Dream big!

Dream big!

MASERU-WHEN Delekazi Mokebe did not qualify for university after she completed her Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC), she was devastated.

At that point all her dreams appeared to have been snuffed out.
But never one to give up easily, Mokebe dusted herself up and went back to school, this time in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
It took great humility on her part to do so.

With most of her high school friends enrolling at prestigious universities, it would have been very easy for Mokebe to count herself a failure and conclude that she was destined for a life of abject penury.
“I knew at that moment that I had to get up and try again,” she says.
And so try again she did.

She re-took her exams and passed.
In 2004, Mokebe graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree where she majored in Finance, Marketing and Management from the University of the Witswatersrand.

That was a stunning twist to what had appeared a hopeless case.
Mokebe is philosophical about the whole thing arguing that “everything that happens, happens for a reason”.
That long, painful detour to the top appears to have taught Mokebe the virtues of hard work and perseverance and that she must never give up in life.

These are important lessons that she still applies until today.
“I learnt from that experience that you can always turn your situation around. When you fall, you must get up again, keep trying and you will succeed,” she says.
It is that doggedness, that fierce determination to succeed that, in a nutshell, defines who Mokebe is.

Two decades later, Mokebe now, 40, sits at the top of a local bank, the first Mosotho woman to attain such a stunning feat within the banking sector.
Mokebe was appointed FNB Lesotho Chief Executive Officer on June 8.
In a highly patriarchal society where the bulk of key decision-makers in politics, business, the church and government are men, that is no small feat.
Yet here she is, bucking the trend that only men have the intellectual gravitas to lead in the banking sector.

Mokebe sees her career as a vocation.
“Banking chose me and I accepted its calling,” she says.
She is a seasoned banker with 16 years of experience in the sector. She previously occupied roles in global markets, treasury and corporate and investment banking (CIB) credit.

Mokebe joined FNB Lesotho as head of treasury with the sole mandate of setting up a treasury function for the bank.
She takes over as FNB Lesotho CEO during a very traumatic period for local businesses.

The Covid-19 crisis, which has wreaked havoc for business, has not spared the banking sector.
Mokebe says FNB Lesotho has had to take precautions not just to protect clients but their staff as well.

The majority of the 260-plus workforce is working from home, she says.
“This is a new norm. It is business unusual in how we interact and serve our clients,” she says.
Mokebe says they have had to make use of new technology to do business “and reach out to people who are not physically here”.
“We are seeking new ways to make use of technology to ensure there is no disruption. That is why we are encouraging our clients to make use of our digital platforms to do their banking,” she says.

The idea, Mokebe says, is to reduce physical interaction and protect each other from the deadly virus that has so far infected four people in Lesotho.
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a carnage on the jobs market worldwide.

Some companies in Lesotho have already been forced to downsize operations while also retrenching staff in a bid to stay afloat.
Mokebe says under “the new norm” FNB Lesotho is already exploring how they can make use of more digital platforms without losing the essence of interacting with their clients.

“We want to continue to be as innovative as needed while keeping you safely in your homes.”
Each morning when she wakes up Mokebe grapples with how she can make FNB Lesotho “gain a fair market share in Lesotho”.
“And in doing so one has to think what is the best possible way of achieving that goal.”

She says her focus has always been how “they can help Lesotho grow as a country and a sovereign”.
Never one to shy away from taking responsibility for her decisions, Mokebe says she first seeks to gain an appreciation of the issues at hand before making any decisions.

“Once I know the facts, I look for the best possible solutions to the issues through the help of the expertise at my disposal. At the end of the day, a decision has to be made. I take full responsibility for the decisions.”
Mokebe says FNB Lesotho already has platforms to improve financial inclusion for Lesotho’s unbanked rural population.

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2019 report titled, Lesotho: Scaling inclusion through mobile money project, says only 13 percent of adults are accessing credit from formal banks.
That means the majority of Lesotho’s 2 million people rely on informal markets like stokvels and money lenders where the interest rates are exorbitant.

The interest rates range between 60 to 80 percent according to the UNDP report.
“While 41 percent of SMMEs are bank-served, only two percent access credit and insurance services and less than two percent use mobile money to transact,” says the report.

Mokebe says FNB Lesotho is fully aware of these challenges and sees an opportunity to boost financial inclusion for Lesotho’s unbanked population.
The bank’s Cash Plus Lai-Lai platform allows FNB clients and non-clients to deposit and withdraw money at an FNB Cash Plus agent, she says.
“Through our e-wallet platform, you don’t have to be an FNB client to be sent money.”

Mokebe says the high rate of unemployment, which currently stands at 23.48 percent, poses a great threat to social stability.
“People are hungry, they are unemployed and you can only bring stability when people’s basic needs are taken care of. But for us to do so, we need a strong private sector which can be the engine for growth,” Mokebe says.
Having achieved most of her dreams as a young woman, Mokebe says the “girl child” in Lesotho must believe that they too can achieve their dreams “no matter their circumstances”.

“Whatever goals you set for yourself, you are just as capable as anyone else. Your past does not determine your future. Your dreams and ambitions are valid.”
Mokebe was born to a father who was a police officer and a mother who was a primary school teacher.
She describes her father as a tough disciplinarian who exercised discipline in a very loving way.

“He was focused on issues of justice. He wanted justice to prevail and that he should be the voice of those who could not speak for themselves.”
Her mother was a school teacher but she was never content to rely on her salary as a civil servant and would do other side businesses to raise extra income.

“She was a businesswoman in her own right. She would knit jerseys for children and sew seshoeshoe dresses for sale,” she says.
Now over 70, she is still active sewing dresses for the community.
Her parents, who have since retired, are now engaged in farming in their rural home in Leribe district.

“They taught me to dream and be focused.”
It is those simple lessons she learnt whilst growing up that she now intends to apply while at the helm of the bank.

Abel Chapatarongo

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