In Conversation:Ewetse Khama (Botswana Country Director,Shumba Money)

With a career spanning over two decades in industries such as advertising, PR, corporate communications, and lately, fintech, Ewetse is as versatile as they come. Through his current role as the Botswana Country Director of Shumba Money, a financial services company specializing in remittances and bill payments, he is responsible for overseeing the company's Botswana operations. In this interview, he expounds more on how he ended up in fintech, the state of fintech in Botswana and the African continent, Shumba Money's goals and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Ewetse Khama is

I am a highly curious person who likes to create opportunities for willing and able like-minded individuals or organisations. Though my background is over 20 years of working in Film, Print, Journalism, Publicity and Public Relations, I am currently also into Fintech through Shumba Money.

Your background is in business communications. Briefly take us through the journey that landed you in fintech

I went from working on storytelling through TV/photography commercials for global brands. I then worked at Oprah Magazine and Lapologa Magazine where I was building narratives working with real people’s lives and the lessons they could share. I later moved into PR and corporate Comms where I was helping companies connect to their audiences across Africa, which was empowered greatly by technology. 

Technology itself became central to almost everything I was working on in the latter part of my Comms career. In my day job, I was securing opportunities for anyone from Ministers, multinationals’ CEOs, activists, and sporting bodies to connect with global audiences. I did all this from Gaborone, Botswana. I would for instance place a Senegalese Minister in an interview with CNBC Africa’s Nigeria studios, yet none of us moved from our respective countries and still reached millions of Africans. 

For me, fintech rose as a subset of technology in the last 7 years. Starting with experiencing the power of Mpesa first-hand when I lived in East Africa, to facilitating for my clients to share their stories on global news platforms. I learnt about fintech solutions that could change people’s lives during comms planning meetings with the best minds in the industry. Literally, in my day job, I was getting the best information available which helped me understand more about continentally relevant solutions that were also actionable at home. 

Eventually, I had great ideas stored in my head when Shumba Money became a reality via an introduction to the CEO, Andrew Dauramanzi. They were looking to set up in Botswana as part of their Africa strategy and I immediately jumped on board. 

Please tell us more about Shumba Money

We are a private Financial Services Company that focuses and specializes in remittances and bill payments on the African continent. We are licensed in Australia, Botswana, Canada, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. We are currently working with regulators and partners to secure access to Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and the rest of the SADC countries.  We rely on technology to increase efficiencies and decrease friction on remittances.

What was the motivation for starting Shumba Money?

Shumba Money CEO, Andrew Dauramanzi, originally from Zimbabwe, is part of that country’s global diaspora. He experienced first-hand the many challenges that Zimbabweans in the diaspora had to go through just to send money home to friends and families. So he resolved to start Shumba Money to be the bridge for families and friends separated due to migration. His vision is to bring all these communities together through financial inclusion, innovative technologies, and financial products.

What does your role at Shumba Money entail?

As the Country Director, I am pretty much setting up the operations and some elements of business development and relationship building. I am also the main link with our regulator, the Bank of Botswana. In the new year, we will be expanding the Botswana staff complement so I will be leading a team as well as we escalate our engagement in-country and pursue other opportunities.

Shumba Money is a Zimbabwe-born startup. Please compare and contrast between the fintech environment in Zimbabwe and Botswana

I like to look at it as communities rather than countries since fintech transcends borders in order to solve universal challenges, but yes local nuances exist as well. One of those nuances includes economic conditions where Zimbabwe experiences foreign currency shortages from time to time. This has resulted in more government intervention to try to maintain a balance. I also feel that the Zimbabwe situation has forced the fintech industry there to be more innovative to be able to align with the shifting sands and remain profitable. In Botswana, we have so much stability and fewer challenges on moving money, for example. We should ideally be punching above our weight and pushing boundaries in the industry. However, in Botswana we are currently not yet fearless in our approach to fintech, the minds are there, and the opportunity is there. 

Africa’s fintech sector has been growing rapidly over the last half a decade or so in terms of innovative products launched and funding (internal and external) invested but using those metrics, Botswana is still very much left behind. Why do you think that is?

I beg to differ that Botswana is “left behind” – I’d rather look at it as that our market isn’t considered as dynamic as markets from other countries. This for me might not be great for scaled-up business opportunities, however, it could be a great testing ground for concepts and business cases because the market here is relatively predictable, stable and small. It makes sense to think of the digital world as our market rather than to merely operate within geographic borders. In the same token, nothing stops us from using available data to join the continental growth. We do not necessarily need to invent a Botswana version of a popular service – we can perfect a key element of the trending tech instead. Think of the saying, in a gold rush even the person selling shovels makes money.

What do you think we can learn from fintech trailblazing countries like Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa in moving our fintech sector forward?

That bigger populations tend to be a good breeding ground for competition which pushes innovation. For us, we should compete as a unit against bigger countries and hopefully beat them at their game. I also believe national languages are an important part of the African narrative – it is an important part of taking Fintech and its advantages to the people that need it the most. If we offer these benefits in local languages we present innovation in a more accessible way.

One of the major building blocks of any successful sector is an enabling regulatory environment. Botswana still does not have an open banking regulatory framework. How do you think this is affecting the rate and pace of fintech innovation in the country?

In our experience the regulator has not been restrictive There has always been frank and honest dialogue. For any new ideas we have implemented, we informed the regulator fully and once they were satisfied that proper internal checks and balances were in place, we got the blessing to carry on. I feel it is perhaps the speed of change in the fintech industry which is its own enemy. Governments need to put equitable policies for every citizen they serve, and achieving that balance is never easy and tends to be a gradual process. I’ll leave you with a question on Open banking… what if we skipped it altogether and moved directly on to the next thing?

Even with a regulatory framework in place, fintech startups are still at the mercy of unpredictable government actions. How do you think startups can foolproof themselves from this?

I believe if there is a certain level of trust built up between the industry and the regulator, this partnership can be the foundation of an enabling regulatory environment. It might not be the case that the regulations keep up with innovation, but a cohesive industry can self-regulate enough to give the regulator enough time to align without slowing down the industry. So if the industry steps up and helps the regulator maintain order proactively this will go a long way towards keeping growth and developments predictable and sustainably regulated.

There is a growing concern that the amount of money being pumped into Africa’s fintech is creating a bubble effect. What's your stance on this?

I think it’s good that money is coming this way after so many centuries of value leaving our shores. Instead of worrying about what might happen, I think it’s more important we focus on finding ways of keeping that money in Africa, bubble or no bubble. 

Coming back to Botswana, a largely unbanked population and below-par banking services presents a huge potential market for fintech innovators to tap into. How do startups take advantage of these elements and garner a significant market share for themselves?

We are sort of married to the banks for the time being, but I believe banks have met their match with the rise of mobile money and such. For now, fintech innovators can be the bridge between people and banking in the spaces that banks are just not set up to reach. Establishing a strong foothold there will help fintech gain relevance, and over time, much like with Mpesa in East Africa, the industry can build up enough clout to take the lead in the direction the world must go. 

Are there any interesting Shumba Money feature launches or developments in the near future that you would like to share with our readers?

The key thing is that the Shumba Money platform is online. It is geared for remitting to Zimbabwe for the time being but will soon be enabled to receive international remittances when the time is right. People can also look forward to having another avenue to paying some utilities like electricity as well as buying airtime. My burning desire is to be able to take fintech into communities far from urban areas because I believe they are the future.

Lastly, please share with our readers where you can be reached if they are interested in getting in touch about Shumba Money or is the best place to reach us for a chat. Online we are available on and on social media, it is Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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