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Esselina Macome

Esselina Macome: From Reluctant Teacher to Passionate Learner

How Esselina Challenged Conventions and Ultimately Rose to the Peak in Mozambique!

Meet Esselina Macome, a remarkable woman who defied societal expectations and discovered her passion for a career that was not her choice. With sheer focus, unwavering determination, and continuous learning, she progressed from being a teacher to becoming a distinguished professor in Mozambique. Although Mozambique was a former Portuguese colony that imposed its language, culture, and education system on the people, Esselina’s story highlights the power of resilience, perseverance, and a thirst for knowledge.

As an educator, she acquired a profound understanding of her students’ needs, struggles, and aspirations, and has since devoted herself to helping children pursue careers in their fields of interest with the right guidance. Esselina places a high value on education and its ability to shape the future generation’s lives, prioritizing their growth over personal gratification.

Esselina Macome is a prime example of resilience and determination. Despite facing limited job opportunities, her passion for petrochemical engineering remained steadfast. Although she did not pursue this field professionally, she remained committed to personal growth and continued to expand her knowledge. Esselina’s academic journey was not typical. In Mozambique, her generation did not have the prerogative to select their desired courses after secondary school. Instead, the government implemented a ubiquitous training program in crucial sectors such as education and health due to a scarcity of professionals. Esselina was, therefore, assigned to take a course in mathematics and physics with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher in these subjects.

Initially reluctant to become a teacher, Esselina received unwavering support from her family to embrace this new challenge in her academic development. Despite teaching not being her preferred profession, she accepted the opportunity and dedicated herself to excelling in her role. Her unique academic journey serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of individuals who overcome obstacles and rise to challenges.

Throughout her journey, Esselina has been given multiple opportunities and prestigious titles from well-known institutions, ranging from professor to Executive Director. Currently, she holds the esteemed position of CEO at FSD Mozambique and has been bestowed with numerous accolades and acknowledgments for her accomplishments.

Discover the story of Esselina Macome, a woman who challenged conventions and pursued a career that was imposed upon her, ultimately rising from a teacher to a professor in Mozambique.

Let us delve further into the fascinating revelations of Esselina Macome!

Esselina’s Unconventional Academic Journey

Esselina’s academic journey was not a traditional one. Her generation in Mozambique did not have the luxury of choosing what to study after secondary school. Instead, the government implemented a widespread training program in various sectors, including education and health, due to a shortage of professionals. As a result, Esselina was assigned to take a course in Mathematics and Physics to become a secondary school teacher in those subjects. Despite her initial reluctance to become a teacher, Esselina’s family provided her with unwavering support to embrace this new challenge in her academic development. While teaching was not her preferred profession, she accepted the opportunity and dedicated herself to excelling in her role.

However, Esselina’s passion for engineering in petrochemistry never faded. Though she never pursued this field professionally, her desire to learn and grow as an individual remained strong. Her unique academic journey serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of individuals who overcome obstacles and rise to challenges.

During her training, she took part in the National Mathematics Olympiad, and impressed by her great performance; the UEM awarded her a scholarship to study in Dresden, Germany. Her outstanding skills also earned her an offer to work for them. While in Germany, she worked on her final project, which focused on using computers to enhance mathematics teaching. This project sparked her interest in information and communication technology.

She began her professional journey as a lecturer in 1987 at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, where she taught mathematics and informatics. With a firm belief that technology could improve education and development, she chose to specialize in ICT and Information Systems for her MSc and Ph.D. Throughout her academic career, she held various management positions, including Chairperson of the UEM Foundation, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Science, and Director of the Informatics Course.

In 2005, she received an invitation to become an Executive Director and Board Member at the Bank of Mozambique (Central Bank). Her primary responsibilities included overseeing Issuing, Payment systems, Information Technology, and Financial Inclusion portfolios. This marked her entry into the financial sector development space. During her tenure, she managed significant projects/assignments, such as preparing the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS 2016-2022), establishing the National Interbank Switching (SIMO), and introducing the new family of Metical (banknotes and coins). She played an active role in the formulation of various regulations and studies, including agent banking, protection of trust accounts from mobile money issuers, banking cards, payment system law, interbank electronic transactions (including real-time transactions), banknotes and coin handling procedures, and approval of new electronic payment services or products.

Back in 2017, she was given a chance to vie for the CEO post at Financial Sector Deepening Mozambique (FSDMoç), which was then a program that sought to steer and manage the organization’s plan to promote financial sector growth in Mozambique. Now, five years later, her organization is undergoing a transformation to become a foundation – a long-standing entity that endeavors to advance financial inclusion for all individuals while supporting sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Revolutionizing Mozambique’s Financial Sector

FSDMoç is a financial sector development facility that aims to increase inclusion levels. Its focus is on resolving financial market constraints in order to diversify Mozambique’s economy and enhance economic resilience for its citizens. The Market System Development (MSD) approach is used to evaluate all key constraints from policy to supply and demand issues and determine the most effective interventions. This approach acknowledges the impact of various stakeholders, including public and private institutions and civil society, on financial market institutions and outcomes.

The driving force behind their plan centers on women, young individuals, those with disabilities, and the impoverished rural community, in addition to small enterprises deprived of suitable financial amenities. As these groups are the most susceptible, the organization functions as a crucial impact investor, providing technical know-how and focused funding to help their stakeholders advance and enlarge their financial services capabilities, thus benefitting the people they serve.

Revolutionizing Mozambique’s Financial Sector

FSDMoç aims to drive positive changes in Mozambique’s markets by utilizing evidence-based research and data analytics. The organization’s focus is on enhancing the use of financial services, promoting digitalization and innovation, providing inclusive insurance, implementing climate action interventions, offering alternative MSME finance, delivering financial education, and providing technical support to market players. FSDMoç is dedicated to creating a more sustainable and inclusive financial sector that serves the needs of all Mozambicans.

FSDMoç benefits from the expertise of its team and its membership in the FSD Network, which enables collaboration with international organizations to have a positive impact on the financial sector. Their efforts are concentrated in four areas:

(i) Comprehending client requirements.

(ii) Promoting the creation of significant solutions.

(iii) Supporting a conducive environment.

(iv) Developing skills and sharing knowledge.

Here are some instances of their initiatives:

The partnership between FSDMoc and the Central Bank of Mozambique has resulted in the establishment of an innovation zone that encompasses a regulatory sandbox. This sandbox is a system developed by the regulator for financial services, which enables FinTech startups and other creative minds to conduct real-time experiments in a controlled setting under the guidance of the regulator. Currently, the sandbox is in its fourth phase, introducing fresh and unique products and services to the market. Moreover, there is an innovation center that functions as a platform for various stakeholders to collaborate, inspire innovation, exchange ideas, and obtain professional insights across the technology spectrum.

The role played by FSDMoc in Mozambique cannot be overlooked, particularly in the clarification of mobile money. They provided valuable support to partners and technical assistance until the industry agreement was signed. This paved the way for successful bilateral agreements between mobile money operators and banks in Mozambique. Recently, FSDMoc further aided in the transformation of financial exclusion in the country by facilitating interoperability among mobile money operators.

FSDMoç’s Five Values

FSDMoç is guided by five values:

  1. People first
  2. Integrity
  3. Excellence
  4. Equity
  5. Innovation

Power of Digital Innovation

The emergence of digital technology innovations presents a massive opportunity to accelerate financial inclusion, but achieving complete digital transformation is still a journey. To achieve this, the entire organization needs to shift, including changes in mindsets, workforce, and business models. In addition to technology and products, it’s crucial to perceive and understand risks and identify mitigation opportunities.

Today, digital technologies are particularly vulnerable to hacking and fraud, especially in the absence of robust security tools and policies. As a result, safeguarding and maintaining the privacy of sensitive customer data are significant risks. To address this, an enabling and integrated legal framework for cybersecurity and electronic transactions is essential, which includes data protection and privacy, cybercrime, and responsive systems. The capacity to respond to threats, enforce legislation, protect citizens’ rights, and effectively deal with related offenses (including detection and prosecution) are essential to stimulate demand and protect the growth of digital technology innovations among users.

The advancement of technology in support of inclusion is rapidly increasing, but the focus on digitizing services can unintentionally exclude those with lower income and/or living in rural areas. This is because of their limited technological literacy and infrastructure. The challenge is to ensure that no one is left behind. Over the last five years, FSDMoç has embraced the digital journey, aiming to increase access, usage, interaction, and ecosystem improvement. They have identified opportunities and developed a relevant and appropriate path to address the various barriers to financial inclusion. However, FSDMoç is not addressing these challenges alone.

Hence, FSDMoç, together with its partners, actively promotes the utilization of digital advancements to hasten financial inclusivity in Mozambique. This is to cater to the demands of the actual economy. In connection with this, they have conducted several trials that aim to resolve issues experienced by various target groups in various sectors. Here are a few significant results achieved in Mozambique.

Some initiatives to Accelerate Digital Inclusion

Esslelina notes that despite significant investments in national coverage for 4G/5G, the issue of digital infrastructure remains prominent. The lack of last-mile connections continues to impede the adoption of digital technologies. It is essential to address this challenge to advance the country’s digital progress.

The World Bank undertook a Digital Economy Diagnosis in 2019, which is simplified into five main pillars:

  • Digital Infrastructure: Despite regulatory advances that have spurred market competition and rapid growth of mobile broadband, universal access to broadband remains a distant goal. Overall, internet penetration in the country is still low, standing at only 17.5% in 2017 (ITU, 2017). While broadband coverage is present in provincial capitals, major cities, and main development corridors, rural areas are left behind. The growth of high-speed internet is also hindered by significant bottlenecks, including the legacy of operators investing in proprietary network deployments and poor infrastructure quality.
  • Digital platforms: Digital platforms offer numerous advantages as they allow individuals and objects to connect virtually, enabling digital transactions and interactions, which include the sharing of information, goods, and services. The establishment of the National eGovernment Institute (INAGE) has been a recent development, and its objectives align with those of contemporary digital government departments. However, to enhance digital platforms, there is a requirement for the effective and coordinated execution of digital government services.
  • Digital Financial Services (DFS): Although the market for mobile money is growing rapidly in Mozambique, cash remains the preferred form of currency and method of transaction settlement, especially in rural areas. Since mobile money was introduced in Mozambique in 2011, over 250 million mobile money transactions have been conducted as of 2017. However, despite this progress, there are still significant challenges to increasing access to and usage of digital financial services (DFS) in Mozambique, particularly in non-urban areas. These challenges include the limited availability of mobile services and bank branches outside of urban centers, as well as a lack of awareness and trust in digital money transfers provided by agents, and a shortage of agents with sufficient cash liquidity in rural areas. Additionally, digital payment acceptance by merchants is limited.
  • Digital Entrepreneurship: Over the past half-decade, Mozambique’s fledgling digital landscape has seen a surge in the number of new middlemen, such as accelerators, incubators, and tech hubs, providing a plethora of services for fledgling businesses and entrepreneurs. Despite the remarkable progress made in reducing registration times and cutting down procedures and costs, there are still major obstacles hindering the growth of digital startups in Mozambique. Access to finance remains the most significant hurdle, followed closely by corruption, according to the 2018 Enterprise Survey. Furthermore, local startups in Mozambique face information asymmetry, the absence of a framework tailored to digital startups, and a lack of government leadership to champion the entrepreneurship agenda. It’s worth noting that the majority of active incubators and hubs are clustered in Maputo, leaving other regions neglected.
  • Digital skills: Having digital skills is crucial for utilizing technology in all areas of the economy, regardless of one’s level of proficiency. Unfortunately, Mozambique has some of the lowest education levels worldwide. Merely 4% of the population has completed secondary education, making it the lowest in Southern Africa and second-lowest globally among countries with available data. In comparison, Mozambique’s gross enrolment in secondary education is at a meager 26%, six percentage points behind Angola, the next-lowest country. Only 8% of students complete secondary education, and a mere 136 out of every 100,000 pursue higher education, highlighting the country’s significant skills gap.

The ICTs regulator in Mozambique is committed to promoting public debate and consultation on the guidelines for managing and developing the Internet. To achieve this, the regulator brings together various stakeholders, such as government institutions, public and private sectors, and academia, at an annual Internet Forum. With nearly 3,000 attendees, the event aims to create an accessible and inclusive Internet for all. The Internet Forum covers a range of topics related to the Internet, including Regulation, Digital Economy, Internet Connectivity, Access and Infrastructure, Internet, Electronic Commerce, Digital Financial Inclusion, Digital Content and Services on the Internet, Certification, and Digital Identity on the Internet, and Internet and Cyber Security. Through these discussions, the aim is to develop effective strategies that will advance the digital landscape in Mozambique.

Similar to other underdeveloped economies, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Tanzania have yet to attain the essential 20 percent threshold to fully capitalize on the network effects of information and communication technologies (ICTs) that are associated with economic growth and development. The primary reason cited for their lack of internet access is the exorbitant cost of internet-enabled devices, which impedes opportunities for both the public and private sectors in the digital economy. The Institut Nacional das Comunicações de Mozambique (INCM) has the power to regulate open and competitive markets in a way that promotes affordable access to broadband networks, ultimately driving progress in these countries.

  • Building skills & knowledge transfer – Investing in human capital to contribute to the development of the digital ecosystem.

FSDMoç, in partnership with Digital Frontiers Institute (DFI) and Financial Sector Deepening Africa (FSDA), has been working to improve the expertise and understanding of financial sector players in Digital Finance (DFS). To accomplish this goal, FSDMoç has joined forces with other organizations to support the training of 41 DFS professionals. To date, a total of 121 professionals have received training in this area, and Mozambique now boasts four (04) Certified Digital Finance Practitioners. These professionals are active members of the Digital Finance community of practice and the DFI Alumni Group, an interactive platform dedicated to addressing DFS issues.

  • Digital innovation to reach the last mile

In 2016, FSDMoç showed its backing for the improvement of savings groups by means of digital technology. The main objective was to enhance the standard of Savings Groups (SGs) through the development of digital resources that could simplify the operations of SGs and reduce the costs associated with the traditional extension services needed for the establishment and mobilization of these groups.

FSDMoç and CARE have joined forces to present a revolutionary technological solution to replace manual record-keeping and group management. The mobile application for SGs management, known as E-Recording, is a voice application that streamlines tasks for users. FSDMoç has also teamed up with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to test out a new SOMA business model. This rural development platform connects isolated communities to market opportunities through Savings Groups. With the help of a network of community facilitators or agents, SOMA offers a variety of services. A master trainer employs a smartphone to provide training video materials to trainers of trainers. The registration process is conducted digitally with the assistance of GIS technology. Monitoring of activities is also done digitally, making it simpler to track progress and make necessary adjustments.

  • FSDMoç contribution to financial inclusion in the Agriculture sector

FSDMoç, together with Hollard Mozambique, recently introduced a new Crop Index Insurance product to the market. The noteworthy aspect of this product was the implementation of digital services through the use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform that allowed for the mapping of smallholder farmers in five Mozambican provinces. This collection of data and information has since been utilized to improve the insurance company’s claims processing procedures for climate change-related risks, specifically in the agricultural sector. The deployment of the GIS platform has been instrumental in registering a remarkable 35,574 smallholder farmers, surpassing the expected target of 11,000 for the season. This achievement underscores the valuable contribution of technology in advancing the agricultural industry in Mozambique.

  • The Case of Electronic Ticketing in the Public Transport Sector in Mozambique

FSDMoç’s primary objective for the e-Ticketing project was to establish a secure and efficient digital payment system that would minimize the use of cash and enable financial services to be delivered more efficiently through data utilization.

By introducing the first-ever electronic ticketing (E-ticketing) system for public transportation in the low and middle-income neighborhoods of the Maputo Metropolitan Area, FSDMoç has collaborated with the Maputo Metropolitan Transport Agency (AMT) to address the vulnerabilities and exclusion faced by certain social groups.

The e-Ticketing system has facilitated innovative delivery channels and improved the overall commuter experience by implementing digital payment methods. This groundbreaking initiative has resulted in several positive outcomes, including the reduction of cash usage and the promotion of financial inclusion.

Closing the Gender Gap and Saving the Plane

The importance of digital financial inclusion and its impact on climate change cannot be overstated when it comes to reaching those who are unserved and underserved. One crucial aspect of this is reducing the gender gap, which is why we launched the “Sustainable Development Goals Booklet: How Reaching the Last Mile Through Digital Financial Services (DFS)” in March 2021. In this booklet, we showcase how DFS can address the needs of people and how our interventions at FSDMoç are contributing to SDG achievements. We emphasize the critical role of digital financial inclusion in supporting the delivery of multiple SDGs and how technology can help financial services reach those who are hardest to reach.

The booklet presents practical instances of how digital finance can be leveraged to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although the booklet has been shared with their associates, more effort is required to elucidate the specific roles each partner can play in promoting finance across various sectors such as agriculture, energy, water and sanitation, health, and education. To better comprehend where technology and digital solutions can make a significant difference in achieving the various dimensions of DFS (access, usage, and quality), it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of each sector’s profile.

Driving Financial Inclusion

Esselina is driven by her firsthand experience of the transformative impact financial inclusion can have on individuals, particularly those living in remote regions. Moreover, the unwavering commitment of her team to driving positive change in the realm of financial development serves as a constant source of motivation for her. She is resolute in her determination to continue working towards promoting financial and social inclusion, both through direct interventions and indirect initiatives, until every Mozambican has access to convenient transactions, regardless of location.

According to her, FSDMoç aims to consolidate its status as a first-rate institution and a knowledge hub in a variety of fields that align with its strategic blueprint at the organizational level.

Other areas of focus looking ahead include:

  • Green Finance (ensure that they have instruments and policies in-country):
  • Continue to support the implementation of the recommendations FSDMoç Green Finance Roadmap.
  • The market desires that banks and other financial institutions provide green finance options.
  • Their aim is to support the launch of Mozambique’s inaugural green bond.
  • Boosting creative ideas to progress the digital financial inclusion of women and young people (e.g., Sex-based resource – Sex-based information resolutions/ sex-disaggregated information to decrease the difference).
  • Their aim is to foster progress in the financial realm by delving into novel domains, such as blockchain tech and Big data/Open API, using 4th generation technology.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In the last five years, FSDMoç contributed to some key outcomes:

(i) The creation of the Fintech Association – FINTECH.MZ

(ii) Annual Fintech Report Developed and Institutionalization

(iii) Mozambican FinTech Week Institutionalization

(iv) Investment Advisory to support Fintechs to build the investment deck.

It is imperative to persist in investing in these upcoming sectors to prevent Mozambican entrepreneurs from exporting their concepts elsewhere.

  • Innovation challenge funds in the market: It is crucial to allocate additional challenge funds to promote innovation in the market and discover new ideas. The previous FSDMoç competition successfully uncovered seven start-ups that received FSDMoç’s Technical Assistance and were subsequently aided in piloting pioneering financial and digital solutions that enhance access to finance.
  • Provision of Technical Assistance (TA) and Seed Capital:
  • The start-ups in Mozambique are relatively new and genuine start-ups. However, it is essential to enhance their capacity to become eligible for accessing additional funds that can help them progress further.
  • The initial cohort that took part in the Sandbox program, FSDMoç, established partnerships with several FinTech companies and consistently involved them in events and competitions to create solutions for financial inclusion. Utilizing their extensive network and industry expertise, they have identified potential use cases and provided financial support to aid in the development of these solutions.
  • Alternative financing vehicles: Banks are currently unable to cater to the requirements of their MSMEs. To address this, it is imperative that they encourage alternative financing models comparable to those already in use in other developing economies. For instance, platforms like Wasoko in East Africa and Jabu in Southern Africa are helping banks and finance the informal market. Additionally, there are opportunities to explore inventive solutions that provide uncollateralized loans.
  • Sustainable Fintech ecosystem: To foster the growth of the fintech industry, it is imperative to bolster the creation of regulations that encourage innovation. This means tackling capacity deficiencies in dealing with new and emerging risks.