Women's Entrepreneurship



Tanzania's women entrepreneurs face many obstacles including access to finance

The African continent contributes less than 2 percent of global income, and as a result, most of its citizens remain mired in poverty.

One reason is that women face many barriers. Consequently, many do not reach their full potential. Across sub-Saharan Africa, girls systematically receive less schooling and grow up to become less literate; as women, they often encounter more obstacles in starting and sustaining businesses.

In East Africa, Tanzania exhibits many of these problems. Women entrepreneurs, particularly, find it tough going.

“The challenge is access to finance, simply because women don't own property,” said Jacqueline Maleko, co-founder of the Tanzania Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “They're supposed to provide collateral, but due to social and cultural norms and values of African societies, most of the time women don't own such properties. So, this becomes a big challenge in accessing finance.”

“Even when they are doing business, they lack the skills, they lack the necessary technologies—pricing strategies, promotion strategies, distribution strategies,” said Maleko. “And in this competitive world, if you lack those strategies, you are lacking a very big component in your business.”



Through GDLN, Tanzanian businesswomen connect with peers in South Africa and Kenya

With the aim of breaking through some of these obstacles, the local center of the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) in Dar Es Salaam conceived and organized a knowledge exchange in 2005 that linked businesswomen from Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa.

“The course was meant to expose businesswomen to opportunities of global trade,” said Charles Senkondo, GDLN’s Representative in Tanzania. “When you have businesswomen in Tanzania talking to businesswomen in Kenya, talking to businesswomen in South Africa, sharing the same challenges, that's where the real learning comes from.”

Senkondo’s contribution began far before the actual event. To optimize learning, he invited a cross-section of Tanzanian women—including small business owners, nonprofit leaders, trainers, and government policymakers.

Senkondo’s task was to make the knowledge exchange as seamless as possible. To do this, he worked with the GDLN centers in Kenya and South Africa to craft an appropriate learning design.

“We have powerful skilled teams in every country,” explained Senkondo. “They have networks. They have the distribution systems. So with all this, they bring a value to anybody that wants to share knowledge in development.


Happiness Mvomchu, the Director of the local Small Industries Development Organization, was one of the 30 women who participated: “I’m a trainer. I've been training [businesswomen] for many years, but I have never had a chance to talk to other people from other countries.”

That is, until the GDLN program, where she presented her experiences to peers in Johannesburg and Nairobi, and fielded questions. “Women were excited when they came out from that meeting. Everybody was saying, ‘I was there, you know. I could see people from different countries. I could talk. I could share my experience.’”

Another participant, Dina Bina, was hungry to learn what businesswomen were doing in other countries. “As businesswomen, we want to find how we can network cost effectively,” said Bina, who owns a small flower shop.

“So, having the Tanzania Global Learning Center, we can meet so many women in different countries, by just taking a bus or whatever, park your car downstairs, come to the seventh floor and you meet all the women in the world.”


RESULTS The first-ever Tanzania Women’s Chambers of Commerce empowers women, providing access to finance, markets, and opportunities

Sekondo had originally envisioned a dialogue that would expose women to opportunities of global trade, but the GDLN event led directly to much more—including the creation of a watershed organization.

“Through that seminar we had here, it cemented this Tanzania Women’s Chamber [of Commerce],” said Mvomchu, who co-founded the organization. “By coming together, the knowledge we shared together, it really made the women come together.”

Jacqueline Maleko co-founded the Chamber with Mvomchu. “You know, it's very difficult to reach each and every woman, but we say okay, there's Tanzania Women Miners Association. There is Tanzania Food Processing Association, Service Providers Association. So, we told these associations, you join the chamber. So they joined as associations.”

As a result, said Maleko, more than 2,000 women have joined the Chamber, registered their businesses, and benefited from the community and knowledge exchange they experience: “[T]o enable every woman to have a formal business, because once you have a license, it means you are formal. It means you are taxable, it means you can access credit. So it has had a very big impact on women.”

Dina Bina, the flower shop owner, said it made a big difference. “So, we have a better future, because when you network, you get markets, you get experience, you get success stories from different places,” said Bina, who has since been elected the new Chair of the Tanzania Women’s Chamber of Commerce. “That is better than what we were before.”


GDLN’s Senkondo continues to host more learning events—three of which Bina, Maleko, and Mvomchu have attended. “The best opportunity for the continent to be able to catch up with others and even excel is through empowering people to accelerate knowledge sharing,” said Senkondo.


The Global Development Learning Network (www.gdln.org) is a partnership of over 120 centers in 80 countries that offer solutions to the knowledge and learning needs of clients around the world. 


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