Case study

CEO of AccessBank — Armando Massimiliano Sirolla

Massi's career in microfinance has spanned Europe, Asia and Africa, where he is currently CEO of AccessBank in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Learn more about his experience of moving to Africa

After completing his MA International Studies and Diplomacy from SOAS, University of London, Massi moved to Madagascar and has moved around the continent ever since.

Who are AccessBank?

AccessBank is a commercial bank in Tanzania, targeting micro and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), mainly on the assets side (loans) while reaching out to the mass market on the liabilities side (deposits). The bank is a catalyst for socio-economic development in the local financial industry, while targeting the backbone of the informal economy.

What's a typical day like?

I have the privilege of leading the bank as CEO, while shaping and implementing its overall strategy. A typical day includes several meetings with different teams from the various departments. At least 3 hours per day are dedicated to emails, while the rest of the day revolves around visiting and/or receiving stakeholders and clients.

How long have you worked in Africa, and in which countries?

I have been living and working in Africa since 2006. My first role was in Madagascar where I worked for about four years, then South Africa for about three years, Zambia for about five years, and I've now been living in Tanzania since September 2018. I've also worked on short-term missions in Uganda, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cameroon and Mozambique.

Have you experienced variety from country to country?

Absolutely. Each country has offered a very different experience in terms of languages, culture, food, work environments and people in general. It's exactly what makes Africa so diverse, rich and exciting.

What's the most enjoyable aspect of your work?

I definitely enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel from starting up some of the financial institutions from scratch, or developing the organisation to a level of sustainability and critical mass.

More generally, I've enjoyed helping colleagues developing amazing careers in their own country, and sometimes internationally. This keeps you going, despite setbacks you might face.

What have been some of the difficulties?

Being an outsider you need to adapt to any situation, whether this means being prepared for extreme environments, such as working through a coup d’état in Madagascar, or being ready to travel for ten hours by car to reach the next branch or destination along rough roads.

Has your time at SOAS helped you with the work you're currently doing?

My economist background focused on the economic relationship between Europe and Africa, and the arguments in my dissertation (GATT Regulations within EU and ACP States on the Banana Trade War in the late 1990s, available from SOAS Library) are still valid today.

What are your plans for the future?

Hopefully, I'd like to be part of the digital finance revolution which is ongoing in Africa, especially in Eastern Africa (where we're leaders) and contribute to the financial inclusion of this growing continent, full of young and promising people and entrepreneurs.

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