03 January 2023 | Story Charlene Stanley | Photo Supplied
Vuyelwa Vumendlini
Vuyelwa Vumendlini, Alternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.

High-profile positions at National Treasury, the World Bank and now also the International Monetary Fund in Washington, mark an illustrious career for UFS Economics alumna, Vuyelwa Vumendlini.

“Go in full force, hands and feet, and accept this opportunity of a lifetime. You won’t regret it.” These words of Dr Minette Smit, her thesis supervisor, proved to be pivotal advice to a young Vuyelwa Vumendlini. At the time, she was doing her BCom Honours in Economics (1996-1999) and was presented with a scholarship opportunity to complete her master’s degree in the USA.

“I was afraid to leave my home and my comfort zone,” she explains. “But looking back, I’m extremely grateful to have taken that step.”

Her studies culminated in an appointment as Senior Adviser to the Executive Director at the World Bank, then Deputy Director-General: International and Regional Economic Policy at the National Treasury, and now as Alternate Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC. As an IMF executive board member, Vumendlini represents 23 English-speaking African countries that are members of a constituency. The Executive Board of the IMF has 24 chairs, representing 24 constituencies from its 189 countries’ membership. Among her duties are considering policy issues and surveillance reports, as well as approving and monitoring IMF programmes involving lending and/or technical assistance.

Since this is the second stint in Washington for her and her children, Simphiwe, Enhle, and Anele, settling down was much easier. “Because of the COVID-19 isolation, we were kind of used to being alone at home, so we didn’t find the solitude that bad while we were still making new friends.”

She misses South African food the most – things like biltong and boerewors – and the proximity of favourite restaurants like Ocean Basket and Mugg & Bean. She has fond memories of her study years, working as an assistant in the Department of Economics, hanging out at Mooimeisiesfontein on Saturdays, and building rag floats for Vergeet-My-Nie and Kestell residences. Plans for the future include tackling her PhD in Economics.

Her advice to UFS students: “Be up to date with what is happening around you. Do not be afraid to do things differently. Be agile in your approach to achieving your career aspirations and be ready to take on those opportunities when they present themselves.”

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