SHIFT HAPPENS | SEASON 2 • EPISODE 3

Pumela Salela: What a Handshake with Nelson Mandela Ignited

SHIFT HAPPENS is a Global Take on Women’s Turning Points and Pivotal Moments

Pumela Salela, one of Africa’s leading Global Business Facilitators, shares how her meeting Nelson Mandela in person and receiving a scholarship from him, propelled her into a life of purpose and a stellar academic and professional career. Pumela describes how her dedication for human connection is infused by the turning point of shaking Mandela’s hand. And her pivot happened during Covid and lockdown in London, where she withdrew into stillness to then embark invigorated, and as an entrepreneur with a clothing brand.

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About Our Guest

Pumela Salela
One of Africa’s leading Global Business Facilitators

Pumela Salela considers herself a Visionary Catalyst ™️. She helps individuals, organisations and countries ignite their spark and fuel their fire. Multiple Award Winning Pumela Salela has been Country Head for the United Kingdom (UK) under Brand South Africa, the custodian of the South Africa Country Brand in the last 8 years.

In 2022 she was awarded the EuroKnowledge Leadership Award, a prestigious award for excelling in Leadership. In the same year she was awarded the Champion for Africa Award in the UK. She is considered one the United Kingdom’s most influential Africans. In 2018, Pumela was featured as a POWERHOUSE in DESTINY magazine in South Africa. She is the 2018 recipient of the African Achiever Award presented to her in the House of Lords, UK. In 2019 she received the BRITISH Award for African Development.

Prior to this Pumela was the Chief Director for Economic Policy Development and Planning at the Department of Economic Development in South Africa. The Rockefeller Foundation acknowledged her contribution and innovation in formulating systems which address poverty by selecting Salela to be one the 18 global recipients of the foundation’s inaugural Global Fellowship on Social Innovation–an only South African to receive the honor.

Pumela has also worked as a Consultant for the World Bank, based at the organisation’s headquarters in United States, Washington D.C. and a Director: BPO at the dti, South Africa, The Director role was preceded by her position as Deputy Director for Investment Promotion at Trade and Investment South Africa.

She has also been a lecturer in Strategic Brand Management at VEGA, The School of Branding. Salela studied to complete her MBA with distinction (cum laude) in England through a Nelson Mandela Scholarship where she received the Council Award for being the Best MBA student.

Pumela is the Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Scholarship Alumni Association
and a Mentor to Graca Machel Scholars. She is featured in the 2013 issue of the book: South Africa’s Most Inspirational Women. She has also been featured in the 2012 issue of DESTINY magazine as one of South Africa’s Young and Powerful Achievers. In 2013 the
DESTINY magazine showcased her as one of the Top 40 young leaders, innovators and job creators in South Africa. Ms Salela has served as an On-air Advisor to investors on an Entrepreneurship Television Show called Rise South Africa.

About Your Host

Claudia Mahler is a creative activist, with more than a decade of experience curating meaningful conversations for women in business, art and education in Europe and the United States.

She designs events for women’s empowerment that emphasize organic connection and conversation to complement existing professional development training in a variety of work environments.

She has 20+ years of experience in communications and PR in Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

Transcript

Pumela Salela: What a Handshake with Nelson Mandela Ignited 

00:00:07:01 – 00:00:33:03
Claudia
Hello. This is shift happens. We are in season two and today I feel blessed to be in conversation with a woman that I met at my own house. More about that later. Pumela Shalala is from South Africa, and she shares a fascinating story which is exemplary for resilience, hard work, and deep commitment. Pumela comes from an underprivileged area in Cape Town.

00:00:33:05 – 00:01:01:20
Claudia
Listen to her life altering moment through meeting no one less than Nelson Mandela. Pumela is a true powerhouse and accelerator. She is an economic trade and investment wizard and held roles at the world Bank, served as chief director for economic Policy Development at the Department of Economic Development in South Africa, and for the past eight years, she served as the country head for the UK under Brand South Africa.

00:01:01:22 – 00:01:33:22
Claudia
She is considered as one of UK’s most influential Africans and is a recipient of numerous awards like the prestigious Euro Knowledge Leadership Award in 2022 or the African Achiever Award presented to her in the House of Lords in London in 2018. Apart from her work, Pumela is a committed philanthropist and is the chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Scholarship Alumni Association and started her own nonprofit, The Illness Foundation.

00:01:34:00 – 00:01:48:11
Claudia
Please tune in and be inspired.

00:01:48:13 – 00:02:04:01
Claudia
Okay, so here we are at Shift Happens and today I’m in conversation with Pumela Salela. And, I’m so excited that we are able to meet now and that you have enough light.

00:02:04:03 – 00:02:05:16
Pumela
Let’s say it’s good.

00:02:05:18 – 00:02:09:05
Claudia
Where, where are you calling us from?

00:02:09:07 – 00:02:11:22
Pumela
I’m calling from South Africa. Thank you.

00:02:12:00 – 00:02:14:00
Claudia
So excited to have you, Pumela.

00:02:14:02 – 00:02:15:16
Pumela
Thank you for inviting me.

00:02:15:18 – 00:02:43:07
Claudia
Yes, absolutely. It’s very funny because we met at my party in Switzerland after the with after the World Economic Forum. a friend had asked me to host a little aftershow party, so I did, and many people came among them, you know, and, we already had such a lovely conversation. Yes. In my crowded living room. So I’m so happy that we can continue this now.

00:02:43:08 – 00:02:45:09
Claudia
Thank you for being here, Pumela.

00:02:45:11 – 00:02:55:18
Pumela
Thank you. And I must say, Claudia, that you were the most gracious host I’ve ever seen. And thank you for creating that intimate setup. So thank you.

00:02:55:20 – 00:03:15:05
Claudia
Oh, I’m glad you say that. Thank you so much. So, before we talk about, interestingly enough, you divided it between the shifts that happens between a turning point and a pivotal moment. Before we get to that, I have a few warm up questions.

00:03:15:07 – 00:03:16:15
Pumela
Okay.

00:03:16:17 – 00:03:21:14
Claudia
What is your perfect idea of happiness?

00:03:21:16 – 00:03:50:12
Pumela
to be free. to I consider myself a free bird. And so for me, happiness is about being free to be all that you are created to be. to have the freedom to move, freedom to associate. And and also just utilizing every gift that you have. and also connecting with people. I also enjoy connecting with people and also having different experiences and experiences and different cultures as well.

00:03:50:17 – 00:03:55:00
Pumela
So freedom is at the at the top of all of it. Yes.

00:03:55:02 – 00:04:01:12
Claudia
Yeah. Well said. What do you most value in your friends?

00:04:01:14 – 00:04:28:15
Pumela
I value. I think I’m a person that loves connecting it. it is soul level. So for me, friendships are pods meeting of spirits. So it’s not just about friends for the sake of being friends. So if we connect at the level of souls connecting, that’s something that I value because it’s very rare that you have people that you connect with at that level.

00:04:28:17 – 00:04:46:20
Pumela
And also just having firstly companionship and people that you can trust that you can, bounce off ideas and they become your voice of reason. So I rather have few quality friends than have lots of quantity in terms of friendship.

00:04:46:22 – 00:04:52:11
Claudia
Yeah. Yeah. Oh. Totally agree. what is your most treasured possession?

00:04:52:13 – 00:05:17:05
Pumela
My family, which is my mother, my father, my sister and my brother. They in comedy. They ground me. They always make me feel like in the world. Even if the whole world can turn against me, they will always be there for me. They have unconditional love for me. The other day, when it was Valentine’s Day, my mother sent me a Happy Valentine’s message.

00:05:17:05 – 00:05:37:13
Pumela
And then I called her. She’s like, I’m sending you this message in case nobody in this world, wishes. Happy Valentine’s. Know that you have unconditional love from me. So, they actually, kept me going, you know, when the going gets tough. My family. Is that end for me? So that’s. That’s what I treasure the most.

00:05:37:15 – 00:05:42:22
Claudia
Beautiful. What is your greatest fear?

00:05:43:00 – 00:06:06:06
Pumela
My greatest fear would be to leave this earth without having fulfilled my purpose. I want to be all that I’m destined to be. And, to be conscious in that way. so that I don’t miss the reason why I was here on Earth. I always say that I want to live a legacy. Lives a legacy, and not leave a legacy.

00:06:06:07 – 00:06:12:04
Pumela
So I want to be aligned with my purpose, in everything that I do.

00:06:12:06 – 00:06:18:01
Claudia
What would you come back as a bird.

00:06:18:03 – 00:06:29:22
Pumela
Because then there would be no restrictions in terms of borders. I wouldn’t have to go on airplanes. I’ll just. Yeah. You know, go wherever I want to go whenever I want to go.

00:06:30:00 – 00:06:31:02
Claudia
No security.

00:06:31:06 – 00:06:42:07
Pumela
Exactly, exactly. So definitely a free bird. Not just a bird, but a free bird. Not a caged bird, but a free birds free bird.

00:06:42:09 – 00:06:51:08
Claudia
Who? Lovely, lovely woman. I thank you.

00:06:51:10 – 00:07:14:18
Claudia
So then we, shifting to your a turning point, and, you shared with me before that it happened for you at a very young age. So it would be lovely if you share this story and this moment with us. And also why it really has been this major turning point for your life. Sure. Sure.

00:07:14:20 – 00:07:42:01
Pumela
firstly, I think I need to indicate that I came from a disadvantaged background in in South Africa, where my parents didn’t have much. And my father himself was an orphan. So, we, I, they tried their level best to do no, to get me to have opportunities. But within their capabilities, there were limits. But I’ve always treasured education and its significance.

00:07:42:01 – 00:08:12:03
Pumela
And I’ve always believed that education will also be the key to my own freedom and ability to contribute to the world. But if you don’t have the means, you can only just dream. So the turning point for me was as disadvantaged as I was. the criteria, actually, for getting a Nelson Mandela scholarship was that one, you had to come from a disadvantaged background, and two, you had to have leadership qualities.

00:08:12:05 – 00:08:37:01
Pumela
And three, you must have, a proven contribution to your community. And fortunately, even as a young person, at the age of 18, I was part of, a committee that started a community radio station. And I was always involved in community development where I came from, which is the poorest province in South Africa. That is the Eastern Cape province.

00:08:37:03 – 00:08:59:13
Pumela
Incidentally, that’s the province that Nelson Mandela also came from. So an opportunity came and I saw this opportunity while sitting in a public transport, and I saw it on someone else’s newspaper. So someone was sitting next to me in the public transport, and I saw in the newspaper that there was, I Nelson Mandela scholarship that was, was available.

00:08:59:13 – 00:09:22:04
Pumela
And so, after the person, when the person was getting off the public transport, I asked them to please just give me the newspaper so that I could see. So I saw their scholarship and I applied, for the scholarship. But then I did not get the scholarship because, they later on, they told me that as much as I was, I qualified in terms of leadership and all of that.

00:09:22:06 – 00:09:42:01
Pumela
I was too young at that time, so they thought it would be very risky to send me overseas on my own, during that time. But my determination made sure that I was not deterred from my dream. So I used to go to the website and look at what the scholarship stands for, and I used to say, this is me.

00:09:42:01 – 00:10:02:22
Pumela
They just don’t know me yet. So I gained, so I kept on looking and I say, this is me. They really just don’t know me. So then what happened is that I applied that game. And then when they when they interviewed me, they said what made you apply again? I said, I belong here. I’m one of the Nelson Mandela scholars.

00:10:03:02 – 00:10:26:14
Pumela
It stands for everything that I stand for. And I admire what even the patron of this scholarship stands for. So, so I then was selected to be one of ten young people in South Africa at that time to be awarded the scholarship. So it became a turning point for me project because and and, you know, how do I put it?

00:10:26:14 – 00:10:30:14
Pumela
Let me call it serendipity because I had, you know.

00:10:30:16 – 00:10:33:18
Claudia
I was thinking about,

00:10:33:20 – 00:10:53:15
Pumela
so I had gone to receive the scholarship. I had my own plans of what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do when I came back. And then Nelson Mandela himself handed me the scholarship, and he said, you are my ambassador. You carry my name and you shook my hand. Look, I’m even getting goosebumps now.

00:10:53:17 – 00:10:54:13
Claudia
yeah. Me too.

00:10:54:13 – 00:11:23:02
Pumela
Oh my gosh, I’m getting goosebumps because I still remember that handshake vividly. So from the moment you shook my hand, something in me was ignited. so I moved in. I said, look, I want one to live my life according to the values of this men. And I also want to take the baton from him, obviously never at his level of sacrifice, but to see what the values that he stood for are the values that I’m going to adopt.

00:11:23:06 – 00:11:52:00
Pumela
The contribution that he’s made to humanity is a contribution that I want to make. So because for me, in that moment, suddenly humanity had a face, you know, humanity was tangible. I could touch humanity. And so I lived my life, you know, aspiring and also being inspired by his principles. And some of these include peace and reconciliation, but the most is forgiveness.

00:11:52:00 – 00:11:56:19
Pumela
And I used to struggle with forgiveness. And hence when I, I.

00:11:56:19 – 00:11:57:15
Claudia
It’s a tough one.

00:11:57:18 – 00:12:26:06
Pumela
Yeah. Very forgiveness is very difficult. So then if I was in a tough situation, you know, in terms of leadership, I would say what would Nelson Mandela do in this situation and what would he have done in this situation? And I would, you know, align myself as difficult as it is towards reconciliation, towards peace, towards justice. so that’s how I’ve lived my life, I think, for the last 20 years.

00:12:26:06 – 00:12:52:13
Pumela
Yeah, for the last 20 years. and so it really became a turning point because also we then became called Nelson Mandela Scholars. And that name carried a prestige. But more than anything, it carried responsibility. You know, you can’t just be called the Nelson Mandela scholar. And not at least come a quarter to what he stood for, come near a quarter of what he stood for.

00:12:52:19 – 00:13:16:11
Pumela
So, yeah, it really became a turning point. And, I still have that picture in my home. it’s my parents treasure because I travel a lot, so I don’t carry it with me. But it’s sitting the picture of my having, been given a scholarship by him. Is it my home? And then ten years later, after the scholarship, I was the only scholar that was asked to thank him.

00:13:16:13 – 00:13:32:22
Pumela
Well, now I’ve behalf. And, so I’ve got another picture of just me and him on stage. But I had, when I was asked to thank you on behalf of all the scholars, I had a brain fog project because, as I told you, I dressed such a great man and and.

00:13:33:00 – 00:13:33:16
Claudia
Oh, my God.

00:13:33:16 – 00:13:56:06
Pumela
I didn’t know what to say. And they went to see the speech before the function, so I was stuck. And then, then I remember then I had an moment and and I contacted his praise singer, and I started by asking his clan names, and I thought that that’s more befitting. Clan names are something that’s done in Africa, which which shows respect.

00:13:56:06 – 00:14:22:04
Pumela
And it’s about the genealogy of the person. So I started with that and then carry on with the speech. And then some years later, when he passed on, I was invited to go and see him lying in state. And so I saw him even on his final hours, but even seeing him on his final hours. And Claudia reminded me that we are mere mortals, because when I had met him, he was this giant.

00:14:22:04 – 00:14:39:00
Pumela
He was very tall. But when he was lying there, it also reminded me of that our lives as human beings are limited, and that we should do whatever we can, but to do good whilst we live on earth. So I saw him in all those phases and look, I’m still getting goosebumps now.

00:14:39:01 – 00:14:54:08
Claudia
Yeah, yeah. Me too. Totally, totally. Wow, that really is a turning point. And obviously you have something that carries you through your life. So where did the scholarship bring you.

00:14:54:10 – 00:15:20:05
Pumela
Or it, gave me an opportunity to study in the United Kingdom. And I studied for an MBA full time. and it was difficult because the level that that how to operate the system of education was different from, from where I came from. And, and now you were also under pressure to perform because Nelson Mandela scholars with the top academic achievers, that was part of the criteria.

00:15:20:07 – 00:15:37:19
Pumela
And, you come into a new system and you don’t know, but you also don’t want to fail. And if you complain, they tell you, oh, Nelson Mandela scolded us, don’t fail. And it was a lot of pressure, but it taught me resilience. And it taught me that there’s nothing you can achieve if you put your mind to it.

00:15:37:19 – 00:16:03:08
Pumela
Because I remember I used to take walks in the park and in England and saying, how do I unpack these essays, these assignments where they say, you must have your own thoughts, number one. But, you must not plagiarize, and you must also be able to quote other people. So it was tough, but, it opened my mind that I, I was even surprised to learn that I was the best MBA student in my university.

00:16:03:09 – 00:16:20:02
Claudia
Brava. Wow. Thank you. And then I read you stayed in the UK. Yes. Or you went back and forth, and then you were assigned to represent South Africa. And you were the director of the, South African. Please correct me. Tourist board.

00:16:20:04 – 00:16:24:01
Pumela
It’s, it’s an entity called Brand South Africa.

00:16:24:02 – 00:16:25:11
Claudia
Oh, yeah. Brand South Africa.

00:16:25:14 – 00:16:34:07
Pumela
It used to be called the International Marketing Council of South Africa. So it’s a entity that’s outward looking in terms of promoting South Africa.

00:16:34:09 – 00:16:47:20
Claudia
Wow. And now you are based mostly in South Africa or are you you said you are traveling a lot mostly throughout Africa. And explain your, your work and what you do now a little bit more.

00:16:47:22 – 00:17:09:06
Pumela
Okay. So now I, I consider myself a global citizen because in a month I can be in two countries in the world. so I’m truly living like that free. But I was, I was referring to earlier on, so yes, I am in South Africa. South Africa is my base. But as I say, my outlook is global.

00:17:09:06 – 00:17:43:09
Pumela
So I consider myself a global African that goes from South Africa to the world. And, going to different countries. But I’m focusing on promoting trade and investment because that’s the bulk of my background. you know, promoting trade and investment. But one thing that I’m so excited about, is that apart from the commercial aspect, which is my company that, does, you know, deal making, investment facilitation, trade and advisory.

00:17:43:11 – 00:18:07:20
Pumela
so there is that part which is the commercial part. And then there’s the philanthropic part, which is a nonprofit that I formed under the name Eleanor Foundation. And and I’m really passionate about young people. So the focus of my foundation and the, the name of illness is the youth. And really, from an education point of view, it’s more like paying it forward because I got the opportunity to have a scholarship.

00:18:08:02 – 00:18:31:03
Pumela
So part of what I’m focusing on is to ensure that young people are also given scholarships, because I’ve seen the difference that it makes in your life. If you just have an opportunity and there’s so many young people who are capable and all that they need is a chance. So there’s education part and also encouraging volunteerism, going back to that culture of being able to volunteer.

00:18:31:04 – 00:18:52:17
Pumela
I volunteered when I was a young person in many areas, including that community radio station that I used to work at. I was not paid, but again, it gave me skills that I later used in life. So and also, leadership. The other focus area is leadership, because I’ve seen the value of developing young people from a leadership point of view.

00:18:52:17 – 00:19:19:18
Pumela
I’m a product of that. So it’s everything that I’ve gone through. But now plowing it back and the fourth pillar is social impact. So I’m passionate about making an impact socially. And I’ve also been fortunate in my life to have been, you know, awarded a fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, where we went around the world and we were taught about social innovation, impact investing, social impact.

00:19:19:22 – 00:19:30:00
Pumela
So, as I say, it’s bringing together everything that has taken me to where I am, into an independent foundation that’s looking at plowing back into young people.

00:19:30:02 – 00:19:55:12
Claudia
Wow, you’re a whirlwind man. What amazing, amazing woman. Ella, thank you. So and then, you also shared your pivotal moment. so that would be also something interesting to hear from you. And why did you make a distinction between a turning point and a pivotal moment.

00:19:55:14 – 00:20:33:23
Pumela
I think I made a distinction because, you know, the key words during Covid 19 were pivot and agile. Do you remember those key words were very key. It was like, you have to be agile and you have to pivot. And so I made that decision because I associate even the word pivot with 2020. I also remember, though, that when some people were complaining about the fact that we could not move, I said, I’m embracing this moment hundred percent because when in our lifetime are we ever going to get an opportunity to just be still, to sit and not move?

00:20:34:01 – 00:20:54:18
Pumela
And so then that then it became the moment for me to pivot. So it was pivoting for me. Is that moving from a certain place to another level and turning point for me, which is why I attribute it to the time when I met Nelson Mandela. We just went that moment that really changed my life. So that was my turning point.

00:20:55:00 – 00:21:16:12
Pumela
So I’m differentiating them. in that way. So coming to a question, which is which was that moment, that allowed me to pivot, in my view, and in my own experience. So as I said, in Covid 19, we had the lockdown and we were forced not to move. And I was lockdown in London alone with no family.

00:21:16:14 – 00:21:46:08
Pumela
So I didn’t know that this time would be a time of my and I turned it going back to self, you know, going back to self, it became a time for me to do the inner work. It became a time for me to hear and listen to the inner child in me. And it became a time of reflection where I looked at why and I understood again, forgiving myself, but also understanding why I took some of the decisions that I took in life.

00:21:46:10 – 00:22:12:04
Pumela
And it was a time for healing some of the childhood ones that I actually didn’t even know I had. So that moment of silence and being still allowed me to unpack that in that, in that here I did a lot of journaling. I had books this week that I had written, but it became like a catharsis. It became a cathartic moment where I let go of a lot of baggage.

00:22:12:06 – 00:22:37:10
Pumela
And I also, was very intentional about digging my wounds and healing them in that period. And that then led me, I want to say, a person who knew me before the 2020 Puma and the post 2020 Puma have got some differences. It’s not 100% the same person, but grounds me the values and everything are the same, but emotionally I’m a different person.

00:22:37:11 – 00:22:40:17
Pumela
So that’s when I pivot to

00:22:40:18 – 00:22:50:05
Claudia
And you shared that also in that moment you were seizing an entrepreneur and creation opportunity. Of course.

00:22:50:06 – 00:22:52:03
Pumela

00:22:52:04 – 00:22:59:00
Claudia
So tell us a little bit what you decided or what came out of this pivotal moment on the side.

00:22:59:02 – 00:23:29:03
Pumela
So what I noticed during that time was that we were all wearing loungy clothes, you know, because we wear at home. And so my new dress code became wearing tights and tops. And then on top of that I would find it easy to put a kimono. So I really I realized that I love good quality clothes. And sometimes you don’t find them in the shops and then now there was this style of clothing that developed during this time.

00:23:29:05 – 00:23:50:03
Pumela
And one of the reasons why I had not yet gone into fashion was because I had thought, oh, as a small entrepreneur, how would I manage exchanges and returns and all of that? Because I thought that maybe it would be an administrative nightmare. But then I realized that with, these type of outfits, it’s actually like I’m wearing one right now.

00:23:50:05 – 00:24:11:12
Pumela
It’s easy to just it comes onto you, it takes to shape your size, and it can be a one size fits all. And I even said I had this was now my I ha moment that this is, an opportunity that I can get into fashion as I’ve always liked, without having the administrative burden of sizes don’t fit people in exchanges.

00:24:11:12 – 00:24:45:01
Pumela
That’s so clever. Yes. Thank to, So the mirror, what shape, what size? My outfit for feature. But the name, the name of my clothing, brand, came again out of that, that moment of pivoting because I linked it with the fact that during that time I learned that in the development of a butterfly, the pupa stage or the, inside me, a lot of people call it the pupa, but it’s there’s actually a process called puppetry, where a butterfly must not be disturbed.

00:24:45:03 – 00:25:11:00
Pumela
and if it gets disturbed during that time, it will die or it will not flourish to be the butterfly that we see with all these colors and everything. So symbolically, 2020 for me was that year of being inside, of digging deep. Yeah. and I, I was glad not to be disturbed because I needed to go through all the inner work and the layers that come with it.

00:25:11:02 – 00:25:38:06
Pumela
And so I saw it as a reflection of that pupa stage of a butterfly. And so my clothing line is called pupa. and if you see the logo, it really symbolizes that stage of a butterfly. And because then after 2020, I could be the butterfly that I am in terms of boldness and color and freedom. But you can’t do that.

00:25:38:06 – 00:25:43:11
Pumela
Well, for me, I think I couldn’t do that without having done the inner work.

00:25:43:13 – 00:25:49:06
Claudia
Beautiful. Thank you. Beautiful. I will look out for your label. Thank you. Perrier.

00:25:49:07 – 00:25:52:04
Pumela
Pure Perrier music, pupa and life Emporium.

00:25:52:04 – 00:26:10:01
Claudia
I remember when I grew up and we would be outside and see, you know, the little caterpillars, which is probably the stage after that, right? But already then we were told not to touch them and to leave them in peace because you never knew what would which butterfly would come out of it.

00:26:10:02 – 00:26:12:05
Pumela
Oh, you see.

00:26:12:05 – 00:26:29:15
Claudia
So and then after Covid was over, did you feel refreshed or was it a little bit difficult to come out of this introverted stage, back into the world and be out there again? Or were you like, oh, right now I’m prepared again and I can present the world the new me.

00:26:29:17 – 00:26:55:17
Pumela
I came back, but I came back with more boundaries. you know, before where, where am I. Boundaries had been loose and now they were very, you know definite. So I, it wasn’t difficult but it was more about because I had been intentional about who I want to be. and, you know, in the future, however long the future would take, it was not difficult.

00:26:55:17 – 00:27:16:08
Pumela
But, obviously, you know how they say the universe will keep on throwing tests at you to test if you really learned the lessons? Yeah. So so I’ve had, tests post-Covid to see whether I would abide by what I had set myself to do before Covid. But we are all work in progress. I cannot say that. yes.

00:27:16:08 – 00:27:20:22
Pumela
I’ve reached the ultimate, but I’m happy with where I am. Yeah, I’m happy with my progress.

00:27:20:22 – 00:27:56:07
Claudia
Yeah. Wonderful. You know, I feel that, you know, growing up in Europe, growing up in Germany, and then, you know, living between living an international life, I guess. But I really feel that your continent is so under, I don’t know, like, under understood. And, and that we learn still so little. Yeah. And don’t get enough stories about Africa, what the different countries resemble and what they stand for.

00:27:56:09 – 00:28:24:00
Claudia
I had one, woman on my podcast were really, She’s originally from Kenya, okay. And lives in Berlin now, after also stints in various countries all over the world. And she is focusing, for example, on African fashion to use this vehicle of African fashion to tell different stories about Africa. Because so much what we hear is famine, poverty.

00:28:24:02 – 00:28:50:20
Claudia
you know, pirate ship and like, you know, all these very real and tragic stories, but still not enough of the richness that your continent and countries can bring. Yeah. And yeah. So I feel very blessed that we met. And what do you think is important so that people like me learn more about the depth and the richness of Africa.

00:28:50:22 – 00:29:35:10
Pumela
For me I’m an experienced shallow person. So even with myself as an African being born in one country, which is South African, I felt that I cannot fully call myself an African if I don’t walk the talk. So I set it as a goal to travel across the continent. So so far I have been to 37 of the 55, African countries, and I have set it upon myself that when I go to a country, I immerse myself in terms of the people, the food, the culture, and then a bit of the language, because, you know, Nelson Mandela said, if you speak to a person in their language, you speak to the

00:29:35:10 – 00:30:01:01
Pumela
heart. And if you speak to a person in a foreign language, you speak to their mind. But, you know how they also talk about how Africa is the cradle of humankind is where humanity began. There is a lot of wisdom that can be learned in Africa, starting from, you know, the proverbs, the Proverbs. And I remember as a child, my parents used to tell me a lot of proverbs, and I used to always ask, but why?

00:30:01:01 – 00:30:30:21
Pumela
By the way, there’s a lot of wisdom which in in the West could be called philosophy, but it’s inherent in the proverbs that Africa has. I found a lot of lessons in those. And then also in terms of healing and natural medicine, Africa has a lot of indigenous knowledge systems that can solve some of the world’s ailments and some of the world’s problems, which you know, ancient people used to use, many years ago.

00:30:31:01 – 00:30:56:11
Pumela
And I’m still talking as a person who, yes, embraces innovation, technology. But innovation can also be an improvement of what is already existing. Innovation is not always about coming up with new things. So if we’re talking innovation, there’s a lot that can be learned from Africa. But what I also love is the food, the culture, the people. Africa is full of beauty, full of color.

00:30:56:13 – 00:31:21:10
Pumela
It’s full of also history. And you know what also always fascinates me, Claudia, is how even the poorest of the poor are happy because our standard. And when I say our standard because now we are all global, our standard is a world of happiness, which is about the material things, the tangible things that we we assign wealth to some of the poorest of the poor.

00:31:21:10 – 00:31:43:15
Pumela
I just happy because the sun is shining and they find joy in that. My theme last year was joy. You know, I always have a theme every year. My theme last year was joy. You know, to find joy in everything. You know, my theme for this year is abundance, that no matter whether I have or I don’t, but I must have in abundance mentality and abundance attitude.

00:31:43:18 – 00:32:08:08
Pumela
And I think that’s what also characterizes Africa, that with the little that Africa has, a lot can come out of it. But, coming back to a point, the best way to experience Africa is to take an airplane and go country by country. You know, it’s not dangerous. And I’ve gone like to Anglophone Africa, Lusophone Africa, what’s the other one?

00:32:08:11 – 00:32:29:22
Pumela
And Francophone Africa, I’ve stayed with families in Africa where I, we never spoke the same language. But the beauty for me, I’ll give you an example of having stayed with a family in Mali is that I mean, look at the values, the family. It’s together in one bow. Even you as a guest, they will eat. The food is served in one bottle.

00:32:30:00 – 00:32:52:15
Pumela
The father, the mother, the grandmother, the children. Yourself as a visitor. You eating from the same aisle? Can you see that unity? Can you see that? You know family, food. And I mean, there is no there was no television in this village. And so people just connect at a human level. And for me, that’s inspiring. I’ve never had a single problem traveling the continent alone.

00:32:52:15 – 00:33:00:21
Pumela
I’ve even taken in all the from as cut up from Togo to Beni, not.

00:33:00:23 – 00:33:02:17
Claudia
It’s so cool.

00:33:02:19 – 00:33:11:09
Pumela
I’ve got. Oh my God, I’ll show you. That’s how I crossed the border from talking to me. Someone had me on their motorbike at the back of their motorbike.

00:33:11:09 – 00:33:13:12
Claudia
And so to our lives.

00:33:13:12 – 00:33:37:03
Pumela
It’s. It’s just so cool. And. And I also like to take myself out of my comfort zone, like, for example, I could have stayed in a hotel when I went to Mali, but I decided to ask the tourist board for a homestay so that I could stay with the people and really experience the culture from their perspective, not a curated culture, because you find them in their natural setup.

00:33:37:05 – 00:33:50:04
Claudia
Oh, that’s very inspirational. I have to say. Thank you. Yes, absolutely. Thank you. So you are very busy. You travel a lot. What do you do to calm down.

00:33:50:06 – 00:33:53:19
Pumela
And I like hiking mountains.

00:33:53:21 – 00:33:54:20
Claudia

00:33:54:22 – 00:34:08:16
Pumela
And so when I go hiking there’s no cell phone. And I’m also even if I’m hiking within a group, every group that I have with knows that Camilla doesn’t talk on a hide. You see how much I talk in the hike.

00:34:08:18 – 00:34:12:10
Claudia
ZIP. Yeah. Okay.

00:34:12:10 – 00:34:21:09
Pumela
It’s also about mindfulness, you know, I it’s also about me practicing mindfulness by being fully present. So I love hiking any time.

00:34:21:11 – 00:34:25:18
Claudia
So you have to come back to Switzerland in the summer so that we can go hiking there.

00:34:25:20 – 00:34:44:22
Pumela
Oh, I would love to. Yes. When I was, I when I saw the Swiss Alps. They are magnificent. They’re spectacular, no doubt. Love. It is my thing. I really love to. Yeah. And then one of the things and I’m. I’m now forcing myself to is to rest. Well, you know, find opportunities to just rest and do not.

00:34:45:03 – 00:35:10:17
Pumela
So I’ve got days now that I call silence days, where even within a building and I’m not hiking. I keep quiet the whole day, and I don’t have gadgets, you know. So. So it’s it’s something that I’ve just incorporated into my life, which is working because by the following day, just one day of no gadgets and silence the following day, you have such clarity of thought and whatever problems we had and you have solutions.

00:35:10:18 – 00:35:16:20
Pumela
So I’ve, I’ve also learned to embrace silence and and create moments of silence for myself.

00:35:16:20 – 00:35:51:23
Claudia
Yeah, I agree that solitude and to be able to withdraw from everything, it’s fine. We’re not going to miss out on anything. AU contraire. I mean, we strengthen ourselves. Yeah. And then, much more able to give again after this pause. You’re however long it takes to. Well, I thank you so very much. Thank you for this insight into this amazing life of experiences and giving, giving back, especially what you said earlier, passing it on forward.

00:35:52:03 – 00:36:03:12
Claudia
Whatever you’ve experienced that is very inspirational and admirable. Thank you. And yeah, it was really lovely to spend this time with you here. Pumela. Thank you so much.

00:36:03:12 – 00:36:10:04
Pumela
Thank you. Thank you very much. Thanks. Thanks for inviting me today. Yeah. And we’ll go hiking in the Swiss Alps.

00:36:10:06 – 00:36:27:17
Claudia
We will. Absolutely. Looking forward looking forward to that as well.

00:36:27:19 – 00:37:00:03
Claudia
Oh I better get in shape for hiking with Pumela in the Swiss Alps. Not sure if I can keep up with this energy. Isn’t it just so fascinating to get a glimpse into another world and other cultures by taking the time to listen? These profound encounters really helped me to connect. I love this picture of a former world Bank consultant traveling in the back of a motorbike through Africa.

00:37:02:05 – 00:37:26:22
Claudia
Shift happens has been created and is hosted by me. Claudia Muller editing Andy Morrison, social media Magda Reckendrees I hope you felt connected and heard by listening to Shift Happens and please leave a review and a rating wherever you listen to podcasts.

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