Victoria Kisyombe

Sero Lease and Finance (Selfina)
Year founded: 


SELFINA increases the incomes of self-employed women in Tanzania through micro-leasing arrangements, resulting in economic and social independence of the borrowers and broader economic opportunities for others within their communities.

Focus: Micro-leasing, Entrepreneurship, HIV/AIDS
Geographic Area of Impact: Tanzania
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 23,310 (2010)
Annual Budget: US$ 1 million (2010)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 100%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Africa, 2010

While Tanzania’s legal environment provides equal rights to women, local customs and traditions normally make it difficult for women to own land and assets. Many women are therefore considered not creditworthy by financial institutions because they lack tangible collateral assets. This leads to poor financial support and poor access to basic goods and services for women with low incomes. The problem is even more acute for widows, who must single-handedly care for their families and are marginalized in decision-making at the family and community level.

While microfinance provides credit for small business owners to make short-term purchases for things such as sales inventory or raw materials, many do not have access to larger capital purchases such as equipment, at rates or on timelines that are affordable. Micro-leasing serves to bridge this gap, thereby allowing small business owners to invest in the productivity of their businesses.

Innovation and Activities
SELFINA addressed this challenge by pioneering micro-leasing as an effective and practical way to provide credit exclusively to women entrepreneurs in Tanzania, thereby facilitating the growth of their businesses and bringing social change to their communities. This creation of wealth-producing economic activity among poor, rural populations is especially important in a country where 75% of the population is rural and over 60% earn less than US$ 1 per day.

Through the organization’s micro-leasing programme, the lessee does not have to use scarce working capital to buy equipment upfront. Rather, women become owners of leased equipment and can use it as collateral for further borrowing, freeing themselves from the poverty trap. Today SELFINA leases equipment such as small tractors, water pumps, irrigation equipment, sewing machines, milling machines, oil extraction machines, bicycles, motorcycles, computers and photocopiers as well as livestock, including dairy cows, goats and poultry.

Cumulatively, SELFINA has issued credit worth US$ 22 million to women in Tanzania. It has trained more than 46,000 women in business management skills, HIV/AIDS awareness and legal rights. Its activities have helped over 200,000 Tanzanians out of poverty. SELFINA expects to make a positive impact on the lives of 440,000 additional individuals by 2014.

The Entrepreneur
Victoria Kisyombe worked as a veterinary doctor in the Mbeya region of Tanzania on the borders of Zambia and Malawi. Her life changed drastically in 1991 when she tragically lost her husband and, under customary law, his family reclaimed all their marital possessions except a single cow, named Sero. Kisyombe relied on the cow to support her young family and subsidize her salary. This period of her life opened her eyes to the plight of many women struggling to provide for their families. She realized that just as their cow helped her generate income, it could be possible for other women to earn money if they could acquire productive assets. In 1992 she started the Sero Women’s Business Association with five other widows. The organization grew to serve thousands of clients and was formally registered as SELFINA 10 years later.