This week Meet the Boss meets FirstCred Managing Director, Dudu Garekwe who has been at the helm of the micro-financing company since April 2018.
Garekwe, a former Listings and Trading Manager at Botswana Stock Exchange, talks candidly about the local micro-financing industry, which she feels has a huge potential in terms of the country’s development.
We saw the company rebranding late last year, what does this mean to FirstCred customers as far as product offering is concerned?
The rebranding took place as a result of a change in ownership and subsequent changes to senior and executive leadership, including the Board of Directors.
The rebranding marks a new beginning which emphasizes transparency and accountability, based on solid corporate governance statutes and structures to give comfort to all stakeholders, both internal and external, including our clients and investors.
How much market share do you estimate FirstCred holds?
Market Statistics on the industry are not readily available, but we can safely say we are a force to be reckoned with.
Our current offering is targeted towards civil servants, and a lot of work is being put towards expansion into other sectors of the industry.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the industry?
Just like every business in the country and the world at large, Covid- 19 has affected us too.
We’ve put in place strategies to ensure business continuity as well as working on a recovery plan post-Covid.
Our market has been adversely affected as a result of economic challenges facing the nation which has put a major strain on households’ disposable income.
And how has FirstCred positioned itself to respond to the situation?
As a financial services company, our business is to lend money.
FirstCred continues to listen to its customers and amend our processes and policies in line with what the market demands but ensures compliance with all laws and regulations.
We do this as a way to drive our efficiencies and resilience.
Our risk management procedures are more reflective of broader economic changes, and we pay particular attention to our more challenged customer segments.
We have amended our risk management procedures and manual, together with our credit policy to cater to the situation we find ourselves in due to the pandemic.
Briefly take us through your journey in the financial industry.
As a qualified accountant and banker, my whole life has been in the financial services sector, mainly banking and corporate finance.
During my time in the banking sector, I was lucky enough to be posted in other countries which gave me an appreciation of the regional finance market, how it works and the expectations.
My curiosity then took me to the Stock Exchange where I headed the listings and trading department before joining a regional impact investor.
I joined MHMK Group, (an alternative investment management firm that manages and provides advice on investments across multiple sectors and markets), in 2018, and seconded to FirstCred in 2019.
What do you regard as the highlight of your career to date?
Leading the FirstCred team has been one of my biggest highlights.
I enjoy working with a hardworking team that understands that teamwork pays.
The transition to FirstCred is another interesting highlight because we started a new chapter that came with different narration, a new hope, new corporate culture, different strategies, and an outlook.
And the lowest moment?
The lowest moment would definitely be this Covid-19 era which has affected almost everyone across the globe.
It has affected livelihoods and the world economy at large.
Besides micro-lending, what other products does FirstCred offer?
We also offer insurance products, such as funeral, legal, homeowners, and all risk, etc. through our subsidiary called GetSure.
We are also in the process of offering a mixture of other SMME products pending regulatory approval.
What is your take on the state of micro-financing in Botswana?
It’s an industry with huge potential and is still growing.
Micro-finance is poised to play a vital role in the development of the country.
However, there is still a lot to be done for the industry to make a difference and the market to embrace sensible lending and borrowing.
Do you think many people have enough information regarding how micro-financing works?
There is a lot that the general public still has to learn about the micro-financing industry and how it works.
The foundation of it is financial literacy, which is something that we are very passionate about at FirstCred and are currently doing.