Sky is not the limit-For Richard Malikongwa, IDM Regional Director

Friday, March 19, 2021 - 15:15

A hardworking leader, Malikongwa has done an impeccable job of turning the IDM brand into a household name. Having gained rich past work experience from blue chip corporations, he has easily transitioned to ably lead in the education provision space.  He chats with STAFF WRITER VICTORIA MARUMO.
You are the leader of an institution that is a brainchild of the Governments of Botswana., Lesotho and Eswatini, take us through IDM establishment.
MALIKONGWA: IDM was conceived to meet the developmental needs of the citizens of the governments then as the three countries had just attained independence and needed to close the skills gap. The institute has developed over a period of time from focusing on short-term courses to long term programmes, transforming to provide courses targeted at other areas including the private sector and civil society. The growth entailed accreditation of programmes in compliance with international training and qualifications framework. IDM programmes have evolved from Certificate to Masters Level.
One of IDM's strengths as a brand is its regionality; take us through this tripartite arrangement and how it has built the three Governments and their nations.
MALIKONGWA:  IDM is the only institution that still ties the three countries that is Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini to one common agenda and we are able to share resources amongst the three institutions to the benefit of one another. It is interesting to note that we were even able to graduate our students under one roof through a joint ceremony. We are able to draw skills from one another as a tripartite and are now able to go beyond and collaborate with other countries beyond the tripartite; to share our experiences to the other territories and exchange knowledge.
This year marks the end of IDM's 5-year strategy which was formulated In 2016, coinciding with your on-boarding as the Regional Director. Pleas reflect on this journey.
MALIKONGWA: Well, IDM strategy was a rollercoaster for us; it’s a strategy that took us from where we were then to where we are now. We crafted it around the time I assumed duty, to tackle various issues within the institution. We first had to look at our brand and its regionality, to say what else do we need to do to be more appealing as an institution. We had to bring in resources, we had to attract skills, more so, we had to ensure that we can manage ourselves as an institution to adjust to change and evolve accordingly. We also needed to define our culture, look into our performance as well as put in place interventions to capacitate our staff.  This further involved looking into our policies to see if they were fitting with the courses we have in place, a revamp of our internal processes and infrastructure optimisation, and also had a re-look at our image to see if it was suitable for our stakeholders, our students and our brand.
IDM is home to students of different backgrounds on an economic level and culturally. Some come in fresh from high school, others are working; a good number of them are long distance learners and so the strategy was designed to embrace all of our students. We have put in place block lessons during weekends and also enhanced our E-learning system for our students such that they are able to study flexible hours that fit into their schedules. We have our key stakeholders whom we had to take into consideration to make sure they are also satisfied with IDM as a brand. IDM has gone the extra mile to even conduct surveys to check brand affinity and also find out preferred options of learning, together with collaborations and consultations through the tripartite and beyond to ensure we continue to offer value to our clientele. It has been a really exciting journey with engagement as far as the United Kingdom and United States of America; we have collaborated with various institutions in the Free State in South Africa and have even engaged with Galilee Institution in Israel and a lot more entities which we will share in the near future. We have had our fair share of problems; although we managed to move from a point of financial deficit to surplus, there are other areas that we are working on, for instance, our infrastructure could do with more work. We are not where we want to be but nonetheless, but we are still able to deliver our services. We also face challenges in some of our faculties as well as the Covid pandemic infringing badly on our service delivery. However, these are problems to which we have and are still coming up with solutions to.
Delving a bit more into the institution's balanced score card since 2016, please highlight some of your greatest moments and achievements.
MALIKONGWA:  We have achieved a lot in the last five years, especially because we have been able to attract talent to IDM from Botswana and beyond the borders even in the diaspora. Again, we have managed to respond to the needs and requests of civil servants and provide programmes such as project management which is pivotal in-service delivery. In Eswatini and Lesotho we were able to craft and introduce a Regional Health Safety programme which led to us collaborating with entities in South Africa that offer the programme.  Even in Botswana, there has been extensive research to find out what the needs are and respond to them accordingly, covering different spheres of government as well as catering for Non-Governmental Organisations and the private sector. We have gone the extra mile of responding to needs even in the tourism sector and managed to launch our Centre for Culinary Arts which should fill in the gap in skills required in the tourism and catering industry. That’s not all; we have had to set up the Centre for Local Governance in Botswana, responding to the needs of government stakeholders and members who form part and parcel of these various organisations to equip them with the relevant skills that will allow them to do their work diligently.
Being exceptional leader known for putting people at the centre of the success of an organisation, with a history as an HR professional, share your IDM experience, its people and their contribution to the organisational growth.
MALIKONGWA:  People have been very fantastic and working together as a team has been very fruitful. My approach in dealing with issues is to respect and value the diversity and people's opinions, blending those experiences to help craft a future for all of us at IDM. Taking the institution to higher lengths requires development of people and making sure we have the right capacity to keep running as an institution and staying relevant to our clientele. It's also about the innovation of our institution and its people, such that one feels valued and proud to be a part of the IDM family, working hand in hand towards growth and sustainability.
What is the significance of the Centre for Local Governance that you mentioned earlier?
MALIKONGWA:  As an institution that has consistently aligned its mandate to that of Government to make a meaningful impact in the livelihoods of citizens, we developed a Centre for Local Governance following extensive consultations with Local Authorities and other stakeholders. The issues discussed centred on important matters of service delivery, decentralization, financing of development projects, statutory responsibilities of Local Authorities and other intergovernmental functions.
The Centre for Local Governance is therefore designed to build the capacity of councilors to help them deliver their mandate as the second sphere of government.  It will facilitate research, professionalize the local government sector and more importantly strengthen monitoring and evaluation of development dispensation.
Some of the courses it covers include; Decentralization and Local Government in Botswana, Roles & Responsibilities of councilors, Botswana System of Governance, Corporate Governance for Local Authorities, Stakeholder Engagement and Networking and Leadership and Management. They will further be trained on; The Art of Public Speaking, Self- Management and Personal Branding, Strategic Planning Awareness as it relates to councils, Performance Management for Councilors, Personal Savings Investment Plan, Procurement and Supply in Local Authorities, and Project Management. Other emerging issues in Local Government such as the Sustainable Development Goals, e-Government, Twining and the New Urban Agenda (Urban councils) will be considered during the course of delivery of the programme.
Bringing it closer to you, as the recipient of the 2020 World HRD Congress's Chief Executive Officer with Human Resource Orientation award; this being an accolade that recognizes an authentic Chief executive in the Global scene, who employs the right combination of interventions to drive business performance, share with us a little what this award means to you?
MALIKONGWA:  I was surprised but equally elated when I found out, but I take solace in knowing that this award is truly dedicated to colleagues that I work with, who have made IDM what it is today. As much as I was recognized as an individual the award was also recognizing everyone at IDM who have played their part in shouldering the institution, decision making and everything in between; the students and the staff alike. The Patriot has also recognized me as one of the top 10 CEOs in the country and this came at a time when I felt that IDM had grown as an institution as such, this recognition is deserving to all stakeholders of the institution.
How have you been able to combat Covid-19 and stay afloat as an institution?
MALIKONGWA:  The pandemic really disrupted a lot for us, affecting mostly long-distance learning students, but we managed to be agile and act swiftly to save the situation. We fast tracked our E-learning platforms, had to introduce blended learning which incorporates both physical and virtual lessons, to the benefit of our diverse student body. Of course, there were challenges that came about, such as internet connectivity and general adjustments, especially for full time students transitioning to online learning but I believe we are bouncing back and doing well. We could not have done this alone and recognize the different institutions that we are in partnership with like the University of Bolton, and can say we learnt a lot from Botswana Open University to the betterment of our education system and service delivery.
What advice can you give to other institutions, from your experiences and the lessons you have learnt in your journey with IDM?
MALIKONGWA:  For starters, I believe all learning institutions should know that online learning is not just an option but should be an investment. Secondly, as an institution, it is important to capacitate both staff and students, more so that it is a drastic change, from traditional teaching methods to the use of online platforms. We are living in an era where change is here, we cannot shy away from it and as such, it is only fitting that we adjust accordingly to better cater for our students’ needs as institutions and keep up in the fast-paced world.