Providing Microloans for the Poor in Tanzania

by Opportunity International
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.

Opportunity’s strategy maximizes technology to engage the poor in their own communities, bringing financial services: 1) Closer: Establishment of a distribution channel within one kilometer of a client’s home or business, 2) Wider: Cell phone and agent banking increase financial inclusion, 3) Safer: Cashless banking reduces clients risk of loss or theft and allows them to earn interest and 4) Cheaper: Opportunity utilizes emerging technologies and customer feedback while continuously reducing costs. Opportunity’s technology team:

  •  integrated mobile money systems deployed by mobile phone service providers to enable clients to access and repay loan funds with the cell phones;
  • migrated e-mail systems in Tanzania to cloud based systems (remote management, standardization and virtualization) to provide stability, integrity and rapid deployment capabilities;
  • transitioned the loan portfolio to the T24 eMerge banking system to facilitate the growth of cashless banking which provides low cost, secure banking to formerly disenfranchised Tanzanians;
  • maintained high client meeting attendance rate amidst mobile banking technology, indicating that clients value training and mentoring they receive in Trust Group meetings. 


Mary, an Opportunity client in Tanzania
Mary, an Opportunity client in Tanzania

You helped Opportunity grow in Tanzania

 As we gather momentum in Tanzania, more parents go to market each day armed with the capital, training and support they need to increase their income and provide for their families. The loans your funding makes possible are delivered through Opportunity’s core Trust Group model. In addition, Opportunity Tanzania achieved the following:

  • Nearly doubled its outreach in one year, ending the first half of 2012 with 7,568 loan clients.
  • 30% increase in the value of the outstanding loan portfolio in 2012.
  • Launched Individual loans in the second quarter of 2012.
  • Began to develop a School Fee loan and planned for School Proprietor loans. 

Bringing life-saving insurance to Tanzanian clients

Your support has also helped expand Microensure, Opportunity's insurance provider and the world’s first and largest microinsurance broker. 

In the past, if a family member needed healthcare, Theresia John Kombe of Pangara, Tanzania, had to sell one of her chickens to pay for it. But as a coffee grower with the Kilimanjaro Native Cooperative Union (KNCU), Theresia was able to join a MicroEnsure health plan that is connected to a network of clinics. Now, she pays an $8 annual premium that covers her whole family.

That insurance coverage was vital one night when her baby, Loreen, was vomiting and had to be taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with malaria. Theresia was so happy that Loreen was able to get immediate care without a fee.

Theresia says that one of the best aspects of having health insurance is that her family can plan for health needs a year in advance. It used to be that they would have to immediately try to sell a chicken, sometimes for less than it’s worth, to have money to go to a clinic or hospital. This is the case for many rural and farming families, especially between harvests when they don’t have much money available. Now, clients like Theresia who have insurance can get their children to health facilities when they need to go, ensuring that they’ll be treated as soon as they have symptoms of an illness, rather than having to wait until they can afford to go. For the adults in the family, this reduces the risk that they will miss workdays and extra income.

MicroEnsure works with medical staff at the local Uuwo Dispensary in Pangara on their bedside manner, explaining the way to approach, talk to, diagnose and treat patients. KNCU Health Plan providers are taught that making physical contact with patients during evaluation and treatment goes a long way towards demonstrating that they care, rather than just prescribing tests and drugs with only a cursory discussion. Theresia said she feels MicroEnsure’s plan is focused on the women and mothers of KNCU as they are the ones that deal with all health issues in the family. She says the women of her cooperative are all extremely grateful for the program.

Thanks for all your support in helping to make this possible! 

Dr. Felix treats Theresia
Dr. Felix treats Theresia's daughter, Loreen.


The Impact of Your Support

Opportunity Tanzania undertook extensive restructuring over the past year to increase its effectiveness and provide clients the services and products they need to help lift themselves out of poverty. Armed with tighter policies and procedures, the dynamic management team transformed the business, making it more efficient and sustainable. Opportunity Tanzania achieved outstanding turnaround progress during 2011:

  • Opportunity Tanzania more than doubled its outreach to end 2011 with 7,230 loan clients.
  • The loan portfolio has shown tremendous growth as well, more than doubling since year-end 2010.
  • Portfolio quality has made tremendous improvement with loan client repayment rates at 98%.

Opportunity Tanzania is seeking to accomplish the following during 2012:

  • Reach 9,700 loan clients
  • Hire four new loan officers
  • Implement a rigorous staff training and leadership system
  • Grow the outreach of the existing branches, especially focusing on the northern branches
  • Introduce individual loan products and school fee loans
  • Focus on financial literacy training for clients 

Increasing Outreach

Currently, Opportunity Tanzania serves clients through three hub branches: Ilala in Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Moshi; and two satellite branches: Tengeru (Arusha satellite) and Himo (Moshi satellite).

Macro-economic issues in Tanzania impact the poorest families

The country’s economic position is expected to strengthen in 2012 as the government implements its new five-year development plan. Yet the high inflation rates in Tanzania continue to hit those living in poverty the hardest, leaving our clients to struggle with the rising cost of fuel, food and other household supplies. Inflation is projected to remain at or above 9% in 2012. Our clients and their families deal with the effects of inflation daily.  They can be the difference between two meals a day or only one.  They dictate whether children can be sent to school or must be kept at home.

Targeted training positions our staff to empower others

Opportunity Tanzania is equipping staff with the right tools to build technical skills and foster personal growth with major emphasis placed on the mission and values of Opportunity. Tanzania staff recently participated in the following professional development opportunities: 

  •  Select staff traveled to other Opportunity banks to receive hands-on training in best-practices.
  • Human Resources staff attended a “train the trainer” seminar in February 2012 which allows them to carry out in-house training to staff who will implement training modules with clients.
  • High potential female staff members attended training through Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program.

 Protecting Clients from Unexpected Losses

Opportunity Tanzania provides all loan clients with credit, life, funeral, health and natural calamities insurance. Opportunity International’s insurance subsidiary, MicroEnsure launched its first health insurance program in Tanzania in 2010, with a second product targeting rural coffee farmers in 2011. MicroEnsure has accomplished strong growth in Tanzania and reached a milestone of 600,000 lives covered. Significant progress has been achieved over the last year, including:

  • MicroEnsure responded to an expressed need for affordable healthcare by establishing a health insurance program with Kilimanjaro farmers to offer outpatient services and inpatient maternity for less than $20 per person per year.
  • For 0.35% of the loan, MicroEnsure’s innovative Mlinzi wa Familia product protects clients’ businesses from losses due to fire, flooding, earthquake and other major events.
  • MicroEnsure was the first to offer Tanzanians access to life insurance through their mobile phones. Customers receive a free insurance product that pays out a death benefit if a client or covered family member dies. Benefits range from $125 to $600 and increase as customers use more cell phone airtime.

Thanks for all your support that makes the continuing work in Tanzania possible! 


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Organization Information

Opportunity International

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Ian Haisley
Director of Online Strategy
Oak Brook, IL United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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