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Bongiwe Beja-Ntsiko is a chartered development finance analyst, using conventional finance, statistics and economics to develop emerging markets. She also works for organisations that have a social impact, particularly in youth unemployment, and social enterprises that are trying to solve social problems across Africa. Here, she tells Go Hustle about the journey…

Being recognised as a trailblazer…

In 2018, Bongiwe had the privilege of being named one of the Top 100 Young People in the SADC Region in the “Trailblazer” category. “I’m passionate about development and I would love for Africans to narrate their stories,” she says. “I would love to use my skill set to really tell the exciting stories about Africa – where entrepreneurship is booming, where people are in jobs, where we no longer need importers of food and where we’re a global player in the economy.”

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Solving complex social problems

Preparing for a career in the finance industry begins at school. “Those who do maths, accounting, commerce or business studies can do any commerce degree, undergraduate degree or diploma,” explains Bongiwe. “Institutions such the UCT Graduate School of Business have a postgraduate diploma in development finance and a Master’s in Development Finance. Once you finish your Master’s, you could apply for the CFA designation, which is a chartered development finance analyst designation.”

Bongiwe did a Master’s in Development Finance – and it has unlocked amazing opportunities for her in the development finance space. So, what are the kinds of jobs you could find yourself in if you took this path? “Things such as Project Finance,” she says, “which could lead to working for organisations such as the African Development Bank, national empowerment funds and social enterprises.”

A level playing ground

“We’ve seen that an issue in the industry generally is transformation and gender parity and having a diverse seat of decision makers, where it’s not predominantly one gender, or not predominantly one race. These can be blockers in one’s journey when pursuing a career,” says Bongiwe. Thankfully, due to digitisation, the playing field is finally levelling out for women.

“My journey started in the Investment Management or Asset Management industry. [I was there] for a good eight years, then did my Master’s in Development Finance, and ventured into the industry that I find myself in now – broadly called development finance,” she says.

Facing challenges head-on

Some of the challenges Bongiwe has faced include people not understanding why she would want to leave a stable career in investment management and work in the rural and township areas of our country. Many didn’t understand that her passion had driven her to really build an inclusive economy. “We can’t ignore the underserved and the under-serviced,” she says. “If we keep ignoring unemployed youth, those who don’t get to be active members in our economy, then we won’t develop Africa.”

Another challenge she’s faced is making people understand that you can roll up your sleeves, and that everyone, wherever they are (in both the formal and informal economy), should do their part in making things better.

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And overcoming them…

“[I overcame challenges] by staying true to my vision and passion, and choosing roles that allow me to have impact at the lower LSM levels in our country and in our continent. I’ve had the privilege of being part of the Global Shapers Community, which is an initiative of the World Economic Forum. In that space, I’ve run projects in Khayelitsha, when I was Curator of [the] Cape Town hub,” says Bongiwe.

By starting with your own community, you’re already making that change… And things can only build from there. “I’m now the Southern African region Community Champion, where I mentor and oversee 15 hubs in the Southern African region, spanning from Harare in Zimbabwe right across to South Africa,” she adds.

A must-read for every woman

“[In] the book Africa’s Business Revolution – written by consultants at McKinsey – they decided to interview the biggest businesses in Africa to find out what their contribution in our continent is,” says Bongiwe. What they found: there are 400 companies in Africa with revenues over 1 billion US dollars! “Africa is larger than China, Europe and the United States combined,” says Bongiwe. “According to that book, there’s 1.4 trillion US dollars in consumer spending, so we as young Africans need to own our story and know more about our continent.”

Self-care is… mandatory!

“[I practise self-care by having] a genuine coffee meeting with myself, where I plan my week, and I choose to be grateful for at least three things prior to starting my day,” says Bongiwe.

Connect with Bongiwe on LinkedIn

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