She has launched a nonprofit and researched democracy in Zambia, all while studying in the U.S. This News Decoder alumna has set her sights high.
Lughano Bupe Kabaghe takes a selfie with students and a member of parliament after a workshop in Kitwe, Zambia facilitated by the Abana Afrika Foundation, the nonprofit she founded.
A former News Decoder Student Ambassador, Lughano Bupe Kabaghe has had a busy few years since graduating from the African Leadership Academy in June 2020.
Two months after finishing her studies at the News Decoder partner school in South Africa, she began an undergraduate programme in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S. state of Indiana.
On top of her university studies, she has worked as a field-based research assistant studying democratisation in her home country of Zambia, founded a nonprofit empowering Zambian youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and embarked on an internship in London as a parliamentary assistant to a British member of parliament.
Now in her third year at Notre Dame, Kabaghe is setting her sights on graduate studies in International Development. Driven by an interest in public service, she wants to broaden her knowledge of development before tackling her long-term goal of a career in politics.
News Decoder spoke to Kabaghe about her influences, motivations and aspirations, which include one day becoming the first female president of Zambia. (Transcript edited for length and clarity.)
ND: What are you passionate about? How have your passions changed over time?
Kabaghe: During my time with News Decoder, I was very passionate about things like gender equality, youth empowerment and political activism. I am still passionate about those issues, but I now come at them from a place of greater knowledge. For example, I know why I’m passionate about youth empowerment, what aspect of it interests me the most and what work I want to do in that space. In fact, I’ve made it the focus of the NGO I founded. Similarly, now that I have a better understanding of political activism, I realise it’s the practical not the theoretical side I’m interested in — community mobilisation, advocacy for new policy and bringing about change. In short, my passions haven’t changed, they’ve just become more informed, and I’m able to make better choices about how I go about pursuing them.
ND: Who or what has been your biggest influence?
Kabaghe: I draw inspiration from so many people and so many things. When it comes to politics and the role I want to play in the world, my grandad has been a huge influence. He’s part of the generation of young Zambians who fought for political independence in the 1960s. Hearing him narrate his experiences from a young age has given me the courage to believe that I, too, as a young person can create change. Being raised by a single mum and seeing how hard she worked with so few resources is also a big source of inspiration for me. It is a core foundation of the NGO I set up, which tries to make a difference to young Zambians with very little resources.
‘I witnessed in Zambia how influential media can be.’
ND: Have you made use of any of the skills and information you learned with News Decoder since leaving school?
Kabaghe: Yes. News Decoder put a lot of emphasis on multimedia content creation and its power to educate and inform. While I enjoyed leading a project on this, it seemed quite theoretical to me at the time. However, during the Zambian elections, where I was working as a research assistant, physical campaigning was prohibited because of the pandemic and so campaigners took to podcasts, radio, Twitter and other social media to get their messages across. I witnessed in practice how influential these forms of media can be. It was a real round circle moment for me, as I saw what I had learned being actualised in real life.
I also used the journalism skills I gained at News Decoder in my research assistant role. Part of my work involved differentiating fact from propaganda, and I had to validate information by cross-referencing social media, radio and newspaper articles.
Now, as a parliamentary intern during a turbulent time in UK politics, I am required to be constantly on my feet in terms of staying up to date with news and being able to react quickly to changing events. It has reminded me of my News Decoder training, which emphasised how important news is and how empowering it is to be informed.
ND: If you could have dinner with three famous people — dead or alive — who would you choose and why?
Kabaghe: Firstly, Thomas Sankara, a young person ahead of his time in politics who had many great ideas and created so much change in such a short time. I would like to ask him what he would have done if he’d had more time and what he would do differently from us if he were alive today. Secondly, Michelle Obama, who I draw so much inspiration from. Usually the First Lady stays in the background, but Michelle takes up space, does things that are important to her and stands up for herself and her family. Finally, I would choose the third president of Zambia, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. He was a very knowledgeable man who made remarkable changes during a phase in African politics that was dominated by corruption. He reduced the debt and the cost of living and made the currency stronger. I would like to ask him what drove him and try to learn from his experience.
Thea Lacey is News Decoder's Director of Development. She has 15 years of experience managing fundraising and programmes for mostly humanitarian and development NGOs, both small and large, including five years based in West and Central Africa. She holds an undergraduate degree in Politics from the University of Edinburgh and a postgraduate degree in International Development from SOAS University of London.