Before Munashe Mugonda became a phenomenon in the Zimbabwean fintech industry, her journey started as an everyday girl who yearned for a world beyond the farm where she was born and raised.
As a child, the now Technical Lead at Cummins used to ponder and ask her father whether there was an easier way to complete their daily tasks.
She said, “I do ask my dad if there is no machine that we can instruct to do these things that we are repeatedly doing. I was always trying to look for a convenient way of doing things.”
Her curiosity developed even further throughout high school. This made her join programming classes, not caring that she was the only girl in the class.
She was not distracted by the gender imbalance in class and graduated as one of Zimbabwe’s best students.
The opportunity to explore the world
With her exceptional programming results, Munashe Mugonda got a scholarship for talented students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to study Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Franklin College in the United States.
“I saw this program as a way for me to travel the world and find a suitable spot to apply my abilities and follow my passion for making a change in the workplace and my home country,” she said.
Although Mungoda did not have a fully-funded scholarship, she was determined to make the most of the situation and pursue her ambition.
When her father questioned why she decided to leave Zimbabwe and choose the Franklin scholarship over the Joshua Nkomo Scholarship to the University of Zimbabwe, she told her dad she was leaving so she could return and make a positive impact.
“If there were no reason to come back home, I wouldn’t be leaving. I chose to study abroad so that one day, I could return, fully equipped to be part of the economic, social, and political progression,” she said. Indeed she returned and founded Ruzhowa SACCOS.
Building the fintech startup, Ruzhowa SACCOS
Besides working in Cummins, Munashe Mugonda is the co-founder of Ruzhowa Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (SACCOS), a Zimbabwean community fintech that allows individuals in the diaspora to invest in Zimbabwe.
The idea for Ruzhowa was conceived on a Zimbabwean Whatsapp platform where she is a member.
In 2017, she realised during one of the platform’s discussions that no Zimbabweans could invest in the country.
To do that, you need to have $50 million. This gave foreign investors an edge over Zimbabweans.
She said, “When Zimbabweans invest in Zimbabwe, there is a multiplicative effect in which the money goes back into the economy, and it continues to grow”. This gap led to the creation of Ruzhowa SACCOS.
One of the startup’s notable investors is Warren Buffet.
Develop a worldview through the lens of Franklin College.
Munashe Mugonda was also a hands-on student in college. She did various internships to round out her education with real-world experience.
She worked part-time for Multiply Technology as a web developer. However, she was interested in statistical analysis and machine learning. Noticing her interest, her supervisor connected her with someone at Cummins.
She said, “In my second year of college, I did an internship under Cummins’ chemistry department. I was in a programme where I worked between 15 to 19 hours for Cummins every week and went to school simultaneously.”
While there, Cummins offered her a full-time position, which made her graduate ahead of her class and launched her career.
Today, Munashe is working on an MBA sponsored by Cummins. She says, “I appreciate that Cummins respects and honours the fact that they are working with somebody who is or is trying to juggle things.”
Each experience has enabled her to learn about America from different perspectives and broaden her horizons.