Profile with Qhelile Nyathi
Qhelile Nyathi (Zimbabwe & St Antony’s 2012) completed an MSc in African Studies in 2013 at the University of Oxford. Qhelile won the Sasol Golden Key Excellence Award for Business & Management from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in 2010, where she served as the President of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). She also worked part-time as an academic tutor in the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science and as Writing Place consultant in the Faculty of Management Studies. She completed her BSc in Actuarial Science in 2010 and a BSc Honors in Financial Mathematics in 2011 at UKZN as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar.
Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?
Qhelile Nyathi: Zimbabwe – Bulawayo, the second largest city.
Rhodes Project: Who is your favourite author?
Qhelile Nyathi: I can’t say I have a favourite author, but I enjoy reading biographies. I particularly enjoyed reading Steve Jobs’ biography.
Rhodes Project: When did you first become interested in studying Financial Management?
Qhelile Nyathi: When I was studying for my undergraduate degree in South Africa in 2008. I became passionate about financial management because of my involvement in community projects, with what was then called SIFE (which is now called Enactus). The projects we were doing were trying to use social entrepreneurship as a solution to community issues. I found that financial literacy was the major thing lacking in most of the projects we were doing, so that heightened the importance of understanding finance and financial management for me.
Rhodes Project: What is the most rewarding part of working in finance?
Qhelile Nyathi: I haven’t yet worked in finance but certainly the most rewarding part of my career so far has been working with SIFE and the other community projects. It is really inspiring to see people start earning incomes, and taking control of those incomes through the projects we were doing at grassroots level, sometimes in rural areas with women doing simple things like agriculture. That was really uplifting.
Rhodes Project: What do you plan to do for the next few years?
Qhelile Nyathi: I plan to travel a lot. I plan to try my hand at anything I can get a hold of – right now I’m doing an internship with TIME Magazine. I’ve never thought of myself as a journalist or a writer, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying it a lot; I’m learning and growing a lot.
Rhodes Project: Can you tell me a little bit about your research?
Qhelile Nyathi: I was writing my thesis on Zimbabwean politics – looking at how politicians reconstructed the meaning of being educated, or what it means to have a degree and comparing the ideas of the various political parties. I got back weird sentiments like people thinking that being educated means that they are cleaner, or smarter, or more appealing. It was really fascinating because in Zimbabwe there is a blatant contradiction between the two leaders of the strongest parties. The president has seven degrees, none of which are honorary, whereas the leader of the opposition has no degree whatsoever, so the contrast is quite revealing.
Rhodes Project: What is your favourite part of being an academic?
Qhelile Nyathi: Thinking and gathering data. I conducted interviews for my thesis, so gathering those interviews and trying to make sense of all the information that I had was the most exciting. I didn’t really enjoy the writing so much, but thinking and trying to explain things in ways that you haven’t thought about before, that was fascinating.
Rhodes Project: Who are some of your role models?
Qhelile Nyathi: Nelson Mandela is a big one because of his appreciation for education. Steve Jobs for his business acumen and many other business people such as Strive Masiyiwa back in Zimbabwe, who is the founder of a telecommunications company, Econet, which has expanded to several countries across the continent. I look up to a lot of business people.
Rhodes Project: What does an ideal day look like?
Qhelile Nyathi: I’d love to say it starts with a work-out, but I only get that one right some days. It would have to involve a bit of reading, perhaps the Bible, or any novel that I’m reading at that point in time. Also, at least six hours of sleep!
Rhodes Project: What do you do with your spare time?
Qhelile Nyathi: I like to be in the comfort of my home, whatever “home” is at that point in time, with a good book, or a good movie, I especially enjoy those that are based on true stories. I also like being out in nature, exploring rural areas, doing very simple things. I don’t like crowds and the chaos that goes with that!
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