Next up in the Limitless series, sought-after moderator, businesswoman, TEDx speaker and thought-leader, Nozipho Tshabala has an unconventional career and she’s owning it. She’s the founder of The Conversation Strategists, a firm dedicated to facilitating meaningful conversations on the global stage while training an army of African conversational leaders.

Nozipho Tshabalala describes her work as “helping smart people have smart conversations that make the world a better place.” Conversation strategy, a term which she has coined, is the use of conversational techniques to simplify a business’ strategy through dialogue. She’s mastered the skill so well that she’s become the go-to moderator for high-level discussions hosted by development and humanitarian agencies like the United Nations and the World Bank.

Her career kicked off with an internship in the office of then deputy President and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka before heading to the University of London to pursue a Master’s degree in International Relations. She later joined Tata Africa, the industrial and transport company, as Brand Manager, again tapping into her unique capacity to help organizations communicate themselves to the world.

The media entrepreneur’s ability to capture global audiences while unpacking complex ideas can be traced back to her broadcasting experience at CNBC and Forbes Africa, where she hosted a slew of programs that document the African business business story through the lens of leadership, the political economy, development finance, gender mainstreaming and youth development.

While at the station, Nozipho identified the show ‘Invest Africa’ as the one she wanted to host. “As the anchor you’d be in a studio in Johannesburg and connected with a guest from East Africa and another one in West Africa to have a continental conversation about investment opportunities,” she explains. “I started getting invitations to moderate at global conferences after spending some time as the anchor of that show.”

Conversation is the birthplace of action

Raised in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, by a factory worker father and street vendor mother who later became a teacher, Nozipho says hard work was instilled in her from a young age. She was only ten years old when the country transitioned into a democracy in 1994, allowing her to move to a better school and access better extra-curricular activities.

Her “aha!” moment came during her time on the Tutu Fellowship where she was surrounded by high-achieving young Africans who are investing in healthcare on the continent and helping presidents strategize to win elections. “I started to doubt if my work is important and doubted the value that conversation can bring to the world,” she admits. It was when a keynote speaker addressed the fellows and remarked that “conversation is the birthplace of action” that Nozipho realized that without meaningful and tactical conversations, the people in the room wouldn’t be able to do their work effectively.

As someone who’s often the only African woman present during panel discussions, she feels a strong sense of duty to not only challenge mindsets by bringing forward a unique perspective but to make space for women who aspire to be conversational leaders. She’s also working on a training program to professionalize the work of moderators who want to venture into the space full time. “I’ve intentionally called my firm The Conversation Strategists because I don’t want to be the only one,” she says. “I want to normalise having African women and African youth leading important conversations on the global stage.”

With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.