For our groundbreaking Women in Africa edition in Women's Month this past August, African Independent honed in on MFS Africa, a digitised financial services provider, built on a team of talented women leaders. Here's what they had to say about how MFS Africa is paving the way for better mobile financial services across the continent.
RACHEL BALSHAM, Deputy Chief Executive Officer
How does MFS Africa use technology to empower women?
An important aspect of MFS Africa’s work is helping people send money home for lower fees. This has an enormous impact on economic development, as household remit-tances play a considerable role in daily expenses, responding to emergency needs, education, construction, and agriculture. Very often, women serve as heads of households that receive remittances, and they control the use and allocation of those funds. When women are remittance senders, they send more of their earnings more often, and for longer periods of time than men do — so they’re disproportionately affected by remit-tances' prices. It’s rewarding to be part of a team creating such a tangible impact.
LERATO MOLEFE, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer
How do you picture Africa's future?
It lies in regional and continental integration — we are too powerful and too dynamic to be hindered by colonial boundaries in the 21st century. Just as communications and travel have become more global and seamless in the last few decades, our lives as Africans will become less dependent on what the cover of our passport says, and more driven by our own ambitions and dreams. We are in the business of making borders matter less, and I think that’s a mission that applies not only to individuals sending remittances back home, but to small and medium-sized businesses across the continent with regional, pan-African and global ambitions.
JULIE NEOGY, Chief Commercial Officer
What are some of the most exciting aspects of your work at MFS Africa?
What excites me the most is working at a truly pan-African company with global scale. Powering mobile services in over 30 African countries, my work takes me all over the continent — I work together with our partners on ways that we can provide the best services to their customers. It’s really a privilege to be on the cutting edge of payment technology, working with some of the pioneers in the fintech industry – from M-Pesa in Kenya and Mozambique, and Paga in Nigeria, to IDT in the United States – turning seamless interoperable payments into a reality.
MFS Africa is the rare tech company to achieve 50% female representation in its staff complement. How do you ensure that women are recruited, retained and promoted in the company?
The tech industry is known for innovating and solving problems, but you are only as good as the perspectives you have. At MFS Africa, we’ve been deliberate about creating a gender diverse environment that adds unique perspectives to the systems that we build. We use structured recruiting processes that put candidates’ skills front and centre. We test applicants on consistent metrics, we apply trans-parent KPIs to our team, and we make sure that our work speaks for itself.
JANE ROBINSON, Senior Business Analyst
MFS Africa is a pan-African business with much of the team working out of South Africa. With this year being South Africa’s 25th year of democracy, how do you see the country’s pro-gress with respect to equality and possibility?
South Africa still faces structural inequality, institutional racism and sexism, as well as xenophobia. What’s encouraging is that these problems are addressed openly. While our work is pan-African, South Africa is home to our largest office, due to the infra-structure and calibre of skillsets. South Africa must do more to encourage development through innovation, such as being more welcoming to our African neighbours. I’m inspired every day by the innovation and ingenuity that come out of our continent.
SHARON WELANG, Vice-President,Central Africa
How do you see women’s contributions changing the shape of your industry?
In Africa, digital payments are at the intersection of telecommunications and banking — two sectors that have historically been male-dominated. But that doesn’t mean that women are absent from the space — in fact, in Cameroon, my home country, the two major telecommunication providers (MTN and Orange) had female CEOs in the last few years. Especially in fast-paced industries where you can’t rest on your laurels for long, gender is falling away as a constraint to doing business. You simply have to know what you’re talking about and get things done. Anything else is noise.