Productive and Empowered Women Entrepreneurs in Tanzania

Women entrepreneurs
Women entrepreneurs

A women empowerment programme in Kigoma, Tanzania, has supported 82 women entrepreneurs to make their work more valuable, efficient and less hard and is helping tackle poverty and increase living standards in the region



EIGHTY-two women entrepreneurs in Kigoma, Tanzania have received business, technology and financial management training and now enjoy enhanced entrepreneurship, leadership skills and business acumen thanks to a year-long economic empowerment project run by Energy 4 Impact.

The Productive and Empowered Women Entrepreneurs in Kigoma project, funded by UN Women, ran from May 2018 to July 2019 at a cost of US$121.2K. The project was part of a wider UN initiative that aims to improve social-economic conditions, promote rural development and eradicate poverty inKigoma, one of the poorest regions in Tanzania where 49% of the population lives below the poverty line. It focused on women as they are poorly represented in the economy, and have little access to market information and capital.

The year-long project has provided support to 82 women who own micro enterprises in Kigoma to boost their productivity, income, create jobs and increase livelihood and food security in the region. The women were engaged in productive sectors such as agro-processing (mills, palm oil extraction, cassava flour, groundnuts, rice de-husking and grading, etc), services (food vending, hair cutting/beauty salons, stationery/photocopying, phone charging/repairs, etc), trading (shops, kiosks, etc) and crop growing.

Over the year, Energy 4 Impact experts worked with the women to enhance their skills and develop and run their businesses more efficiently and profitably with greater productivity through:

–          Training to improve their business skills (business plan, record keeping, marketing, sales, access to new markets, etc.), self-confidence, leadership skills, motivation and commitment in their businesses so to increase chances of business survival and success;

–          Technology training and access to electric tools and appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, blenders, popcorn making machine, sewing machine, electric motors for sewing machines, TVs, hair clippers and printers;

–          Helping them access capital to purchase electric appliances and to reinvest in their business’ expansion and diversification;

–          Helping build sustainable markets by forging partnerships with equipment suppliers, banks, technology distributors and consumers;

–          Supporting business registration and formalisation, important for improving their market position and earning contracts.

All training activities were organised close to entrepreneurs’ homes to ensure they were not away for many hours. The trainings deployed a participatory approach and methodology in order to overcome the challenges around low literacy, confidence and self-esteem, which are common among women in the project areas.

“Women entrepreneurs face greater challenges in accessing capital, in running productive businesses, in accessing education, skills and vocational training. We focused on supporting micro enterprises operating in rural areas where there are high levels of poverty to help them grow their businesses and increase productivity,” said Elly Furahini, Project Coordinator, Energy 4 Impact.

“This project targeted women and so it was designed to take into consideration specific gender issues affecting women, such as family roles and responsibilities and literacy”, explained Furahini.

“Some affirmative actions were taken to make sure that the women entrepreneurs could participate in the project effectively, for example by engaging their spouses during the identification of entrepreneurs and the initial trainings in order to ensure that they understood the project and supported their wives’ participation.”

Results show big impact

In the short period of implementation of the project, lives of the supported women have significantly changed.

Access to loans: Twenty-nine women entrepreneurs accessed 25 business loans which provided some TZS 44 million (US$20,000) to invest in their businesses as working capital or acquisition of assets. A total 60% was used to purchase new appliances and equipment while 40% was utilised as operational capital, mainly in purchasing stock and improving business premises.

New equipment: Overall the enterprises have acquired 32 new electrical equipment and appliance items that have been integrated into production activities. Mechanisation and automation has made their work more valuable, efficient and less hard.

Increased sales: Four fifths (80%) of enterprises have increased their sales by at least 10% during the year of intervention. On average, monthly profits have grown by 115%. This means that the average entrepreneur has an additional US$ 2.87 per day in her pocket. This additional income improves the living standards of the entire household.

Business registration: Up to 58 women have formalised or are in the process of formalising their businesses and acquiring a registration certificate. The business formalisation is enabling the enterprises to operate freely without fear of being harassed by the law enforcement agents. Further the enterprises are now able to compete for government tenders and other formal organisations.

Business planning: All the entrepreneurs developed business plans as important tools to guide their future business development. The business plans cover a period of up to 3 years, which helps increase the chances for their long-term sustainability.

Benefits beyond profits

But the impact goes beyond profits.

The community dialogues and empowered entrepreneur training achieved a significant impact on the women. The entrepreneurs demonstrated higher entrepreneurial abilities, motivation and self-esteem, which is attributable to their participation in this project. No female-led enterprises left their husbands to make business-related decisions for them, as was the case previously for 5% of the entrepreneurs at the start of the programme.

Having access to productive resources and being able to provide for themselves and their families has the benefit of reducing gender inequalities and accelerating social and economic development. Increased income means better livelihoods, and better chances for families for the future, such as being able to pay school fees for their children.

“The programme has brought big benefits for everyone in the region,” says Energy 4 Impact’s East Africa Director, Godfrey Sanga. Better services offering increased opportunities, and increased local food production leading to better food security.”

“It has empowered women, helped reduce gender inequality in addition to contributing to the reduction of poverty. The project was also able to provide greater food and employment security in the region, thus supporting efforts by the government towards the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

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