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PROFILE: A Heart that Beats for Africa


Fanile Shongwe CA(SA) is Head of Debt Products at Standard Bank in Mozambique. And he is boldy set on the quest of making the ‘Africa Rising’ story a reality

It all started in 2012, when Fanile happened to picked up a copy of the Economist and read a story on Africa rising. Around the same time Standard Bank was also refreshing its strategy, with a renewed focus on Africa.

A spark for the continent ignited within Fanile and he purposefully began to spend a lot of time with some of their senior executives to help him understand  exactly what it means to call Africa home and how to drive her growth. Most importantly, he had found a place where he could make a difference that really matters.

What words do you live by?

‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’– Nelson Mandela

What city do you live in?

And what do you love most about it?

Maputo. It has a fantastic outdoor lifestyle and its proximity to Portuguese Island, Machangulo Peninsula and Ponta Mamoli makes it easy to get away for a quick visit. People are hospitable – Mozambique is one of the few countries I know where people still stop and greet on the street. People genuinely care about each other’s wellbeing.

What drives your passion to make a difference in Africa? And what difference are you already making?

Standard Bank has offered me the opportunity to make a difference through banking. We are a significant financier and provider of capital-raising services to clients in the mining and metals; oil and gas; power and infrastructure; telecommunications and media; consumer; and financial institutions sectors.

We have recently been involved with the financing of the dredging of the Maputo Port Channel. The port received the biggest vessel in its history, a 90 000-tonne vessel. Post the dredging and with further capex spend, the port will able to handle Panamax vessels. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects are expected to increase Mozambique’s GDP tenfold when they eventually take off.

What do you believe is holding Africa back from reaching its economic potential? How can this be changed?

First, the poor business climate – there is a need for a common strategic vision between government and business at both a regional and continental level. We then need to dovetail the common vision with policies that make it easy to do business.

Second, the quality of leadership – institutions like SAICA and the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) are playing their role to improve the quality of leadership. My view is that we also need to encourage building this from the bottom up, starting with teaching ethics and good governance at an early age across all disciplines.

And finally, the quality of education – critical thinking is an essential ingredient for problem-solving and innovative thinking and needs to be taught at an early age.

How has being a CA(SA) assisted you to make a difference in Africa?

The CA(SA) is well regarded outside South Africa and provides opportunities to engage across all levels. The value of being a CA(SA) lies in the rigorous academic and professional training that one goes through.

The qualification prepares you to be solutions and results oriented. I have also had to apply some lessons learnt from leaders like Alan Mulally (former CEO of Ford) both internally and externally in how we assist our clients. I am also grateful for the support of my family, particularly my wife who is also a CA(SA) and who agreed to relocate with me to Maputo.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced and how did you overcome it?

The environment has been very challenging in Mozambique over the last 18 months. The challenges we face as a country are well documented and it is an understatement to say that the environment in which we operated over the last 18 months was dynamic and complex. Despite the complexities, what is clear is that everyone who is passionate about Mozambique is rolling up their sleeves to get involved in the trenches and help return the country to its great growth trajectory.

 The best piece of advice you ever received?

Never underestimate the value of local knowledge, a business lesson drawn from the Battle of Sandlwane. It is surprising how many people still overlook this principle and decide to go at it alone. At Standard Bank, being on the ground allows us to play a role in navigating local complexities to able to achieve successful closure of transactions.

What is one change every person can make to make Africa a better continent?

Everyone needs to play a part. Businesses need to work closely with policy-makers to ensure that policies are business friendly and drive the agenda of making it easy to do business in the continent.

Describe yourself in three words

Passionate (my wife calls it stubborn), industrious and humble.

What do you do to relax?

I am an avid Arsenal supporter and have been since the days of Ian Wright and JVC shirts. On weekends it’s me, my daughters and Arsenal. Based on how the teams have been playing lately, my resting heart rate has been fluctuating quite a lot.

Whenever possible we do a short trip outside Mozambique. And when I need a serious break I visit my parents in the village in KaMhlushwa, Mpumalanga, and spend some time resting in the shade of a marula tree with my father.

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