Born 30 years ago on September 11, Esnat Chilije aspired to become a heart surgeon when she was younger, only to have second thoughts when she went to secondary school.
“My older brother, who was then in college told me about the field of economics, convincing me to study for a degree in it. I enjoyed all the Economics courses, though some of them proved challenging.
“After receiving an award from Continental Discount House in my fourth year of college for the best economics students, I knew I would pursue my career in the financial sector, in which I have worked since graduating,” she explains.
From Nico Asset Managers, the 30-year-old is now the first female operations manager for the Malawi Stock Exchange (MSE).
Established in the 1990s, MSE is a platform where companies raise long term capital and is also where investors (through their preferred broker) trade securities such as shares and bonds.
Among other things, Chilije develops and implements strategy, oversees trading activity, business development efforts, ensures compliance with stakeholders and develops and implements capital market activities.
Among other challenges, she notes that most of the company’s activities do not have an immediate impact.
“Listing, for instance, is a major decision for companies, meaning that most of the companies I engage today may only list two or three years from now. Similarly, on the investing side, we are involved in awareness activities with secondary school and tertiary level students with the intention of creating a future investing population,” she says.
Growing up with four brothers and attending economics classes dominated by boys, Chilije has not had problems fitting in the male-dominated work environment. To her, working in such a field is multifaceted.
“It is fulfilling, challenging and inspiring. One thing that I have learnt along the way is that for women to succeed in a man’s field, they have to work harder than the average man. Men are naturally competitive and focused and through interaction I have learnt and adapted.
“I am, therefore, driven to working very hard which is generally good for my personal development. I also enjoy working in the financial sector and specifically the capital market which inspires me to do even better. It is satisfying to see companies and other investors benefiting from funds raised through the stock market,” she says.
Fifth born in a family of seven children, the adventurous, reserved and prayerful young woman is a mother to five-year-old Victoria.
She holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation; a bachelor’s degree in Social Science (Economics) obtained from the University of Malawi as well as an advanced certification in Capital Market Development and Regulation from the United Nations Institute of Training and Research, Switzerland.
Aside from work, she is an executive member of the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama). She serves in various capacities at church and is passionate about charity. She is the treasurer for a charity group – Ladies of Influence.