By Miracle Nwankwo
Despite the rapid increase of unexpected players emerging in the financial services industry of South Africa, the sector is still largely dominated by men, with only very few women who have the opportunity to participate as employees and no female founder at all. However, with the emergence of Nthabeleng Likotsi – the founder of the first female mutual bank in South Africa, the narrative is about to change for women in the country.
Nthabeleng Likotsi is the founder of the Young Women in Business Network (YWBN), the parent company of the Young Women in Business Network Cooperative Bank. The cooperative is a deposit-taking financial institution registered in 2015 under the cooperatives bank act 40 of 2007. It offers savings and loan to members which are young women in the business network.
Young Women in Business Network (Pty) Ltd (YWBN) is a broad-based women’s empowerment company, owned, controlled and managed by women from various professions, businesses and industries.
Likotsi started the YWBN, along with nine other board members, in 2009. In 2016, she started working on transforming the cooperative into a Mutual Bank which came with many hurdles but she kept pushing. On Friday, 15 June 2018, the Reserve Bank of South Africa accepted an application from YWBN to convert the Cooperative Bank into a Mutual Bank.
In the process of converting the cooperative bank, one of the challenges Likotsi encountered was access to capital, which is one of the important requirements in setting up a mutual Bank. She was also faced with discrimination and was told to stay away from trying to get into a male industry. However, Likotsi did not consider her pursuit as a competition between male versus female but an aspiration to open the door for women into the banking sector and into the business generally.
“For us it’s that women have not been heard in decision-making processes, in ownership in the financial sector, in senior management positions executive. So it’s us saying we as women have a different ear and we have different ways of doing things. So, we might necessarily not do what males have been doing for so long,” she says in a live interview with SABC.
“That is why you find that, in a country like ours, we have more people that are under-banked and underserved as opposed to people that are already in the mainstream. So, having a woman-owned bank that brings in a different woman perspective to doing things is probably going to be the best thing to ever happen to this country,” she adds.
The cooperative bank is registered under Cooperative Banks Development Agency CBDA and highly regulated in terms of governance like the board, external auditors, board committees, which qualify it as an entity. However, the transition from a cooperative financial institution to a mutual bank is so that its financial service can be open to other women who are not a member of the network. Under the CFI they were only allowed to service their members, but graduating into a mutual bank, they are able to tap into other aspects of the market and reach out to under-served and under-banked which is the informal sector.
The bank was recently approved and licensed to start operating as a mutual bank but also the first female-owned in the country. She was given 12 months to set up the bank before she can officially launch it to the public.
Following the approval, Likotsi is planning to offer shares to the public from June 1, 2021, she also proposed to the Reserve Bank that the bank be majority-owned by South Africans.
She also plans to expand the bank by establishing many offices around the country to reach the informal market and serve the under-banked.
About Nthabeleng Likotsi
Nthabeleng Likotsi is a South African accountant, entrepreneur, businesswoman, and community leader. She was born in Botshabelo, Free State Province, in South Africa circa 1985. She holds a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of the Witwatersrand, and a Certificate in Entrepreneurship, from the Wits Business School. She also has a postgraduate certificate in accounting, obtained from the University of Johannesburg.
Likotsi is the recipient of the 2013/2014 Women Leadership Award at the third Africa-India Partnership Summit. She also serves as an independent non-executive director of various companies, including Apex Valves Private Limited and Ubuntu Plastics Private Limited.