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Micro-Entrepreneurs Build Tanzania from the Bottom Up

Friday, May 19, 2017 9:47 AM | Emma Hill

Tanzania, like many developing nations, has ambitious goals for economic development, yet struggles with unemployment. The Tanzanian government has several top-down initiatives to increase economic growth, including partnering with China to fund infrastructure development and working with neighboring countries to lower trade barriers.   [10]  Yet there's also an impressive and growing "grass-roots" style movement of individuals creating their own business. An increasing number of these entrepreneurs are women. [7, 1, 9 ]

The economy is a critical part of the quality of life in any community. When a developing economy struggles to provide enough jobs, people try their hand at running their own businesses. If successful, these ventures create streams of income throughout a community as they purchase supplies and materials, sell goods and services, and hire employees. Successful small businesses bring stability and income to an area. [7, 8

Entrepreneurship is growing in Tanzania and throughout Africa, with a number of organizations providing support and training for young entrepreneurs. [9,2] One example, run by UN Women, is the Joint Program on Youth Employment, which taught women “entrepreneurship, marketing accounting and cross-border trade.” [1] Other organizations serve as business incubators, to encourage individuals to grow their businesses from a solo act or a handful of employees to medium size or large businesses. “Today, 96% of the entrepreneurs in Tanzania are micro entrepreneurs.”- Dr. Donath Olomi [2] 

Mary Mtaki with her mother at their Tunduma store, Tanzania. Photo Credit: UN Women, Tanzania, Deepika Nath [1]

Business incubators and entrepreneurial workshops are critical resources that help business owners navigate the challenges common to businesses everywhere and the challenges unique to developing nations. Young businesses and entrepreneurs have some significant stumbling blocks to work past, including limited access to capital, poor infrastructure such as limited roads and railways, and unreliable phone lines, internet connections and electricity. [3, 9]

When people hear ‘entrepreneur’ they think tech start up, or a one-man shop that that makes and sells something. Even in African countries, this is a common perception. YET, almost 80% of the Tanzanian work force is employed in the agricultural sector [3] and there’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity happening there as well. Individual farmers, and farming families (aka “smallholders”) struggle from the same setbacks as other types of businesses. A lack of access to funding, or small loans makes it difficult to invest the capital needed for upgrades to their farms, and poor roads make it difficult to rural farms to access urban city dwellers. [5, 6]

The Tanzanian government has a special interest in entrepreneurs wanting to start new agro-businesses, as this could have the double benefit of stimulating economic growth, and increase food production.  So many young people are moving to the cities, that there's a real deficit of "the next generation" of farmers. [4, 5, 6]

Yohana Issaya at his maize farm in Ndurugumi, in Kongwa District, Tanzania Photo Credit: Feed the Future, [5]

Organizations like TechnoServe provide rural Tanzanian youth with business training and introduce modern agricultural techniques that increase produce yields. When rural Tanzanians can move beyond substance to commercial farming, young people are incentivized to return from cities and build thriving agricultural ventures. Like other types of businesses, these successful “smallholders” create jobs and economic stability in their local communities. Unlike other business types, motivated young people building ambitious farms goes a long way to addressing the growing food needs of a booming Sub-Saharan population. [4, 5, 6]












Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.

Phone: (608) 886-9160

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Middleton, WI 53562

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