For some time now, Keneilwe Matseke has been part of Letshego’s expansion into the rest of Africa. Matseke relocated to Lesotho in 2012 as the Head of Consumer Finance and later to Kenya in the same position.
The 31-year-old Serowe born is currently based in Lagos, Nigeria, where she is the Head of Consumer Solutions, a new department for the Nigeria subsidiary where her primary role among others is to establish and come up with strategies to grow the department.
Due to her demanding work, Matseke spends most of her time attending business forums and travelling Africa.
In this interview, she takes time out of her busy schedule to field questions from Voice Reporter Kabelo Dipholo.
Q. For those who don’t know you, who is Keneilwe Matseke?
A. There are many ways I can answer that question but I am going to keep it simple.
Keneilwe Matseke is a young woman who is miles away from her home country in search of any opportunities to better the lives of as many people I come across as possible.
I started life at the bottom – where I am today is definitely not because I am better or even the best!
As a young Motswana woman in her 30s who happens to be part of the Letshego Microfinance Bank Senior Management team in Nigeria, I would say that I’m well guided by hard work, honesty and integrity.
My background is not rosy as I’m an only child who comes from humble beginnings.
However, I’m happy that I have been able to take my future into my own hands.
I studied Communication Science and have also gone on to take various professional courses that have prepared me for where I am today.
I’m a simple person who is driven by a sense of mission to make a lasting mark in my world.
I may not be able to describe myself in totality, but I would say that I’m all about adding value wherever I go.
Q. You have been an employee of Letshego for quite some time. Kindly take us through your journey within the financial institution.
A. One of my favourite quotes is from the famous American athlete and world’s fastest woman at the time, Wilma Rudolph, who said, “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
Indeed, no organisation captures the essence of these profound words better than Africa’s leading Inclusive Finance Group, Letshego, where I’m privileged to work.
I have been with Letshego for 12 years and the question that comes to mind as I go down memory lane, is how a young girl from Botswana, with a population of less than 2.5 million, with such humble beginnings, was able to – against all odds – be part of Letshego’s operations in some of Africa’s most challenging markets including Kenya and Nigeria?
It is a story of perseverance, dedication, passion, hard work and consistency.
At the core of this is Letshego’s belief in me at an early age, even though sometimes I thought there were better and more deserving colleagues than me, not only from the Botswana office but in the many Letshego offices across the continent.
Letshego believed in my potential, more than I sometimes believed in myself! Growth and success – like family – is a partnership – you cannot achieve success by yourself!
Q. Kindly share with us some of your experiences in these two countries?
A. The experiences between the two countries are similar in some ways because these are two of the top African countries where technology is thriving at the moment.
Young people are blazing the trails and attempting amazing things.
Innovation and creativity are traits you will find in excess in these two places and both countries are working assiduously to become the leading lights of the African continent.
Beyond all this, people in Lagos and Kenya also share some traits I find pleasing.
Nigerians are a very hospitable and happy people. It doesn’t matter what they are going through, they always seem to care about what you are going through.
The amazing thing I have found out about Nigerians since I began to work here is that they really make you feel at home.
Working in Kenya is similar to this as well. Kenyans are very supportive people.
Q. Letshego is amongst the fastest growing financial brands in Botswana and Africa. How is the institution different from other micro lenders?
A. Letshego is not your traditional ‘micro lender’.
We are an organisation that is passionate about increasing financial inclusion across Africa, in a sustainable manner.
With a presence in 11 markets, and a passion for making a difference in the lives of people and communities who often do not have access to banking or financial solutions, Letshego goes the extra mile to include more people in Africa’s growing economies.
Letshego increases easy access to financial solutions by using the latest in digital technology.
We bring hope to people who wish to improve their lives by either growing their businesses or maybe investing in their children’s education.
This year we are celebrating 20 years in Africa – and we look forward to celebrating many more.
Q. What is it like to work in a foreign land?
A. Ironically, as Africans, we may have different nationalities and speak different languages, but our fundamental needs and priorities as people remain the same.
I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know and learn more about Nigerian food and culture – every day I learn something new and this enriches my own understanding and experience.
Life is not a bed of roses. Challenges will come and we will all face them. The way they come will be different for each of us – but I never give up and take each lesson as it comes.
Working in Kenya, and now Nigeria, has offered exciting challenges that I have seized upon to learn more about myself, gain international experience in doing business and broaden my own horizons.
It’s not easy to take yourself out of your comfort zone and sometimes it can seem lonely, but the positives far outweigh any negatives.
Q. Don’t you ever get homesick?
A. The world has become a global village and that affords me the opportunity to be home even when I am not home.
Yes, I may miss the physical location or structure of home –however, it is not the location that makes the home but the people I connect with.
As long as I connect regularly with these important people, they don’t let me feel as though I am not home.
I also have an amazing support structure both at work and at home. Beyond all this, one of the things I constantly do is make time to visit my home village Serowe every year.
Q. You are young and extremely attractive – is there a lucky man in your life?
A. I have many men in my life – friends and family – not the men you may be asking about!
The truth is that I am extremely focused on my job right now and my private life will remain just that…private!
Q. Has moving up the corporate ladder and working in foreign countries had any impact on your love life?
A. Not at all; I have always been very focused and still am.
Moving up in the corporate ladder should mean that I am getting something right in my professional life and if that’s the case, I don’t see why it should affect any other area of my life.
The stage I am right now is where I am learning as much as possible and gaining the right skills for different markets while I continue to exceed expectations in my responsibilities.
Q. Are you a gender activist?
A. Honestly, what does it mean to be a gender activist? I support the growth and development of both men and women.
I do believe that women should be given equal opportunities, but I also believe that women should be proactive in identifying and seizing opportunities for themselves, and not wait for others to bring the opportunities to them.
Q. How do you handle the pressure of working thousands of miles away from home in a city with a population ten times the size of Botswana?
A. Nigerians are some of the most hospitable people I have come across.
I have experienced such a level of warmth and hospitality that often I forget how many thousands of miles I’m away from home.
The large size of the country does bring its own level of pressure and competition – but that’s all part of learning, living and adapting to being in a new country.
Q. Lagos is known as a city that never sleeps. Your comment?
A. Lagos is a very interesting place. It’s always buzzing and the people have an astounding sense of resilience to the pace and crowds one comes across each day.
This city has a thriving social life, with immense business opportunities – it’s a unique and memorable experience you won’t come across anywhere else in Africa, or the world for that matter.
Q. Away from your office demands, how do you relax in Lagos?
A. I hope you won’t call me boring but I spend a lot of time at home – I don’t get much free time.
I am currently doing my Masters in Development Finance and most of my free time is spent studying.
One weekend a month, I dedicate to learning more about the city I live in, and travel around Lagos to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.
I also love movies, so try squeeze in a trip to the cinema if I can.
Oh, and I just love Pepper Soup!
Q. Thank God It’s Friday. What do you have planned for this weekend?
A. After this Friday, there will always be another Friday!
This weekend I am attending a couple of business forums and discussions, as well as finding some down time with friends here in Lagos.