Providing Microloans for the Poor in Tanzania


Rich in natural resources, southern Tanzania is the country’s most fertile region and is ripe for agricultural development. Opportunity Tanzania is making financial services accessible to its clients so they can take advantage of the high-potential land at their fingertips. 

Although its low population density makes brick-and-mortar banking cost-prohibitive, the high incidence of cell phone usage among the rural population indicates that mobile banking would be a very viable solution. 190 loans have already been disbursed in southern Tanzania, through six cost-effective delivery channels that take the place of physical buildings.

Financial training is growing as well, with a 9% growth in outreach from 2012. Over 9000 clients are benefiting from resources such as new financial literacy training modules that are developed in the local language, Swahili, and distributed to Trust Groups. Opportunity Tanzania officers are also testing a pilot Individual loan product for clients who graduate from Trust Group loans. Opportunity’s outreach to smallholder Tanzanian farmers was just launched in 2014 and has already accomplished so much — and it’s only getting started.  

99 percent of Opportunity Internationa's global team are nationals. Our frontline staff comprises deposit mobilization officers, customer service officers, tellers and branch managers. Loan officers provides financial literacy training and support clients in selecting financial services and monitors loan repayments.

Our loan officers are at the heart of our work. Many of them become mentors, acting as catalysts for a lifetime of stability for clients and their families. In spite of their immense potential, the most talented professionals in the developing world lack access to the tools they need to grow professionally. By providing exceptional training, Opportunity International is equipping local, talented staff to become leaders in building the economies of their own communities. 

It is because of our local loan officers that clients like Wilbert believe in Opportunity International and return for mutliple loan cycles as they grow the capaicty of their business. 

Wilbert is an Opportunity client who owns a shop at Mtongani area of Tegeta in Dar es Salaam in which he sells different types of drinks like soda, water, and energy drinks. He is able to earn gross sales of 200,000 TZ shillings per day.

He has been an Opportunity client in the past and this will be his second loan cycle. He plans on using this loan to purchase additional stock for his business. Having more stock in his business means larger sales each month so he can continue to pay for his children tuition at the nearby secondary school and for his oldest which is now at Dar Es Salaam University.

Your support and the suport of his local loan officer has helped Wilbert grow his business and provide for his family. He is now able to pay tuition fees for his children and has a savings account and a safety net for his family. He hopes his children will receive a good education and, one day, help him in business.

Despite growth resulting from gold production and tourism, Tanzania remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Approximately 36 percent of Tanzanians live below the poverty line. Yet the country’s economic potential is unmistakable.

One out of every three Tanzanians is self-employed, indicating a high level of microenterprise activity. Only 20 percent of the population, however, has access to a formal bank within an hour’s walking distance of their home. Recognizing this great need, Opportunity Tanzania, headquartered in Dar es Salaam, was established in 2007 and serves clients through hub branches in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Moshi, and two satellite branches, in Tengeru and Himo.

Opportunity Internationals programs in Tanzania are fundraising to build a regulated bank that will offer savings products and give clients a safe place to save their money, no matter how small the amount.

In addition to individual and Trust Group loans, Opportunity has started offering Solidarity Group loans in Tanzania. These loans are tailored for a growth-oriented enterprise with group sizes of five to 10 entrepreneurs who run medium-sized businesses. Unlike the Trust Group lending model, Solidarity Groups receive larger loans, and clients make monthly loan payments versus weekly.

Only 4 percent of people in rural areas have a bank account and, while 70 percent of Tanzanians earn some income from growing and selling crops, only 1 percent has ever used a loan to buy seeds, tools or fertilizer. The new Agricultural Finance program will empower some of Tanzania’s most marginalized rural communities and will launch in the South Corridor, a region that accounts for the majority of the country’s agricultural activity and has high potential for increased food production.

Opportunity International’s work and expansion in Tanzania offers hope to people who have never before had access to formal financial services.

Mwashamba at home
Mwashamba at home

As a result of your partnership, Opportunity is helping families across Tanzania work their way out of poverty. Mwashamba Ally, one of our Tanzanian clients, owns a small retail store selling water, tea, chew gums and other small items. With her loan from Opportunity and her thriving business Mwashamba is able to pay for her daughter’s tuition fees at a nearby secondary school, feed her husband and children and is hoping to move her family from a rented home into a residential house.

Along with helping people like Mwashamba with your support we have also seen MicroEnsure Tanzania achieving unprecedented growth, now celebrating more than one million lives served. MicroEnsure recently brought on Urasa Sarakikya as its new Country Manager in Tanzania. Highly qualified, Urasa is expected to lead MicroEnsure Tanzania into new stages of growth and development. Other accomplishments for MicroEnsure Tanzania include:

  • Launched its first health insurance pilot in Tanzania, which provides coverage for a family of five for just $40 per year. 
  • Developed and implemented a health insurance program for coffee farmers on Mount Kilimanjaro in partnership with PharmAccess International, Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union and the Mission for Essential Medical Supplies for less than $20 per year. 
  • Trained medical staff on proper procedures, delivering new customer care and comprehensive reporting across health administration.  
  • Covered 7,000 unique lives with MicroEnsure’s newly implemented distribution model.

Continuing its growth trend in 2012, Opportunity Tanzania achieved 18% increase in outreach despite high inflation, closing the year with 8,555 clients with loans. Amidst this time of growth, the team, led by CEO Stanley Tsikirayi, nearly doubled the value of its outstanding loan portfolio plus more than doubled its operational sustainability, an indicator of an increasingly healthier institution. Dedicated staff successfully offered clients support and mentoring, enhanced lending products to more closely match needs and provided targeted training – all through five branches. Additionally, during 2012, Opportunity Tanzania:

  • Developed School Fee and School Improvement loans for 2013 launch.
  • Piloted an Individual loan product in Dar es Salaam and Tengeru branches.
  • Increased mobile phone options for customers: now 10% of loans are disbursed via phone, reducing the risk associated with carrying cash for both clients and loan officers.
  • Conducted financial literacy training for loan officers who later train our clients.
  • Launched financial literacy training DVDs translated into Swahili, covering savings, record keeping and debt management, to clients beginning in January 2013.

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Project Leader

Ian Haisley

Director of Online Strategy
Oak Brook, IL United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Providing Microloans for the Poor in Tanzania