‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
João Figueiredo, CEO and founder of Único Bank in Mozambique
1. What was your first job?
I was working in the mail department of a shipping company. So I was the guy that picks up the correspondence, the papers from one department and [takes them] to another department. You know, the mail boy.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It was my father. My father was a banker, before myself, and he would always train me… always teach me and show me the way. Indeed, it was my dad.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Checking emails… I never go to sleep before I have answered every single email I received during the day.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think the main reasons are because I’m really a very honest worker, hard worker… and I’m proud of my work.
5. What are the best things about your country, Mozambique?
It’s the people from Mozambique; they are really the good ones. They are ones that I love. They are the people that should be [shared] around the world [because] with these kind of people you should not see any war around the world.
6. And the worst?
I’d like to see people working for a more country-oriented [goal], not for themselves. I’d like to see the government thinking about the country, people and entrepreneurs thinking about the country, thinking about people, thinking about the corporations… I would love to see the population living in a better situation and in better conditions [than] they are living in now.
7. Your future career plans?
To bring Banco Único to the top of the banking ranking in Mozambique. That’s my future career plan. That’s what I want to do – to work hard every single day, every single hour, to bring Banco Único to a top position. Not just because it’s Banco Único but because I believe through Banco Único I can help this economy; I can help to do new and good things for this country.
8. How do you relax?
Playing basketball and playing guitar. That’s my two things that I like to do.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
My really good advice is: please, young people, study! You have to study; you have to learn as much as you can. You have to try to get skills; that’s my first advice. Second of all, you have to work hard… Third advice; don’t go study abroad in Europe, America, anywhere, and then stay there. Please come back to Africa and try to contribute to Africa.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We have to be proud of ourselves; this is the first step that we have to take. We have to stop being a continent that just exports raw materials. We have to bring investments to transform our raw materials inside of our countries in Africa. We have to add value… We cannot just think of the continent as [being] an exporter of materials. If we can add value on the [chain] in Africa, I’m sure in the future we can have a better continent.
João Figueiredo is the CEO and founder of Único Bank, a Mozambican universal services bank with a strong focus on retail services. Único, which was only officially opened in August 2011, has grown to 13 branches across the country and is now the sixth biggest bank in Mozambique. This rapid growth has led Figueiredo to be named this year’s African Banker of the Year at the African Banker Awards, which took place in Morocco at the end of last month. Único’s performance has also caught the attention of South Africa’s Nedbank which, at the time of publication, is in the process of finalising an acquisition of a 36.4% stake in Único for US$24.4 million.
Prior to establishing Único, Figueiredo was the CEO of International Mozambican Bank, Millennium bim, for just under 10 years.