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Thapelo Tsheole: Revitalizing Botswana’s Stock Market

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THATO CHUMA

Despite a rural upbringing in the small village of Mochudi, Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) CEO Thapelo Tsheole’s ambition captures the tale of a man set to transcend his circumstances. Self-made in every sense with resolute poise, he continues to grow solid earnings for listed companies and investors. His greatest gift, he says, is a passion for growing the capital market and simplifying how the economy works.

 
Could you tell us about growing up in Mochudi?
In 1975, I was born in Mochudi. That is where I grew up—in a rural village with a basic upbringing. I belong to a family of five, and our parents raised us to work for our own success, to have the right attitude towards life and be focused. I suppose this groomed me to be the man I am today.

 
Did you always have a passion for financial markets and economics?
No. Not until later. I always aspired to be a medical doctor or lawyer because at that time, that is what teachers believed brilliant students should become. I believed them, but during my time at Tirelo Sechaba, I became interested in how the economy runs. It led me to study an economics degree at the University of Botswana. That’s when I became passionate and eagerly grounded in this field.

 
How has the journey to being the current CEO of Botswana Stock Exchange been?
It was paved with a lot of hard work. After graduating, I worked for Bank of Botswana under the financial markets department. The Bank granted me a scholarship to study for a Masters in Financial Markets at Rhodes University. Following that, an opportunity emerged to work for the Stock Exchange as a Product Development Manager.  Additionally, I pursued another Masters programme at the Univeristy of Cape Town in Business Administration. I worked hard to bring a lot of innovative products, services and developments to the organization. In late 2015, I was appointed CEO effective 2016.

 
Given that the listings are growing, which sectors have the most investment potential?
I would say virtually the majority of our sectors have great investment prospects. Sectors such as Banking, Financial, Telecommunications, Property and Mining all present lucrative potential.  Generally, Botswana is still on the developing curve, and although there are pockets of lack of performance in some sectors, that is the nature of the economy.

 
With about a year as CEO, would you say you have had memorable achievements?
Definitely. In my first year, we successfully managed a huge listing, BTCL, through our effective systems and procedures. The profits of the organization are up and we have made more revenue than the previous years. We also joined World Federation of Exchanges—an international body. The BSE visibility in the country as well as in the world was felt which subsequently led to my election as one of the eight people in Africa to oversee the development of stock exchanges through the African Stock Exchange Association. Going forward, I see a lot of growth in the BSE and I believe as a team we have the drive to make it happen.

 
What are some of the current challenges facing the BSE?
Our biggest challenge is that financial literacy is very low in the country. We try as much as possible to raise awareness, simplify the language and also localize the content by providing some pamphlets in Setswana. We are also liaising with the Ministry of Education to include financial literacy in school curriculums going forward.

 
Do you have any initiatives in place to address the low financial literacy rate?
We have an initiative of open days in various parts of the country to teach people about the importance of investing. We also have a weekly radio programme on RB2 that demystifies how the stock market works. The annual listings conference is also a platform for local companies to be more knowledgeable about the benefits of listing. Additionally, we do a lot of free presentations around the country to educate the public about the stock market.

 
Is there a growing interest by local companies to list in the stock exchange?
Last year, we had about 28 000 investors but by the close of the year we had 78 000 investors, which does assert that the interest is there. The intention is to have more than 100 000 listings in the next five years and amplify our reach. We are also developing our technology to handle our data effectively. We are in the process of implementing a system that will enable us to be more accessible through mobile apps, SMS alert as well as a stock market ticker. These are all set to take effect this year.

 
In such a competitive profession, what keeps you grounded?
It is undoubtedly my focus, dedication and passion for financial markets. With the intent to make a positive contribution to the growth of the economy, this keeps me driven to achieve my set goals. My family and friends’ encouragement is also significant to my successes.

 
Which book are you currently reading?
I’m reading a book called ‘Shake Hands with The Devil’ by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire which I bought at a conference in Rwanda. It talks about the genocide that took place and gives one a sense of humanity and purpose in life. I try to read one book each month, and I am an avid reader of Harvard Business Review.

 
Any hidden talents?
I know I’m a good footballer, it’s just that I do not get to play it as much as I would want.

 
What is the future of the Botswana Stock Exchange?
Based on our aspirations, there is still untapped potential to facilitate growth of the exchange. Outside the borders, Botswana is viewed as a good investment destination and we are building our stock market stature and investor confidence. We are working on all variables to nurture the exchange’s growth and success for investors.

 
Any advice for local financial professionals?
Innovation. There are varied opportunities in the financial sector that call for financial professionals to be innovative. There is a need of financial advice services, as well as corporate bankers who can structure companies to ultimately list on the stock exchange. We also need to be looking at general intermediaries to identify products that addresses our current issues and tap into the advantage of having a stock exchange. This is where our thinking must be as an industry.

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