the reins of the Malwai Leaf Company, becoming its first general manager. In the eight years since, under Jimmy’s leadership, the company has developed from a small operation trading less than 500 tons of processed leaf annually to a medium-sized company trading in excess of 15 million kilograms of processed leaf annually.
Experienced in a variety of fields including insurance, real estate management, advertising, tobacco production, tobacco grower association/cooperative management, tobacco logistics, marketing, and trading, Jimmy started his career in the tobacco industry with a three-year training program at the then Auction Holdings Ltd. (now rebranded to AHL Group) as a trainee growers representative on tobacco sales. The position involved training in tobacco production and marketing.
“The tobacco industry is a key industry in Malawi,” said Jimmy. “It is the main national income generator, the highest foreign currency earner, and the main employer. Being a highly ambitious and patriotic person, and having just graduated from an agricultural college, I wanted to be part of the team that drives the economy of the country. This influenced my decision to join the industry.”
Having successfully completed the training program, Jimmy was given the position of growers representative on the Lilongwe auction floors where he worked for many years before joining Universal Leaf (Mozambique Leaf Tobacco Ltda) as a senior leaf blender. Here Jimmy honed his tobacco blending skills while also imparting that knowledge to the company’s leaf personnel. He also gained more exposure to tobacco marketing and sales to both blue-chip and non-bluevchip international customers,
After his time working in Mozambique, Jimmy returned home to Malawi and joined the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) as tobacco program manager (national), where he introduced and/or improved some of NASFAM’s tobacco value chain activities such as tobacco transportation, tobacco hessian scheme management, and green tobacco re-handling. “When I joined NASFAM, the tobacco program was almost collapsing,” Jimmy recalled. “There was high member attrition and very poor service delivery in transportation, sales representation, and the tobacco hessian scheme. Stakeholders had lost confidence in the program. With my joining, the program turned around and started registering significant increases in membership and great improvements in service delivery. Almost all stakeholders who had lost confidence in the program returned and started working with the program.”
Jimmy joined Malawi Leaf Company after NASFAM, and the rest, as they say, is history. Under Jimmy’s watch, the company has grown and now commands a customer base that covers all continents and has recently partnered with Eastern Tobacco Company SAE of Egypt to invest in a tobacco processing plant and cigarette manufacturing in Malawi.
“The tobacco industry, especially the tobacco trading sector, is highly competitive. It requires managers who have the drive and grit, those who are alert and are up to date in market dynamics. I love to work in such environments. I also love the interaction in the industry. It is highly interactive. Almost everybody knows everyone. It is like a big family,” enthused Jimmy.
Achieving such great success in his career at such a young age is not the least of Jimmy’s accomplishments. He also holds a master’s degrees in global management from Salford University, UK and a business administration (MBA) from Management College of Southern Africa, South Africa; a general degree in agriculture from University of Malawi; a diploma in agriculture from University of Malawi; a postgraduate certificate in business research methods from Edinburgh Business School, Herriot Watt University, UK, and is currently, finalizing his studies for a doctor of business administration (DBA) degree with Edinburgh Business School, Herriot Watt University.
An avid reader, Jimmy enjoys books about business, leadership, and personal development, listing Aliko Dangote, Chika Onyeani, Warren Buffet, Jack Welsh, Robert Kiyosaki, Richard Branson, Stephen Covey, John C. Maxwell, Robin Sharma, and Malcom Gladwell as some of his favorite authors. He also enjoys playing squash, golf, and traveling.
Jimmy credits his parents, his wife Patricia, and his children, Sally and Gray, for being his support and inspiration that helped him to achieve all that he has. He also credits his mentor, Dr. Evans Matabwa, the c.e.o. for AHL Group.
“He has mentored me for a long time, and has played a very key role in my professional and personal development. He has also been an important figure behind my success at Malawi Leaf Company. I will never be able to pay back the fatherly role he has played in my life,” said Jimmy.