We sat down with Gerald Nyakwawa, CDFP Graduate and one of DFI’s first students, to hear more about his journey; what he’s been able to achieve and what lies ahead for him. Thank you for answering our questions and sharing your insights Gerald!
Tell us a bit about yourself, something that might surprise people?
Well! Plum.io says my top talent is innovation, the ability to generate novel solutions and creative ideas to solve problems. They say I am “particularly good at understanding complicated problems, generating solutions, and evaluating options. I am strong at finding ways to improve the quality and efficiency of work, and not settling for “good enough”. Extraordinary at working with abstract ideas and developing unconventional solutions. Capable of being receptive and flexible to different ideas, perspectives, and changing demands.” But I would say – I was – or rather – I still am the best goalkeeper of my generation from school to Sunday league, my team cannot do without me :).
How did you find out about DFI?
Well then, we must step all the way back to December 2015 just before Christmas. I was in the process of launching a bottom of the pyramid payments product. I loved the product and how it was changing the face of financial services in Zimbabwe. I was really satisfied with my contribution, but there was a gap in my knowledge of the industry, and I needed to fill this in order to add more value. So, I visited ‘uncle google’ for some wisdom regarding my growing need. Many courses came up, some from Kenya and Cyprus but one caught my eye and on Friday December 11 2015, at 12:51 pm I received the email from Debra Roodt, then Head of Marketing & Communications, that my application to participate in the Certificate in Digital Money (CIDM) programme was approved, and I was also receiving a scholarship. That is the day my whole life changed starting with that Friday evening and receiving the email, to winning the social soccer game on Saturday (of course I did not concede any goals one of my best games that season).
What motivated you to join the CDFP (Certified Digital Finance Practitioner) programme?
My motivation was the knowledge, and confidence that I was continuing to gain from completing the courses. As I mentioned, I was working for a mobile money operation when I started CIDM, my first course, and it delivered just what I had needed. The content closed gaps in knowledge and broadened my understanding of key concepts, and I came away wanting to learn more, in fact this was the case for each course. Curiosity and the desire to continue learning more about the ecosystem meant I continued signing up for courses, never missing one, and eventually becoming a CDFP graduate. The courses I took on my path to becoming a CDFP graduate never failed to deliver value and so I found them a valued use of my time.
There were other factors that also helped, such as the initial scholarship that I was awarded, and the fact that delivery allowed me to learn on my own schedule, within a certain timeframe. I did not need to go for leave to learn, I balanced it out.
How has this journey impacted your career?
To see the impact this has had on my career you just need to look at my CV, it is all there! One thing that I had always wanted to see or wished for when we launched mobile money in Zimbabwe was to advocate for financial inclusion, however I did not have the confidence (lack of knowledge does that) to do so effectively.
After I enrolled with DFI I began writing articles that were published in online and print media, I became a regular columnist in one of the weekly publications. There was one particular article I wrote for a publication that caught the eye of the Chairman of National Social Security Authority (NSSA), then Mr Robin Vela. He reached out to me and said the article brought our company’s vision to his attention and they wanted to run a pilot programme with us, to see if what we were advocating for would work. My team and I work in the rural provinces to get the pilot going and, in the end, we managed to enable pensioners to be paid through mobile money. This was a notable example of a collaborative effort as it was not only my company that was involved but all three mobile money operators and to this day the majority of pensioners are being paid digitally.
Another notable example of impact was in 2018 when I was asked to do deliver desktop research on digitising savings groups and I produced a paper MOBILE MONEY SAVING ACCOUNTS: Helping the Bottom of the pyramid to save in Zimbabwe, which led to the creation of saving groups accounts on the mobile money platform as a new service and was subsequently invited to attend the SG2018: The Power of Savings Groups Global Savings Group Conference – Rwanda, where I presented our success story to the global audience. My team also went on to win the best mobile money service for the community award at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of commerce Manicaland chapter.
A career highlight for me following CDFP was working with COMESA Business Council to prepare a business case report and policy framework for a regional common payment scheme that serves Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). I moved beyond working in my home country to regional engagements and to this date I accredit my participation in the CDFP programme to setting me apart on this assignment.
I have also established the Digital Finance Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe as one of the founding trustees; we are one of the founding members of the Alliance for Digital Finance Associations, and I personally sat on the steering committee and played a key supporting role to the CEO, Sarah Corley, during the formation of the Alliance of Digital Finance Associations.
What does the certification bring for you and why would you recommend it to others?
In soccer they have the Ballon d’Or, in the digital finance profession we have the CDFP! It is true that anyone can be a professional in the field of digital finance, however, I believe that as a CDFP graduate, you have an industry recognised stamp to say you are authentic in your claim of truly being a digital finance professional.
What future plans do you have to utilise the knowledge that you have gained from the courses?
I am already taking a leap from impacting profit to impacting lives. CDFP has set me a new carrier path as a consultant in the digital finance space. Spring boarding from my engagement with COMESA Business Council, I am working with a UN (United Nations) Agency focusing on inclusive digital finance.
Following the completion of my Masters, I wanted to find a course that would help me in preparation to pursue my PhD, now as a CDFP graduate, I am confident I can take it on.
Interesting times ahead!
What did you enjoy the most about COPs and why would you recommend them to others?
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who share a common concern around a set of problems, or an interest in a topic, and who come together to fulfil both individual and group goals. Being part of the in-country CoP allowed me to share with my colleagues who understand the problems that we are facing specific to our market context, and who recognise the kind of solutions that will work in Zimbabwe. It was through these meetings that we began to ideate, share best practices, and explore innovations, and indeed soon you will see a product that was developed by a member of the CoP being launched in Zimbabwe. It is still yet to launch so I will remain quiet for now, but you will no doubt recognise it when it launches!
What would you like to see happen in your community in the DFS (Digital Financial Services) space and how do you think you can contribute towards this?
There is a lot that we can do and still must do. In Zimbabwe specifically, I am already part of committees set up by the Central Bank, looking at the National Financial Inclusion strategy as well as our National Financial Literacy strategy. Over and above these I would like to see movement in digital identities, as from my perspective instead of having different datasets for digital identities, being held by different companies, I would prefer that there be a National Digital Identity database. I believe this will do wonders for the KYC process and really help to drive financial inclusion.
Which other Digital Frontiers community activity have you benefited most from?
I love the LinkedIn group, the League of Digital Finance Professionals and always glean valuable insights from the conversations there; I attend webinars when I can and I still even attend CoP webinars by my colleagues from different countries. There is always a lot to learn. As a steering committee member of the Alliance for Digital Finance Associations I must say this is one of the best places to be.
Any other thoughts or comments you’d like to share with the DFI community and prospective students?
I have done professional courses and this is one course that I have done that has relevant and current information that is curated in a way that is easy to consume but is always relevant to the industry. A special thank you to the content creators they are moving with time. In a fast paced ever changing environment like this I think these guys don’t sleep!