Tujijenge Tanzania is a microfinance company based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Founded in 2006, the organization is both the largest and fastest growing microfinance institution (MFI) in Tanzania. Broadly speaking, MFIs are companies that provide financial services to low-income individuals, or that provide services in areas without access to “typical” banking. They operate off of the idea that poverty-stricken individuals can remedy their own situation if given access to financial services.

Today, Tujijenge Tanzania is part of the larger, not-for-profit company Tujijenge Afrika, a Swahili name that roughly translates to mean “let’s build ourselves, Africa.” The company was founded by six microfinance practitioners, who now serve on its board of directors. The founders sought to remedy a problem that they observed in African society by employing their own skills. That is, 90 percent of the country does not have access to financial services. They saw that few MFIs existed, forcing residents to rely on expensive banking alternatives that perpetuated a lifestyle of poverty.

Tujijenge Tanzania aims to provide financial help to individuals, both men and women, who are engaged in all manner of small businesses, ranging from stationery shops to restaurants. The company operates by sending Loan Officers into local communities to give presentations about their services. Interested individuals then form groups of up to 35 members and receive four weeks of training from the Loan Officers. This includes instruction on lending methodology and creating viable business plans. During this period, the group must satisfy several requirements, including electing leaders and opening an account with a commercial bank (the company partners with both Bank of America and Kenya Commercial Bank).

Furthermore, every member is required to save 20 percent of the expected amount of the loan during this training period. This serves the dual purpose of teaching the discipline of making weekly payments, as well as demonstrating that the individual is engaged in a serious, capital-generating business. Upon completion of the training period, if all requirements have been met, the group can make a formal application for a loan. After receiving the money, the group will continue to meet every week, both to make repayments and to discuss general business issues and practices.

Beyond making loans to small business owners, the company is also engaged in a wide variety of product development. Currently, Tujijenge Tanzania is in the process of developing a mobile banking solution for their clients to help serve those in less accessible areas.

In the past, they have developed both solar loan and agricultural loan models in collaboration with organizations such as Oxfam. They have also engaged in market research in the promotion of medical and life insurance all around Africa.

– Rebecca Beyer
Feature Writer

Sources: Tujijenge Afrika, KIVA

DAR ES SALAAM – Tanzania is likely to face problems in the fight against HIV and AIDS should a decision by major donors—Canada, Denmark, and the United States—to reduce funding prevail. Dr. Fatma Mrisho, the Executive Chairperson of the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS), recently released the warning when she paid a courtesy call on the Coast Regional Commissioner, Mwantumu Mahiza.

Dr. Mrisho said she had met with representatives from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), both of whom had confirmed to her that they would no longer contribute to the National Multi-Sectoral Strategic Framework (NMSF) after 2015.

“We, as a nation, need to get prompt replacement for the funding, failure of which all the achievements made in the fight against HIV and AIDS for more than 20 years will experience a heavy blow,” she added. The Danish and Canadian governments, within their worldwide development agencies, constitute a group of key donors who have been contributing to NMSF for several years.

Dr. Mrisho called on all district councils to begin mobilizing their funds to address the threat of donor withdrawal. She said that while TACAIDS and other local players were currently working tirelessly to make sure the long awaited AIDS Trust Fund (ATF) became operational, local councils should begin raising funds from their own sources to maintain already established HIV/AIDS related interventions.

The NMSF is a strategy designed by the Tanzanian government, through TACAIDS, to address the epidemic, which former President Benjamin Mkapa declared a national disaster nearly a decade ago. Many of the interventions provide life-prolonging drugs for people with HIV, care and support for HIV-positive peoples, and home-based care for them and orphans.

The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) established by the President George W. Bush a decade ago, has been a leading financier of HIV/Aids interventions in the country, but is also reducing funding. According to PEPFAR, HIV/AIDS is no longer considered an emergency case, and local efforts can easily handle the pandemic in a sustainable way as the infrastructure was already there. But 1.6 million people in Tanzania are still living with the virus—6% of the population—and every year nearly 84,000 die from Aids.

According to TACAIDS’ consolidated budget covering years 2010-2013, the country received about $575 million per year for HIV and AIDS national programs. So far donors have contributed 98% of the funds. The Tanzanian government, on the other hand, has been chipping in a measly 2% to the national program,  0.5%  of which was included in donor-backed General Budget Support. Other key sponsors are The Global Fund (20%) and United Nations Population Fund (2%).

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: AllAfrica, IRIN, Avert
Photo: Aids Research

Obama and Power AfricaOn July 1st, at the end of his tour of Africa, President Obama visited Tanzania. Only a day removed from unveiling his ‘Power Africa’ initiative in Cape Town, Obama visited the Norwegian-built Ubungo power station, an example of the style of public-private investment that America is promoting throughout Africa.

The Power Africa initiative has a goal of adding more than 10,000MW of cleaner, more efficient energy in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. The initiative will provide electrical access to a further 20 million households. Currently, as many as two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to power, thus the project will serve as an important step in kick-starting local economies by powering businesses and encouraging investors.

Six countries have been designated for the initial stages of the venture – Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. These countries will be aided by a mix of public and private funding. The U.S. is pledging $7 billion in public funding which, combined with the $9 billion of private money,  will be fronted for the start of the project. General Electric alone has committed to bringing 5,000MW of power to Ghana and Tanzania.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Kenya combined makeup nearly half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, and Ghana, Tanzania, and Liberia stand as examples of stable democratic governments on the continent.

After his tour of Ubungo, Obama said, ‘This is a win-win. It’s a win for Africans — families get to electrify their homes; businesses can run their plants; investors can say if we locate in an African country that they’re going to be able to power up in a reliable way. All of this will make economies grow. It’s a win for the United States because the investments made here, including in cleaner energy, means more exports for the U.S. and more jobs in the U.S.”

– David Wilson

Sources: The Economist, The Hill, Council on Foreign Relations
Photo: Flickr

Global Cycle SolutionsGlobal Cycle Solutions is a social enterprise that aims to improve the lives of rural and poor Tanzanians with quality technology. By working with rural villagers, the organization is able to understand the needs of its customers and provide the appropriate technology.

It first opened in Tanzania in 2009 as a technology company. At the time, it was selling bicycle parts to smallholder farmers. Soon enough, the company realized that it could have an even bigger impact on communities by focusing on villages. Tanzanian villages often lacked basic amenities such as electricity and light. Understanding this, Global Cycle Solutions shifted gears to improving village life. From then on, Global Cycle Solutions became more than just a company selling technology, it became a collaborative and innovative organization designed to uplift the poor.

The enterprise works primarily in two ways. If a need can be fulfilled with existing technology than Global Cycle Solutions will build and develop a network of entrepreneurs through what they call their Rafiki Network. One product that is currently being distributed through the network is the SunKing Pro Solar Light and Phone Charger. Both the light and charger provide incredibly efficient and long-lasting power and light sources.

If a need cannot be fulfilled with pre-existing products than Global Cycle Solutions develops technology by partnering with universities, villages and other innovators. Currently, a bike-powered maize sheller, bicycle phone charge, and a multi-crop thresher are being developed by the organization for distribution.

How can you get involved with Global Cycle Solutions? One way is by contributing a micro-loan. A micro-loan of just $100 is enough to jumpstart one individual’s entrepreneurial career as well as help them begin the climb out of poverty. For a more hands-on approach, the enterprise also offers various positions on its project teams. Student opportunities to get involved can come in the form of collaboration with universities. For intern April Zhu, her involvement with Global Cycle Solutions began in the spring of 2012 with her work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-lab. Now as a member of the product development team, April works on testing prototypes of the multi-crop thresher before the harvest season is over.

Through this highly innovative and collaborative work, Global Cycle Solutions has impacted over 3,000 families over the last two years. Now the organization aims to create a sustainable network within villages to increase the availability of technology for all. By improving the standard of living for local Tanzanian villagers, Global Cycle Solutions is bringing empowerment to all within its network.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Global Cycle Solutions
Photo: Flickr

Obama Electrify Africa
According to the International Energy Agency, all developing nations lack adequate access to electricity. This amounts to 1.3 billion people living in the dark worldwide. According to the same source, an investment of $1 trillion USD would be needed to remedy this. Currently, poverty and hunger take center stage. Food is of more use to a starving child than is a night light, but Westerners often take for granted how valuable the power of light can be to a community in poverty.

Not only does electricity make lives easier on a personal level, it helps to mechanize farming operations, which can be a great boost to a company’s agricultural productivity. Natural disasters often become less deadly when people are warned about them ahead of time, which can be accomplished with electric monitoring systems. Socially, populations are less marginalized with improved means of communication and information.

President Barack Obama said during his recent trip to South Africa, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.” President Obama then pledged almost $7 billion USD to help provide electricity for Africa.

The White House stated that The Export-Import Bank will carry most of the financial weight of the program, donating $5 billion, and the U.S. Oversees Private Investment Corporation will provide another $1.5 billion.

The funds will go toward preventing the frequent blackouts that plague the Sub-Saharan part of the continent, as well as helping the 85% percent of people in the region without electricity gain access to it. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique will be the first countries to benefit from the program as it is developed at preliminary stages.

The investment is a great step toward solving the problem, but in all, Africa alone will need $300 billion to achieve universal electricity by 2030. The Alliance for Rural Electrification, a non-government organization, is another ally in combating this issue. As champions of universal electrification, ARE focuses on renewable energy such as solar, which much of Africa is a strong candidate for. This is especially relevant for areas that are geographically isolated where extending the reach of an existing power grid is not feasible.

– Samantha Mauney

Source: ARE, Scientific American, CNN
Photo: Business Insider

China’s reputation as a producer and exporter of low-quality, counterfeit goods like shoes, clothing and jewelry make it a likely target for global medical experts looking to assign blame for the tremendous increase in counterfeit medications in Africa. 

Doctors, pharmaceutical companies and NGOs with an eye on Africa rejoiced when China came out with a cure for malaria in the form of artemisinin a few years ago, believing this medical marvel would be instrumental in alleviating the woes of global poverty and high mortality rates in the developing world.

After the initial excitement died down, however, disparaged global medical experts began to realize the obstacles that still lay before them in the form of global drug counterfeiting. Maverick manufacturers around the world have begun to view the African malaria problem as a free-for-all chance to make some money by selling placebo pills labeled as artemisinin to suffering patients who are unable to tell the difference.

In Uganda and Tanzania, the two countries with the highest malaria death rates in the world, the widespread, faulty drug regulation and corrupted business practices have allowed an influx of counterfeit drugs to enter the market alongside the true, lifesaving doses of artemisinin. Oxford University’s Wellcome Trust, a group that researches and spreads awareness about the counterfeit malaria drug problem, estimates that one-third of malaria drugs in Uganda are fake or of poor quality.

This alarmingly high rate is cause for concern, especially since medical workers in Uganda and Tanzania are often aware that they may be selling counterfeit drugs but can “do little to tell which are real and which won’t work.” Fake pills can even bear the same inscriptions as the drugs they counterfeit but contain no real medication, thus duping even the local pharmacists that are dispensing them.

So, whose job is it to make sure those suffering from malaria in Africa are getting the drugs they need? Many are looking towards global aid organizations to step in and make sure that the billions of dollars they are putting into malaria pills are being spent on authentic drugs.

Others are looking to China itself to fix what it may have started, and to use this as a chance to redeem themselves in spite of their reputation as a global counterfeiting hub. Discovering the cure for malaria has been one of the country’s crowning medical achievements, and malaria-focused aid groups around the world lament that “the intriguing tale of the drug’s invention in China and its eventual emergence as a first-line treatment is getting lost in the deadly battle against fakes and counterfeits.”

Deciding to take action against the counterfeit market could be China’s chance to reverse its reputation and settle into a role as a key global player.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: The Atlantic, The Guardian
Photo: Study in China

Charlie McDonnell has embraced the publicity of being a “YouTube sensation” despite the negative connotation that can come with that title. The British musician debuted his YouTube talent in 2009 with a video, Duet With Myself.  The clip has been viewed close to 8.5 million times and his YouTube  site has gained over 2 million subscribers.  By his own admission, McDonnell does not claim his videos are brilliant, but he is making money and using his online presence to make an impact.

McDonnell was chosen by nonprofit group Save the Children to promote the fight against hunger with an official title as “YouTube Ambassador.” With that he does what he does best, making YouTube videos that reach a large audience. His current task is playing a key role in the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign which is backed by Save the Children among other charities. The IF campaign calls on leaders of the world’s rich countries to continue to fight global hunger.

In 2005, wealthy nations pledged to spend 0.7% of their incomes on aid, but few have followed through with their promise. Britain has made it to 0.55% while the US is only at 0.2%.  The IF campaign is calling on these countries to increase foreign aid and reduce corporate land takeovers in developing nations. A rally in Hyde Park is scheduled ahead of the G8 meeting later in June and McDonnell will take part in a live web chat with Bill Gates, who will be there talking about the work the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing.

Earlier in 2013, McDonnell and his mother traveled to Tanzania with Save the Children to see firsthand the impact of global poverty.  McDonnell said that it was his first time to really see the impact of hunger. While in Tanzania, McDonnell met 16-year-old Frank Kapeta, a Save the Children Youth Ambassador who as a young boy ate as little as one meal a day.  The two traveled to Frank’s village where his grandmother showed McDonnell how to make ugali, a staple food in the village. It is ground flour and water and has little to no nutritional value.

McDonnell and his mother have been leading the #IFYouTube campaign focused at calling the online community to action concerning hunger. For McDonnell, this issue is very important and must be tackled. His experience in Tanzania humbled him and led him to use his online presence to fight hunger and encourage others to do likewise. His is an example of a “YouTube Sensation” gone right.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Metro

The Maasai Brand: Fighting for Cultural Heritage

For consumers in the Western world, buying unique jewelry or clothing with distinctly foreign influences may seem a natural part of the quest for personal style. For many communities in developing countries, however, these items or designs are a part of cultural heritage. A recent BBC spotlight on one such culture — the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania — explores why some forward thinkers in Africa are partnering with intellectual property groups to protect their heritage.

Tourist practices have long been questioned as exploitation, such as taking photographs of natives without permission or in return for money, or disrupting natives’ daily lives by gawking. For the Maasai, these tourist practices also violate deeply ingrained cultural superstitions. In an interview with BBC, Maasai leader Isaac ole Tialolo shared that twenty years ago a tourist took a photo of him without permission. “We believed that if somebody takes your photograph, he has already taken your blood,” Isaac explained. Angered, Isaac destroyed the tourist’s camera.

More than exploitative tourist practices, what concerns Isaac is “use and abuse” of the Maasai culture. 80 companies worldwide use the name or the image of the Maasai, whether for Land Rover accessories, athletic and orthopedic shoes, or Louis Vuitton’s Masai line.

The fight against exploitation of cultural trademarks is not a new one. For example, in the mid-1970’s the Navajo Nation unsuccessfully tried to copyright the word “Navajo” to restrict who could apply the term to products; this resistance against outside use has continued, notably in a 2011 lawsuit the Navajo Nation brought against the clothing chain Urban Outfitters for using the term “Navajo.”

In some respects, the quality and representation of the items carrying cultural brands is a concern. “Tacky is a good word,” Navajo Times contributor Bill Donovan said of the Urban Outfitter items in an interview with NPR. “The Navajo Nation has been very sensitive about people using their name to promote tacky products.” For the Maasai name to be attached to orthopedic trainers or beach towels — items that do not even represent their namesake — is similar abuse.

Today, many Maasai leaders are attempting to stand for their cultural heritage. But Isaac ole Tialolo understands the entire Maasai nation must agree to this. He hopes they will be successful in uniting the Maasai for intellectual property rights. The NGO Light Years IP works alongside Maasai leaders — as it has in a number of developing countries — to educate the Maasai in what they are aiming to do.

The Maasai have a strong sense of ownership of their culture, says Isaac. As the Maasai become educated and the rest of the world becomes informed on the matter, branding consultant Bruce Webster says “they’ll win the PR battle absolutely.”

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: BBC,Guardian,NPR
Photo: BBC

10 Millions Homes Lit in 10 YearsIt is hard to imagine paying for electricity is like paying for a cell phone. Firstly, outside of the US, the majority of the world pays for their cell phones with ‘pay-as-you-go’ or prepaid plans. This way, companies can estimate their monthly profits and users can get as much as they need without overpaying. This issue is similar to what many living in rural areas or off-grid areas in Africa were dealing with when it came to electricity in their homes.

With 1.4 billion people living outside of the main grids, getting the lighting to their homes was often expensive and an inefficient chore. Many used kerosene or oil lamps. Connecting to the main grids is ridiculously costly, even for an average American.  Off.Grid:Electric has combined the business plan of the mobile industry with the use of solar power and mobile stations to help power homes in Tanzania.

Off.Grid: Electric was founded in 2011 by Xavier Helgesen, Joshua Pierce, and Erica Mackey. It sets up ‘M-Power Hubs’ which use solar energy to charge individual attachments that are placed on roofs of homes. The installation fee is $6 and the weekly charge to run two lights and a cell-phone charger is a mere $1.25. Customers can increase the types of services they want, be it adding a television, radio, or more lights. A major reason why the costs are affordable is that none of the actual products are owned by the customers, the products are rented.

Mackey, a UCLA graduate who also attended Oxford’s Saïd Business School, had spent a good part of her young adult life split between California and Africa. Understanding how companies and organizations must alter themselves to African customers is extremely important, she says. “There’s definitely an art to figuring out how to run a Western-style company in an African context.” She claims that mimicking the way cell phone companies in Africa managed to deal with the unprecedented 72 fold increase in cell phone users from 2000 to 2011 gave her company a good insight on how to market and handle a similar process with delivering solar power.

Off.Grid:Electric plans to extend its services out of Arusha, Tanzania and expects to reach 10 million homes in the next decade across Africa.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: co.Exist


For almost a decade, universities from across the United States have participated in thousands of trips to locations around the world to help improve low-income communities, whether it be through development, medical and health, or social advocacy.

Northern Illinois University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter has been in partnership with two organizations in both Mexico and Nyegina, Tanzania building sustainable and easy-to-manage appliances.

NIU’s EWB is entering its last year in a 5 year contract with Nyegina Secondary School, located in a village about an hour from the Kenya Tanzania border. Here, their first project was to install a solar lighting system to help supply cheap electricity to 6 classrooms and the library.

Their next project is focused on the kitchen. It includes designing a ‘lion stove’ which will use wood more efficiently to lower costs for the school as well as a solar water heater. These three additions to the school are important not only because they utilize a renewable energy source but because they allow the school to keep their expenses down. The less money they have to spend on basic lighting and cooking, the less children will have to pay to attend.

In Mexico, with support and guidance from iCatis (International Centers for Appropriate Technology and Indigenous Sustainability), students have been working to improve the water filtration system in remote villages.

Throughout their experimentation, these young engineers must keep in mind who they are designing these systems for. What works in the developed world cannot be sustained with the limited resources in developing countries. The villagers must be well trained and educated before students leave so that they understand how to repair appliances if they break and make improvements themselves if necessary.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:NIU Today