Student in the Spotlight: Hugo Pacheco

Categories : Blog


Author: Digital Frontiers Institute

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career to date?

Hello there! I’m Hugo Pacheco, a Portuguese Economist with a deep passion for exploring the dynamics of rural communities and economic development constrained by geography. Beyond my professional endeavours, I’m a father of two, a minimalist, and a backpacking traveller who finds joy in immersing myself in the dynamics of the informal/formal economy in diverse communities. My love for travel has taken me to more than 42 countries, and I have a particular fondness for train journeys. From traversing the Ghan (Australia) to experiencing the Trans-Mongolian (Russia, Mongolia, China) and the Orient Express (Budapest to Turkey), each journey has not only enriched my perspective but also fuelled my curiosity about how geography shapes economic development.

In the professional realm, my journey has been deeply intertwined with the world of technology within the financial sector. Starting as a mainframe developer, I’ve navigated through various roles, eventually finding my niche as the Chief Product and Growth Officer at Papersoft. It’s been a dynamic career path, marked by contributing significantly to alternative banking channels and financial inclusion in Africa. My role at Papersoft involves leading a talented team spread across Portugal, Nigeria and Mozambique. I take pride in conceptualising and implementing innovative solutions for alternative delivery channels, including APIs, USSD, agency banking, and agent networks software. I’ve had the privilege of working on impactful projects like M-Pesa in Mozambique and DRC, NIBSS BVN 2.0 expansion in Nigeria, Advans MFI Field Application in Tunisia, Ghana, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast, and various others across the African continent. This journey has not only shaped my professional identity but has also aligned with my values. I believe in leveraging technology to make financial services more accessible, convenient and affordable for underserved communities. It’s not just a job; it’s a mission to drive positive change in the world through inclusive financial solutions.


What are some of the projects you are working on currently?

Currently, my focus revolves around two significant endeavours that align with my passion for fostering financial inclusion and leveraging technology for positive change. For the past twelve years, I’ve been at the helm of coordinating the development of Papersoft’s last-mile banking technologies. These endeavours have been instrumental in addressing critical pain points in alternative channels, including customer verification, infrastructure challenges, high operational costs for providers, and the need for diverse use cases and liquidity to make agents economically viable. In the last six months, we’ve been diligently working on transforming our technology into a versatile toolkit. This shift aims to empower fintechs, offering them a low-no-code platform akin to what Salesforce did for customer relationship management (CRM). Our goal is to enable fintechs to seamlessly manage digital identities and digital distribution in the last mile, fostering a more inclusive and accessible financial landscape. In addition to my ongoing role at Papersoft, since January 2024, I’ve embarked on a part-time commitment with the company. This decision has allowed me to channel my energy into a project dear to my heart – “The Barefoot Economist.” This initiative is a platform where I’m dedicated to raising awareness about solutions that can catalyse the expansion of agent networks through technology and innovative business models. The Barefoot Economist is more than just a project; it’s a commitment to building a global library of best practices, online crash courses, and a weekly newsletter. This repository of knowledge aims to empower individuals and organisations seeking to navigate the complexities of last-mile financial services. Drawing on my 15 years of experience in pan-African implementations, I’m extending support to founders, co-founders and business leaders in Africa. I offer Disruption Risk Assessment and strategic consultancy on business model performance, identifying strengths and weaknesses, as well as exploring emerging business model trends for delivering financial products and services to underserved communities. These projects encapsulate my dedication to driving positive change in the fintech space and contributing to the broader mission of financial inclusion.


How did you come to know about DFI, and what have you enjoyed most about your interactions with us?

My introduction to the Digital Financial Institute (DFI) came through my participation in the cash-in/cash-out (CICO) Agent Networks course, a rewarding experience that stemmed from being honoured as the Fintech of the Year by the Fintech Mozambique Association in 2023. This opportunity proved to be more than just a course; it became a pivotal moment in shaping my outlook on agent networks and their integral role in advancing financial inclusion. The course specifically focused on CICO Agent Networks and provided a comprehensive overview of the significance of agent networks within the broader strategy to bridge the gap in financial inclusion. The insights gained were invaluable, shedding light on the intricate dynamics of these networks and their impact on fostering accessible financial services. What I enjoyed most about my interactions with DFI was not just the theoretical knowledge imparted but the practical application it inspired. It was during the concluding stages of this course that the seeds for “The Barefoot Economist” were planted. The course acted as a catalyst, motivating me to delve deeper into the diverse business model strategies that shape the agent network ecosystem. “The Barefoot Economist” emerged as a natural next step, providing a more hands-on approach for individuals completing such courses or engaging with industry reports. The aim is to empower them with practical insights into understanding the unit economics of both providers and agents. It’s about equipping individuals with the knowledge needed to implement financial inclusion initiatives successfully, coordinating the best business models, leveraging technology and automation, and navigating challenges related to infrastructure and supply-demand dynamics. DFI, through its courses, has played a crucial role in shaping my perspective and influencing the direction of my initiatives. The knowledge gained has not only enhanced my understanding of agent networks but has had a tangible impact on how I approach the coordination of business models, technology, and automation to deliver financially inclusive value propositions while ensuring economic viability.


What are your hopes for the future, and what would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Looking ahead, my aspirations are firmly rooted in the belief that technology can be a driving force for positive change, especially in the realm of financial inclusion. I envision a future where the fruits of technology reach even the most remote and underserved communities, fostering economic empowerment and improving lives. Through “The Barefoot Economist,” I hope to contribute to building a global community that shares knowledge, collaborates on innovative solutions, and collectively works towards creating a more inclusive and sustainable future. I aspire to witness the continued evolution of last-mile banking technologies, making them even more accessible and adaptable to diverse needs. In my lifetime, I’d like to see a world where financial services and access to the digital economy are not just a luxury for the privileged few but a fundamental right for everyone, regardless of their geographic location, preference for cash or socioeconomic status. This vision propels me to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of financial service providers and fintech platforms, exploring new territories, and advocating for solutions that empower the underserved.


Any other thoughts or comments you’d like to share with the DFI community and prospective students?

To the DFI community and prospective students, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude for the enriching experiences and knowledge gained through our interactions. The courses, particularly the CICO Agent Networks, have been instrumental in shaping my journey and inspiring the creation of “The Barefoot Economist.” I encourage all aspiring fintech professionals and enthusiasts to leverage the resources provided by DFI fully. The insights gained from these courses are not just theoretical; they have the potential to drive real-world impact. Embrace the practical applications, dive deep into the intricacies of financial inclusion, and consider how you can contribute to shaping a more inclusive future. For those considering joining the DFI community, know that you’re embarking on a journey that extends beyond traditional learning. It’s an opportunity to join a network of like-minded individuals passionate about making a difference in the world of digital finance. Embrace the knowledge, connect with fellow learners, and let it inspire you to create positive change in your respective spheres. Thank you, DFI, for being a catalyst in my journey, and I look forward to seeing the ripple effects of our collective efforts in the ongoing pursuit of financial inclusion.

Learn more about Hugo here:


Hugo Pacheco

Chief Product and Growth Officer at Papersoft.

DFI Alumni and Community Member


Established in 2015, Digital Frontiers Institute is a proud brand of Digital Frontiers. Learn more about the Certified Digital Finance Practitioner (CDFP) programme and find out how to enrol: