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Epokothweni: Transforming Financial Lives

Financial illiteracy sits amongst South Africa’s most burning socio-economic challenges. According to a recent article published by PocketFin, a whopping 49% of South Africans are deemed financially illiterate, and approximately only 5% of South Africans will be able to retire comfortably.

In a mission to address these unsettling facts and transform the lives of South Africans, financial services professional, Babalwa Nonkenge launched her podcast, Epokothweni with Babalwa Nonkenge in June 2021. 

“One of the contributing factors to South Africa’s financial literacy crisis is limited access to educational resources, which is largely due to language barriers. People tend to understand things better when they are explained in a language that they fully understand – their home language. Epokothweni creates space for conversation, learning and co-creation about personal finances, financial markets and basic economics in isiXhosa,” says Babalwa. 

Babalwa has an MBA from the UCT School of Business and a thriving career – spanning over two decades – in taxation, asset management and banking. She uses her professional experience to give dignity to speakers of her mother tongue, IsiXhosa, by availing content which is ordinarily available in English.

The podcast Epokothweni with Babalwa Nonkenge is in its third season. Topics covered include debt management, fraud awareness and demystifying common financial myths. This year, the podcast won the PANSALB award in the Business and Technology category. 

Babalwa produces and presents the content herself, and she intentionally delivers the episodes in a relaxed and conversational mode. “People are often very intimidated by financial jargon and terminology. So, because they fear it, they would rather not confront it.

“To make the information accessible, we simplify financial concepts and terminology. We do this by incorporating folklore and relatable examples and co-creating financial language and phrasing in isiXhosa to reach peri-urban and rural populations,” she explains. 

According to Stats SA, IsiXhosa is the second most spoken indigenous language in South African homes, thus the podcast appeals to a large portion of the population.

However, that is nowhere near where Babalwa plans to draw the line: “IsiXhosa is our first test case; the objective is to promote personal finance discourse and good financial disciplines to all speakers of indigenous South African languages,” she says. 

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