Mamello Matikinca’s story is one of a remarkable rise to the top. Barely seven years after starting her career, the frequently cited analyst in November began her latest gig as chief economist of FNB, one of SA’s largest banks.

When she was a child, Matikinca would watch analysts discussing the economy on television, but being an economist was not on her list of things she wanted to be when she grew up.

"I have always been interested in developmental issues, particularly around the continent," she says. "In school we didn’t learn about the economic challenges facing our country and the continent. I would see [these] on TV but I didn’t fully understand [them]. I think I developed a true appreciation for economics while I was studying at the University of Johannesburg."

Matikinca has had what she calls "quite a ride" in the world of economics since completing her honours degree in econometrics — the application of statistical methods to economic data.

Unlike most economists, she does not hold a grim view of SA’s prospects.

"I think the SA economy has great potential, but unlocking that potential has been difficult," she says. "This has been partly because of policy uncertainty, governance failures at important institutions and state-owned enterprises, and political infighting.

"Further, SA faces a number of structural issues, which, if not addressed with urgency, could lead to weaker growth, further deteriorating global competitiveness, high unemployment and inequality."

Matikinca says there are a number of policies that attempt to tackle these challenges, but "policy implementation is SA’s Achilles heel".

Matikinca takes over from the highly regarded Sizwe Nxedlana, who has moved to head FNB’s wealth and investment cluster. Her appointment has been well received, both internally and externally, she says.

"I am very lucky to be doing work that I enjoy and to have been trusted with this new role," she says. "While I’m not entirely new to people within the industry, I’m certainly looking forward to making economics an everyday topic that consumers as well as businesses feel part of, because both groups are central to building sustainable economies."

Matikinca joined FNB as a senior economist in 2015, but her career began four years earlier at the Bureau for Economic Research, where she worked as a trainee economist, after a short stint as an intern at Statistics SA. She later joined Rand Merchant Bank’s global markets research team.

However, Matikinca’s rise to the top tier of the economic world required sacrifices, including losing out on time with family and friends.

Friends are close to her heart, as is clear from her rationale for taking on her first job in high school — she landed a gig as a waitress in order to support a friend.

"I needed money to go [along to] support one of my close friends, who was a finalist in a beauty pageant. We had a great time!

"I’ve basically been working since then — I worked for a number of retailers, mostly as a sales assistant through my university studies. I also tutored [first-year] economics in my final year."

Outside of the office, Matikinca enjoys yoga, running, travelling, food and art — her greatest indulgences — and making natural beauty products.

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