The Mojaloop Team has been growing in recent months, and we’re excited to welcome Olivier Manzi as our new technical project lead.

Olivier, who goes by “Manzi,” has over 19 years of experience in computer engineering for financial systems and managing teams and projects tasked with deployments. He has also served as a consultant on financial systems development and has led a startup.

While he’s been a member of the Mojaloop Community for several years, we’ve just tapped him to run our proof of concept (POC) projects that help align all national payment system stakeholders around a Mojaloop-based instant payment strategy.

Manzi generously made some time to speak with us during his second week with the Mojaloop Foundation and shared some of his perspectives with us.

Connect with Manzi on LinkedIn >

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

My career in payments started in 2004 when I had just finished university and was hired as a switch engineer for the newly built Rwandan payments switch (a “switch” is software that allows multiple payment systems to communicate). At that time the Rwandan switch was called Simtel, and I was in charge of the switch side configuration and programming of ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) systems for card-initiated transactions.

In 2013, I&M Bank (Rwanda) hired me as their IT manager, and it was during that time that the bank deployed multiple card products concurrently, and improved the offer on alternative channels like ATMs, mobile banking, and internet banking. Most of the time I was combining my IT manager role with the role of project manager for those specific products. I went into selling a payment solution with BPC Banking Technologies, a software vendor, for two years until 2018 when I went back to the Rwandan switch (now called RSwitch), where I was the head of service delivery and operations, and of course still in the payments field.

I first met Mojaloop at the end of 2020, through the Rwanda National Digital Payments System  (RNDPS) initiative. The Rwandan financial industry had assigned RSwitch to implement an instant and inclusive payment system, and a team from the Mojaloop Foundation came and proposed the Mojaloop solution.

From that moment it was a love story, because I joined the community on my own, and continued to work with people from Mojaloop Foundation. I became more active last year and started attending program increment (PI) community meetings. In March of this year, I accepted a role as a consultant for the Foundation. That prompted me to say, “This is good: Mojaloop aligns with my core values, let me join.” Then they said, “OK, please join!”

Q: What intrigued you most about the Mojaloop Foundation and its mission?”

What I love most about Mojaloop is the aspect of catering to people who cannot afford to pay the expensive fees to make payments and engage in small loans. In the area of the world in which I live, the majority of the population is really financially challenged. Mojaloop is a kind of solution that allows these people to enter the ecosystem of payments, which in turn makes them eligible for loans. Without that data track record, they can’t get the loans they need to overcome the challenges they face.

Mojaloop is a solution that will help them to join the ranks of people who can go to a financial institution, request a loan, provide their data digitally, and be confident that it will work. My core feeling when I saw it was, “OK, fantastic!”

Q: Tell us about your new role and what your main responsibilities will be.

My official title is “technical project lead.” In this role, my focus will mainly be on POCs.

POCs have become vital for winning over financial institutions. There’s too much at stake for them to take chances on unproven solutions, so showing them that adopting Mojaloop is different from a traditional vendor solution and getting to experience using Mojaloop in the early stage is an essential step to gaining adoption.

Now, for countries or institutions who want to implement a proof of concept, I’m in charge of the technical side. Some project manager roles are included as I’ll also be working directly with the POC sponsor from the government, the program managers, and all stakeholders. I’ll also be managing everything for the deployment, from the requirements gathering, through DevOps, integration, and reports as well as everything in terms of the project management process.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about your role and what do you hope to accomplish?

I’m looking forward to seeing more countries in emerging markets and developing economies embrace Mojaloop. In Africa, Asia, and Latin America, we have so many financially challenged people. The more we can connect these people, the better their lives will be.

I foresee that four or five additional countries will be having Mojaloop installed in one year, either as on-premises deployments in their countries or from the cloud.

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

One of the major accomplishments has been proving to the world that Level One Project principles can be applied in real life, using existing technologies and good scheme rules. I think that’s Mojaloop’s contribution to the financial ecosystem worldwide.

The second big accomplishment is successfully rallying a community of developers around this new idea. That’s a huge task because some organizations have great ideas but still fail. A big part of this success is that it’s not just young people or old people. When I joined the community, I found that there were people of all ages, and it’s truly amazing how they interact.

Q: What excites you most about Mojaloop? Are there any particular implementations that have caught your eye?

The most exciting projects for me are cross-border switches. Last week I was in Lilongwe, Malawi, where we met with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Business Council about their interest in using Mojaloop as a cross-border hub for transactions. COMESA is an economic community of 21 countries in Africa, which is a very exciting opportunity.

I will be starting a proof of concept between two of the countries, Malawi and Zambia. One of the principles is to avoid using foreign currencies as an intermediate medium of exchange, so we’re having a lot of discussions about currency conversion. Specifically, we are finding a solution so member countries can use their respective national currencies. In my view, this is an excellent project.

Countries, central banks, large national banks, and fintechs are really excited to see how this could work. The level of engagement we had last week during the discussions was wonderful.

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

I’m convinced that together we will reduce or remove the burden that people face when they are excluded from formal financial systems. To do that, we need to empower them so that they can start transacting and keeping their finances in digital format. Those two things are key. And I think Mojaloop provides the right foundation for countries to build the right ecosystems to solve this.

When I think that we’re helping to create a system that countries will use to serve those financially challenged populations across the world, I think I’m really making something important. We’re making a pathway for those people. That’s fantastic.