CFO Flora Makule uses self-awareness to enhance her leadership style


Flora Makule, the CFO of Reliance Insurance Tanzania has former first lady Anna Mkapa to thank for her accounting career.

Flora Makule, the CFO of Reliance Insurance Tanzania has former first lady Anna Mkapa to thank for her accounting career. “If it wasn’t for her, I would probably be doing something around sciences,” Flora says.

Flora had dreams of becoming a doctor but when she heard that the then first lady was sponsoring women for accounting at university, the opportunity was too good to pass up.

She qualified for a full scholarship that covered her accounting classes at Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA).

Flora is giving back to women by taking part as a board member of the Tanzania Association of Women Chartered Accountants (Tawca). Her responsibilities alongside other leaders in the organisation include arranging activities for women accountants to network and share solutions to their challenges.

Tawca’s goal is to empower and uplift the community of women in Tanzania by actively working to increase the representation and expertise of skilled female accountants. They foster a supportive environment and provide necessary resources and opportunities.

“The ratio of women in finance is still very skewed in Tanzania,” Flora explains. “In addition, women face workplace challenges that stem from our patriarchal culture. It takes a while for our male counterparts to appreciate that we can add just as much value as them. It is particularly challenging for women in leadership positions to gain the respect of the men they manage.”

As a final year student pursuing the advanced diploma in Accountancy in 2008, Flora worked for EY as an intern. The following year she joined Akiba Commercial Bank where she stayed for almost a decade serving in various roles including account officer, financial analyst and management accountant.

Reducing risk

She joined Reliance in May 2018 inspired by then President John Magufuli’s drive to revolutionise the insurance sector by giving opportunities to local companies to gain more market share. She had received two offers and went with Reliance because the finance manager role came with the promise of succeeding the then CFO once he retired a year later.

“Banks are very structured and as a result I found that my work was becoming repetitive,” Flora explains. ‘That said, I sometimes miss the systems that we had in the bank because the insurance sector has a challenge in this regard. We have significant technological challenges, and the controls are still very weak which is problematic because we have high instances of insurance fraud.”

As a permanent invitee to the board of directors, Flora has a role to play in the strategic direction of the company and to increase the market share of Reliance. One of her mandates is to spearhead a reduction in the claim’s ratio.

The company has over 100 employees, a fifth of them are in finance spread across the branches in Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Dodoma, Mbeya, Zanzibar and Mwanza.

Flora is also currently concerned with the implementation of the IFRS 17 - Insurance Contracts accounting standard, which has fundamental changes for how insurance contracts are accounted. Its impact goes beyond accounting to involve other stakeholders. Reliance and other insurance companies in Tanzania have consequently had to invest heavily to implement the changes required for evaluating, accounting for and reporting insurance contacts.

“We are also working with the regulatory bodies to find ways of reducing risk which is pivotal for the sustainability of our industry. Furthermore, there is need to increase awareness of the benefits of insurance as there is a cultural and religious perception that prayer is sufficient to stave off misfortune.”

Flora herself is a believer in God as she serves as a church elder in the Lutheran Church. Apart from that she spends her weekends with her children as she strives to avoid being a workaholic, a problem she identified while taking part in the Advanced Management Programme (AMP).

“AMP helped me understand myself,” Flora says proudly. “A personality assessment in the first module showed that I am a very results-oriented person which at times leads me to not understand why others cannot deliver on time. Consequently, I am learning to better communicate with my team and to delegate a lot more.”

Flora completed the AMP in 2023 which comprised four modules hosted separately by Strathmore University in Kenya, CEIBS Business School in Ghana and ISE Business School in Barcelona.

“It was a marvellous networking opportunity to engage C-suite executives from different countries and I was proud to be elected the vice-president of the 2023 cohort. One of the exercises included playing a corporate game that enabled me to identify operational gaps in our business which I have since embarked on addressing over and above crafting solutions around disruption,” she says.

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