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Tujijenge Tanzania Helps ‘Build Africa’ through Microfinance

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