Meet Matlhogonolo Mongwa-Mouwane, a Botswana medical doctor turned entrepreneur. Mongwa-Mouwane started her medical journey after completing a five-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree at the University of Botswana.
Although becoming a medical doctor has been her childhood ambition, she now combines her passion with entrepreneurship. Her entrepreneurial journey dates back to 2016 when she was posted to a rural clinic to manage the facility.
“Imagine just starting out in your career and you are thrust into this position where you are managing a whole clinic,” she recalled in an interview with How We Made It In Africa. “This is where I learned most of my leadership skills.”
After her stint at the rural clinic, she moved back to the capital city, Gaborone, and became an employee of the Always Open Clinic while running a side hustle at another hospital called Bokamoso Private Hospital.
Despite working two jobs, Mongwa-Mouwane planned to become her own boss. She drew up an elaborate plan to move into private practice, leading to the founding of Kalafhi Medical Center at the Village Centre in Gaborone in 2018.
“It doesn’t actually cost a lot of money [to open a private practice],” Mongwa-Mouwane told How We Made It In Africa. “We are always so afraid to start because we envision the bigger picture or where we want to end up being [that] we don’t allow ourselves … to start with the bare minimum.”
Like many Black founders, Mongwa-Mouwane relied on her savings to purchase needed items like desks, beds, blood pressure, and vital signs machines. Although there were a lot of medical facilities in Botswana’s capital, Mongwa-Mouwane had a winning formula.
One of her winning strategies was to offer extended operating hours which several facilities did not offer. Kalafhi was open from 8 am to midnight, every day. This allowed people who wanted medical care but their schedule could not permit them during the day to visit the clinic.
The initial operating phase of the clinic was tough for Mongwa-Mouwane. First, she worked as a sole employer and was also expecting a child at the time. “It was quite hectic, but it had to be done as I could not yet afford to employ anyone else,” she noted.
She soldiered on and reinvested her profits into the business, funding equipment that expanded the center’s primary and preventative healthcare offerings. With grant support from Botswana’s Youth Development Fund, she expanded her operations and came to have three more clinics. The third clinic was Kalafhi Medical Center’s first appointment-only executive clinic; the previous two operated on a walk-in basis.
“The executive clinic was meant to cater more to corporations where we were doing medical exams and providing services to busy executives,” explained Mongwa-Mouwane. In 2021, she opened a pharmacy at one of her clinics and added a second pharmacy that same year.
In 2022, she expanded her reach by launching another clinic and pharmacy on the outskirts of Gaborone. She subsequently added a physiotherapy practice and an aesthetic clinic.
According to How We Made It In Africa, Kalafhi currently employs 51 staff members, in addition to part-time doctors. What is more, the company has a client database of 40,000 and seeks to extend its reach into rural areas while also aiming to be a go-to for medical tourists. Kalafhi is currently planning to open its first day hospital in Gaborone, with a 26-bed capacity.