Digital and Financial Inclusion for Women-Led Businesses in Tanzania

Insights from women entrepreneurs applicants for the Sahara Sparks 2019 event.

Abstract |Part of Sahara Sparks 2019, UNWomen Tanzania sponsored 200 women entrepreneurs to attend the event. Sahara Ventures has been running programs and organizing events throughout all this, the biggest challenge faced was to get more women entrepreneurs involved with the programs and interventions. In many of our programs, we had less than 30 percent of women applicants taking part and over 60 percent of our programs participants are men. The main objective of the initiative to sponsor these women was to introduce them to the innovation and technology entrepreneurship space in Tanzania.

Sahara Sparks creates a platform for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers and tech enthusiasts to connect, showcase, share insghts and explore the African market. The aim of supporting these women enterpreneurs was create a marketplace for them to meet with investors, potential partners, showcase their businesses and be exposed to new business opportunities in the innovation ecosystem in Tanzania.

Statistics suggest that Sub-Saharan Africa is leading the way, with its female entrepreneurship rates the highest globally. 25.9% of the Female adult population is engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in the region. However, there is a high rate of discontinuance around 56% of women entrepreneurs in the region declares that either lack of profit or lack of Finance as a reason for closing down their business.

Women play a key role in the private sector and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Tanzania. The proportion of women-owned enterprises increased from 35% in the early 1990s to 54% in 2012. The majority of women entrepreneurs are aged between 25 and 40 years and have a low level of education according to ILO.

“Women’s economic empowerment is one of the world’s most promising areas of investment, biggest emerging markets, talent pools and demographic dividends to be tapped.”

— UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the SHE·ERA: 2017 Global Conference on Women and Entrepreneurship, in Hangzhou, China.

According to the insights gathered from the 773 women entrepreneurs who applied to attend Sahara Sparks, 32.3% were in the age of between 25–29, 24.8% of 35+, while the smallest percent being ages 15–19. From this we get a rough context of the age average of entrepreneurs that applied. Clearly, these women entrepreneurs are a the engine for the economy to generate jobs and reduce poverty.

Interestingly, of the 773 applicants over 97% owned smart phones , while 88.3% said they us social media platforms for their businesses. In many ways this forces us to not ignore the role played by digital solutions in supporting or and driving businesses in Africa. The insights even further show that over 50% of these women entrepreneurs use Instagram for their businesses. If this seem to be the most convenient way for them, how can we integrate other convenient services like Mobile Money to facilitate their businesses? In many ways this will be one step to bridging the digital and financial inclusions gaps for Women-Led businesses.

While it’s believe to be a norm that most entreprenuers when asked what they need at the moment for their businesses, they would say “ Funds”, well whether it is a myth or truth, over 50% of these women entrepeneurs responded the same way to that question.

When asked the level of Investment they are looking 42.3% said they need Early Stage Investment (Between 5Million — 15 Million Tshs) and 25% said they are looking for Scaling Investment (Between 15Million — 100 Million). While this highlights their financial needs, the insights about where they are looking to acquire those funds indicated that Impact Investors and Business Incubators/Accelerator are the most popular option.

The insights gathered indicate even more detail on women-led businesses, the role of digital tools in their businesses and among others. To Learn more stay tuned for our up coming report on Digital and Financial Inclusion for Women-Led Businesses in Tanzania.

Our mission is to build a stable innovation, technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa through consultancy and investment.