Refiloe Matlapeng, a 22 year-old Motswana technoprenur is making it big in South Africa’s FinTech industry, offering technology based insurance solutions through her company, Mahali Media.
In recognition of her talents, the young lady has been nominated for the Female Tech-role model of the year at the Southern Africa Start up Awards billed for November this year. The Southern Africa Start-Up Awards is Southern Africa Chapter of world-renowned Global Startup Awards.
The Global Startup Awards provides an annual spotlight focus to web/tech start-ups in regions across the globe. Each individual regional award places a heavy focus on unearthing and rewards the very best from within their respective ecosystems & connecting each of the countries to create a stronger united brand.
The awards stand to represent the entire start-up and tech community – from the start-ups themselves, through to the people behind them, & organizations that work alongside these visionaries to make great things possible. Born and bred in Botswana, Matlapeng moved to South Africa after realising that she stood a better chance of fulfilling her dream abroad than home.
“Locally the FinTech industry does not appreciate mobile app technology. This is because generally it is very expensive to access internet locally, which limits people from using mobile apps,”she said. “Mobile applications consumes a lot of data, I think that is the major problem in Botswana. Most of Batswana have not familiarised themselves with these applications and cannot use them,” she said.
Matlapeng’s company, Mahali Media has managed to attract venture capitalist across Southern Africa, including Swaziland and South Africa. Growing up as an inquisitive techno-savvy kid, Matlapeng found herself learning computer programming on her own from early age. She defines herself as an innovator in the finance industry, and that the mobile applications she develops, solves problems in the Finance industry.
In a nutshell, she makes it possible for people to access their finances through their mobile applications and websites. “I build any kind of technology around the finance industry. I don’t want to say I am a disruptor but rather an enabler. I meet needs where the finance industry cannot meet,” said Matlapeng.
Her interest for the technology world all started with her trying to invest in the stock market and realised that along the process she had difficulty with applying and buying stocks. She explains that is when she came into the picture. Instead of one having to queue for long hours to fill a piece of paper using a pen and travelling long distances to Gaborone to buy stock why not develop an application that would allow one to access their finances whenever and wherever they are/?
The intelligent looking young lady cited that she had always been an innovator for as long as she can remember. Despite attempts to study in the university and failing dismally Matlapeng did not let this shutter her dreams, she went on to acquire knowledge through online courses and trainings.
“My path of acquiring education may not be in a usual manner. I got 19 points during my form five and I only passed after re-writing. In used to leave school premises during club days to go home and build website,” elaborated Matlapeng. Matlapeng says she looks up to the likes of Thomas Edison, Zuckerberg and Elson Musk. She believes that if they could do it she can also make it as an innovator.
Matlapeng revealed that her company is currently working with one of the insurance companies in South Africa which will be helping them to kick-start their insurance company. In conclusion Matlapeng emphasised that entrepreneurship is a driver of economic development. She says in order to fight the constant battle of unemployment in Botswana the government needs a radical and disruptive solution that does not look at things in the lense of the current economy.
“Botswana needs a solution that is able to address its unemployment problem with the least amount of resources necessary and that requires the development of a new parallel economy, a digital economy. The world is now shifting away from occupying offices and labour work to automation and that is what’s going to create more jobs and quickly,” Matlapeng concluded.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”