Stéphanie Labité, head of the Swiss Business Hub for Southern Africa

Stéphanie Labité a member of the KBF career path, came to work with the FDFA after nearly two decades of working in strategic business development. She currently leads the Swiss Business Hub for Southern and Eastern Africa. She spoke to us recently about her professional experiences in the consular affairs, operations management and finance transferable career path.

 Portrait of Stéphanie Labité

Stéphanie Labité, head of the Swiss Business Hub Southern Afrika © FDFA

The Consular affairs, management and finance (KBF) transferable career within Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) combines three priority areas: operations management, consular services and financial management in international cooperation. Posted within the FDFA’s representations abroad, members of this career path take on assignments that include tasks such as budgetary responsibility and control, staff management, security management and crisis resolution. Depending on the place of assignment and the international context, the roles these employees assume may span a wide range of sectors, from human resources to business organization.

Could you introduce yourself and describe the career path which led you to work with the FDFA?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to contribute to a 360-degree perspective of the consular affairs, management and finance career path, within the FDFA. By way of introduction, my name is Stéphanie Labité. I currently head the Swiss Business Hub for Southern and Eastern Africa. My professional journey has been diverse, spanning across the construction, manufacturing, consumer products, and service sectors. A significant part of my experience involves spearheading major organizational changes, such as restructuring sales operations and implementing ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

I had the opportunity to extend my leadership beyond organizational boundaries, during my tenure as President of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in Benin. Elected by representatives from 40 European companies, I contributed to international cooperation, driving policy advocacy, and creating business opportunities within Benin and across West Africa.

From an academic standpoint, I have enhanced my global business acumen through a joint Executive MBA program offered by INSEAD and Tsinghua University in China. Additionally, I am a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

What attracted you to work with the FDFA versus another public or private sector organization?

Several aspects attracted me to the FDFA. To begin with, through my tenure as the President of the EuroCham in Benin, I had the privilege of collaborating closely with the EU Delegation, ambassadors from all member states, and the Swiss Cooperation office. My role essentially served as a bridge between the private sector and the realms of government and diplomacy, mirroring the responsibilities I now hold as the Head of the Swiss Business Hub.

A second aspect is the evolving global landscape; its inherent challenges and complexities, combined with my desire to contribute to Switzerland's role in this space, drew me to work with the FDFA. The FDFA's proactive and strategic approach to international relations presented a unique opportunity that resonated with my ambition to contribute to strengthening Switzerland's position on the global stage.

Finally, beginning in my childhood and throughout my professional career, I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in diverse environments. These experiences made me a so-called "third-culture kid”, while being deeply rooted in the pragmatic and down-to-earth Swiss way of doing business. All these influences ultimately encouraged me to apply for the consular affairs, management and finance concours.

Could you describe your current role with the FDFA?

In my role at the Swiss Business Hub, I am at the forefront of facilitating business expansion between Swiss SMEs in the dynamic African markets of Southern and Eastern Africa. This involves not only supporting Swiss businesses in navigating the African markets, but also assisting African companies in establishing their presence in Switzerland.

Our work extends to contributing to large infrastructure projects across sub-Saharan Africa, leveraging Swiss expertise and financial instruments. Innovation and collaboration have been central to our recent efforts at the Swiss Business Hub for Southern and Eastern Africa. Through events like 'EFTA-Connect: Swiss-Norwegian Cleantech Dynamics,' the 'Green Hydrogen Business Breakfast,' 'Fintech Synergies Across Borders,' and our collaborative DACH-initiative, we actively promote sustainability and nurture synergistic relationships, pushing innovation boundaries in sectors such as cleantech, hydrogen, and blockchain.

In a few words, describe three positive and three challenging aspects of your job.

On the positive side, I enjoy the international exposure and the dynamic interaction with private sectors across Africa. Engaging in pan-African dynamics and making use of my multilingual skills has been incredibly rewarding. Additionally, I can leverage my professional network for the benefit of the Swiss-African business community; contributing to as well as witnessing its growth is incredibly enriching

However, the role entails its own set of challenges, including navigating the complexities of international diplomacy and dealing with country-specific issues such as water and electricity shortages, security concerns and more, in the regions where we operate.

Additionally, maintaining a good work-life balance (especially with children) can also be difficult at times, due to the high level of work commitment and frequent travel required.

What makes your job with the FDFA meaningful?

The dual nature of my role, supporting both Swiss and African enterprises, embodies the essence of meaningful work. It is not just about fostering economic ties; it is about building a bridge for innovation and cultural exchange that enriches both regions.

Why would you encourage another professional to apply for the consular affairs management and finance concours?

The consular affairs management and finance career track offers a kaleidoscope of professional opportunities; from leadership and organizational roles to operational management and crisis resolution. For those eager to make a substantive impact on the global stage, while embracing a diverse range of learning opportunities, the FDFA, and in particular a consular affairs, management and finance position, provides an unparalleled platform for growth and professional fulfillment.

Considering a career in Consular affairs, management and finance? This year the FDFA will be accepting applications for this transferable career from May 27 - June 17, 2024. Visit our website or contact to learn more about the application process for the annual concours.

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