Santhie Goundar, journalist

For Phindile Ndlandla ACCA, CFO of the Eswatini subsidiary of African multinational financial services provider Letshego, the key to becoming a good leader is being a skilled problem-solver.

‘Your organisation will have its own challenges and problems, and needs its CFO to be able to manoeuvre those challenges,’ she says. ‘A CFO must understand their organisation’s strategy and value streams and then position themselves to implement that strategy.’

‘When I came in as CFO, I had to provide quick solutions – to be versatile and adaptable’

Ndlandla’s own problem-solving skills proved especially useful in navigating both the Covid-19 pandemic and civil unrest in the country in 2021 and played a part in her selection as ACCA’s 2022 Young CFO of the Year in Africa. Letshego Group’s integrated report for the year ended 31 December 2021 shows that the Eswatini branch, which has three outlets and 27 employees, enjoyed a 27% increase in net interest income over the previous year on the back of loan book growth.



CFO, Letshego Financial Services Swaziland, Eswatini


Assistant manager, PwC Eswatini


Gained ACCA Qualification


Auditor, PwC, Mbabane, Eswatini

Margins challenge

One of the challenges the Eswatini branch of the Botswana-listed micro-lender faced when Ndlandla joined in 2017 was its margins, she says. It’s no mean feat that between then and 2022 the business ‘saved between 400 and 500 basis points on the cost of funding’. This was particularly important in 2022, which saw interest rates rising across Southern Africa; Eswatini’s current prime rate is 10%.

‘I managed to raise two funding lines, drawing down 210 million emalangeni [US$13m], and in 2022 was able to negotiate a reduction of 100 basis points on one of these and 15 on the other,’ she says.

Wider responsibilities

One of only 160 accountants in Eswatini – ‘which is not many in a country of a million people’ – Ndlandla is a council member for the Eswatini Institute of Accountants. The role has enabled her to sit on the parliament-appointed Losses Committee, which investigates cases related to loss of public funds and makes recommendations to the Ministry of Finance for the recovery of such losses. ‘This allows me to add value at a national level, as well as at my firm,’ Ndlandla notes.

‘When we diversified into the mobile money loans business, it was totally virgin ground’

Ndlandla’s ascent to the role of CFO has been swift. After graduating in 2011 with a degree in accounting from the University of Swaziland (as Eswatini was then called), she trained as an auditor at PwC, rising through the ranks fast. Her experience of leading on large entity audits across various industries proved useful when she left the Big Four firm in 2017 for her current role.

‘I had never been part of the financial services industry but when I came in as CFO, I had to provide quick solutions – to be versatile and adaptable when thrown into the deep end – which the ACCA qualification and audit training at PwC had both prepared me for,’ she says.

Mobile move

Founded in 2006, Letshego’s Eswatini subsidiary had only one product when Ndlandla joined in 2017 – now it has four. Because that first product was not a high-margin one, Ndlandla says, ‘we had to diversify our portfolio to introduce higher margin solutions, hence the growth in profitability and net interest income’. As well as financing SMEs and providing bridging loans, Letshego Eswatini has also diversified into insurance and mobile money loans, for the latter partnering with the country’s largest mobile network operator (MNO).

‘When we diversified into the mobile money loans business, it was totally virgin ground; no one had ever done this within the country,’ Ndlandla says. ‘Our mobile money customer numbers have increased rapidly and this business is now a major contributor to our profits.’

Nevertheless, she adds, ‘We’re constantly seeking ways to improve the product.’

Inclusion mission

The mobile money space in Eswatini, she explains, is driven by financial inclusion – a key part of Letshego’s own mission. ‘You can get a loan for as little as SZL20; the maximum currently is SZL600,’ she says. ‘You can make millions of these loans within a month for those small-ticket sizes; it actually shows how active that mass market is and their contribution towards the economy.’

Financial inclusion also partly drives Letshego’s digitisation agenda in Eswatini, although Ndlandla believes it is essential to ‘adopt agile principles in the working environment to free up our time for more strategic conversations’.

The Covid-19 pandemic was also a driver. ‘Before 2020, we were reliant on physical branch networks,’ she explains. ‘But when we saw other countries going into lockdown, we asked what if that happens here? How do we ensure business continuity when our customers can’t access us?’ The solution was to use WhatsApp. ‘By switching to WhatsApp we were able to continue to dispense loans when lockdown hit, while our competitors could not work.’

Embracing digital

From there, Ndlandla adds, digital platforms were built to help customers. These included the LetsGo ‘digital mall’ – a digital one-stop shop for customers. The business also introduced a communications protocol that enables low-income customers to apply for loans using a basic mobile phone rather than a smartphone – important for financial inclusion. Using this technology, they can apply to Letshego for a loan and get the money into their account within 10 minutes, Ndlandla says.

‘Embracing digitisation is part of how we want to become a world-class financial services provider.’

With a side hustle as director of S-Motion Gym and Wellness Centre in Mbabane, Ndlandla (a keen marathon runner) has also started flexing her entrepreneurial muscles. If her moves in the workout space on her own account are as successful as her nimble footwork in expanding Letshego’s business, you wouldn’t bet against her picking up more awards, perhaps next time in the business leadership category.

Letshego Group


Founded in Botswana


Number of markets across sub-Saharan Africa in which the group operates, including Eswatini, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique and Lesotho


Number of customers, of which 137,026 in Eswatini (Dec 2021)


Number of employees, of which 27 in Eswatini (Dec 2021)


Group profit before tax (2021)