Like running a small business

Natalija el Hage is GIZ Country Director in Zambia.

Natalija el Hage

Sub-saharan Africa was unknown to Natalija el Hage when she accepted the post of GIZ Country Director in Zambia. That kind of challenge is precisely one of the things she likes about working for GIZ, though. El Hage, who has a doctorate in psychology, has worked for the company since 1999: ‘You can dare to jump in at the deep end,’ she says. In her career with GIZ, El Hage has worked in the Human Resources Department and in the Philippines and Egypt. Before moving to Zambia, she was Country ­Director for Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. She has settled quickly into her new base: she is very enthusiastic about her colleagues, and apart from that, ‘the climate is perfect, the supermarkets have everything you want, and it’s a great place to spend your leisure time.’ El Hage and her husband are planning their first few short trips in the country. This time, though, her children have not come with her. Her 19-year-old son has already left home, and her 17-year-old daughters are staying in Germany to complete their secondary education. Achieving a balance between family and work means constantly finding new solutions: el Hage says that ‘taking four or five weeks off in the summer is non-negotiable 

as far as I’m concerned.’ For her, being a Country Director is primarily about ‘leadership, management and perseverance. I’m ­really running a small business here.’ The MBA that she studied for part-time while working for GIZ is a great help.

published in akzente 1/17