On April 17, we welcomed James to the Mojaloop Foundation as our new engineering director. 

James brings nearly thirty years of professional software engineering experience to the table. He has spent many years as part of the Mojaloop open-source development community, working on several implementation projects, including some for major governments and financial institutions. 

Before he gets too busy, we took the opportunity to speak with James about his career, his new role, and why he already loves working with this amazing team.  

Connect with James on LinkedIn > 


Tell us about yourself. What has been your career path up until now, and how did you become interested in the Mojaloop Foundation and its mission?

Computer programming became a hobby of mine at a very young age, maybe ten years old, when I was lucky enough to be exposed to early home machines in the 1980’s. I was fascinated and soon wanted to make my own programs so I taught myself how to code from paper manuals. 

I spent my early career designing and building software across many domains, from scientific and engineering through to business and finance. 

In 2010 I was fortunate enough to land a job with some of the original developers of M-Pesa, who created a spin-off company in the UK called Iceni Mobile. They hired me as a software engineer and I spent a few years working with them on a mobile money platform. That got me into the inclusive economy ecosystem and that was my first exposure to doing work for the greater good, rather than just putting money in somebody’s bank account. I realized that it felt very good to be doing something that benefited others, rather than just working to earn a wage. 

Some years later I joined some of that same team again at ModusBox and got involved as a technical lead on Mojaloop implementations like Mowali, the Tanzanian Instant Payment System (TIPS), and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Microfinance Institution digitization project in Myanmar. 

At that point, the pandemic hit and did a fair amount of damage to the economy around the world. Funding for projects in the financial inclusion space was drying up. I decided to leave ModusBox just as the first few live transfers were starting to happen in Myanmar. I got a good offer from a commercial entity to work on Deliveroo, which is kind of a UK equivalent to DoorDash. 

About 18 months later, I heard about this job at the Mojaloop Foundation through some people who I’d worked with before in the community and at ModusBox. Steve Haley and Paul Makin reached out to me and said that there’s a job at the Mojaloop Foundation for an engineering director. So I took a look at it, and here I am. 


Tell us a little bit about what your main responsibilities will be.

I’m kind of like a product architect, working with the volunteer community and with the new technical director, Sam Kummary, to create new features. My role is to figure out the best way to implement those features so that the platform maintains its cohesiveness and doesn’t become an unstructured mess. Together, we’ll be shaping Mojaloop into what it needs to be to serve the needs of the end users as best as possible. 

I have a few main responsibilities: to work with the community to oversee the development of the open-source software stack, and to deliver against the product roadmap. My role, I think, is about making sure that the software gets built in the right way and the right software gets built. 


What are you looking forward to most about your role?

There are so many people in this community who I admire and respect greatly, and I just love working with them. It makes me feel good to be part of that community, and to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile to help people that need help the most. 

As an engineer, I found it quite hard to know how I could use the skills that I’ve built in my career to do some good in the world. Mojaloop allows me to do something actually good and beneficial for mankind rather than just try to get rich or make somebody else rich. That’s the number one thing about it that attracts me to this space.  


Is there anything specific you hope to accomplish?

There’s a long term and a short term view of that. 

In the long term, I would like to help the principles that underlie Mojaloop become widely adopted around the world. I think the lives of impoverished people would be significantly improved if that were the case. 

In the short term, I’m going to try to make it easier for people to adopt Mojaloop — and I know there’s an awful lot hidden under that word, “easier.” But I want to make it easy for people to use Mojaloop to solve their problems and bring all these benefits to the end users.  


In your opinion, what have been some of the Foundation’s most significant accomplishments to date?

Well, I’m measuring Mojaloop by its adoption — the number of users who it’s helping. There are two significant adoptions of Mojaloop are in various stages of going live and actually delivering value out into the world. One is TIPS and the other one is the Myanmar MFI digitization project. 


What do you consider to be the biggest challenge in the digital payments landscape?

For the projects I’ve worked on, getting through the legislative and regulatory process seems to take a long time.  


What keeps you excited and motivated to help further the Foundation’s mission? In other words, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

I love the idea that I’m doing something worthwhile.  

I consider myself very, very lucky. I was born in a country that’s relatively stable politically. I’ve not been directly impacted by conflict. I’ve never struggled to have enough money to feed myself. But when I traveled, I became exposed to what the real world is like, in which a large number of people endure a daily struggle to survive. So I’m able to draw a connecting line between the daily struggle between life and death for other human beings on the planet, and the work that I do every day on these projects. 

These projects have the potential to improve the lives of those people, so they don’t have to struggle quite so hard. They’ll have a better chance to build a life, develop, and explore their potential as human beings. Those opportunities are just not open when you have to worry about feeding yourself.  

I think there’s a lot of unfairness in the world and anything I can do to make the world a slightly fairer place is great. So that’s what gets me out of bed for these projects: keeping that line drawn in my head towards these potential upsides. To even be a small part of that effort is a good thing.