“True leadership is about transforming challenges into opportunities, embracing change, and inspiring others to believe in the vision of a better future.” Matilda Z Kamara

Matilda Zainab Kamara’s journey is a story of dedication, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of excellence in the field of tax administration. With over 13 years of service at the Sierra Leone National Revenue Authority (NRA), she has been a part of the collective driving force in implementing significant reforms that have transformed the country’s tax landscape. Matilda is a courageous woman who has risen through the ranks through tough reforms. She is a woman in the process of making positive changes in both social and professional spheres, one that’s worthy of some beautiful flowers. Read on to know why we are so smittened. 

Navigating the maze of change and reforms

When Matilda first joined the NRA, she quickly realized the immense challenges ahead. The transition from manual to electronic tax systems was fought with resistance. Many businesses, especially small enterprises, were apprehensive about the complexities and perceived costs associated with the new systems. She vividly recalls the initial days of GST implementation in 2010 when many shops closed their doors, mistakenly believing GST was an additional tax rather than a replacement for outdated taxes.

Thankfully the team she was a part of, knew that overcoming this resistance required more than just technical solutions.  As a collective of professionals they  spearheaded extensive public education and awareness campaigns to communicate the benefits of the new systems. With the support of the government and international donors like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the NRA invested heavily in these initiatives. Matilda and her colleagues worked tirelessly to assure taxpayers that GST was a simplification and modernization effort, ultimately designed to ease their tax burden by consolidating multiple taxes into one. This approach gradually built trust and acceptance among the public.

Upgrading the system from Domestic Tax Information System (DTIS) to the Integrated Tax Administration System(ITAS) demanded robust technological infrastructure. Transitioning from manual to electronic systems necessitated significant investments in hardware, software, secure databases, and user-friendly interfaces. Ensuring data security and integrity was critical! Matilda and her colleagues oversaw the implementation of strong cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive taxpayer information. The success of these systems hinged on the NRA’s ability to handle large volumes of data efficiently and securely.

Ensuring compliance with the new tax systems was another major challenge. It required continuous training of NRA staff, improving audit processes, and effectively dealing with non-compliant taxpayers. Matilda’s joint efforts with others led to enhanced enforcement mechanisms, which were crucial in encouraging the general public to comply with the new systems.

Despite these challenges, the rewards of implementing TIN and GST were substantial. Revenue collection improved significantly, with the TIN system enabling efficient tracking of taxpayers and reducing evasion. GST provided a steady revenue stream, contributing to economic stability. These reforms also led to better compliance among taxpayers. Each taxpayer had a unique identification number, making it easier to monitor and ensure that they fulfilled their tax obligations. The streamlined processes reduced loopholes and opportunities for tax evasion, leading to increased transparency and accountability within the tax administration.

Matilda’s academic journey played a crucial role in shaping her approach to tax administration. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, an MBA from Wuhan University in China, and an MPhil in Taxation from Pretoria University. Additionally, she is a Certified Change Management Practitioner, a certification obtained from the Cedar African Group in Nairobi, Kenya.

Each academic experience provided her with a unique perspective and set of skills essential for tackling the complexities of tax systems. Her time at Fourah Bay College enhanced her understanding of societal dynamics and economic principles. The MBA from Wuhan University equipped her with advanced business and management strategies, enabling her to approach tax administration with a strategic mindset. The MPhil in Taxation deepened her expertise in tax policies, international taxation, and compliance issues, providing her with the analytical skills necessary to evaluate and implement effective tax reforms.

Socialising for positive change and collective good

Beyond her professional achievements, Matilda is known for her dedication to supporting young girls and her passion for tennis, exercise, and cooking. Balancing a demanding career with these personal interests is essential for her well-being and effectiveness as a leader in tax administration.

Mentoring young girls enriches Matilda’s life, providing a sense of fulfillment and purpose. This commitment enhances her leadership skills, as mentoring requires patience, empathy, and effective communication—qualities vital in tax administration. Engaging in tennis and regular exercise helps her stay physically fit and mentally alert. These activities serve as stress relievers, allowing her to return to work with renewed energy and focus. The discipline and strategic thinking required in tennis are transferable to her professional life, improving her decision-making and problem-solving abilities.

Cooking is a creative outlet that brings balance to Matilda’s life. It allows her to unwind and enjoy the process of creating something tangible and satisfying. Sharing meals with family and friends fosters a sense of connection, vital for her emotional well-being.

One cannot connect with Matilda, without tapping into the array of social networks that she contributes to meaningfully! From professional networks, foundations to social associations that are platforms for connections and growth.

Your Life is a mosaic of experiences; make the most of them

At Ariana Diaries we consistently think that effective time management is crucial in balancing a demanding career, especially one with personal interests. It was so interesting to hear that Matilda plans her week on Sundays, allocating specific times for both professional and personal activities. This structured approach ensures she maintains a healthy balance without compromising either aspect of her life. Her methodical planning is often admired by others for its efficiency.

Engaging in tennis and regular exercise helps our muse stay physically fit and mentally alert. These activities serve as stress relievers, allowing her to return to work with renewed energy and focus. The discipline and strategic thinking required in tennis are transferable to her professional life, improving her decision-making and problem-solving abilities.

The Power of Mentors and Role- modelling

Mentoring and role modelling have been pivotal in Matilda’s professional journey. She has been inspired and motivated by several accomplished Sierra Leonean women who exemplify hard work, dedication, and support for women in various fields.

Working closely with senior women in public service at the helms of leadership has provided Matilda with valuable guidance and insights. These mentors have not only supported her professional development but also helped her understand the intricacies of effective leadership and public service. Their dedication to improving tax administration, combating corruption, and fostering transparency has been instrumental in shaping Matilda’s approach to her own career and responsibilities.

Matilda believes in the power of rolemodelling and believes that with the access to technology we could all have the opportunity  even without direct professional interaction to  influence others positively. She is happy knowing that everyone has an opportunity to drive significant change and inspire others, finding the how is where the work begins.

Together, these experiences have not only enhanced Matilda’s professional skills but also reinforced her commitment to supporting women and contributing positively to her field and community.

At this point, we believe you would agree with us that; Matilda Zainab Kamara’s leadership journey is a testament to the power of resilience, continuous learning, and a balanced approach to life. 


Do you know of a leader, professional or entrepreneur in your community that’s  noteworthy? Do share with us:

Written by: arianadiaries

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