It is evident that there is great potential in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector, however without having a financial muscle, the sector cannot realise its full potential. Given the fact that SMEs employ a huge number of people, many businesses require access to finance for survival.
The financial demands by most companies are anticipated to double up especially during this time of our country’s major economic shift into the middle-income level, as it is an integral part of the process.
That being the case, SMEs need financial services providers to support them to be able to steadily and effectively take part in the nation’s economic drive and yet there are not that many responsible financial institutions like BRAC Tanzania Finance Limited (BRAC Tanzania) in the market to cater for the needs of the financially excluded.
BRAC Tanzania is a leading microfinance organization in the country supporting over 200,000 individuals annually with small to medium size loans through 150 branches located in 116 districts and towns across 25 regions of the country.
BRAC Tanzania’s presence in the country has played a big role in transforming millions of lives through access to inclusive financial services, from groups to individuals, to become successful employers in Tanzania.
Before the commemoration of Micro and Small Enterprises (SMEs) Day, the Chief Executive Officer of BRAC Tanzania Finance Limited, Nkosilathi Moyo (NM) shares with us some key highlights about the organisation’s efforts towards financial inclusion.
How many lives are impacted by BRAC Tanzania?
NM: Our programmatic interventions in the Microfinance space has reached close to 2 million marginalized people who have been able to access loans since the inception of BRAC in Tanzania in 2006. Currently, we serve over 200,000 active borrowers, with 96% being women. As part of our mission, we particularly focus on women living in hard to reach areas to harness their entrepreneurial spirit by empowering them economically.
What are your flagship products?
NM: BRAC Tanzania has two flag-ship products of microloans (group) and small enterprise loans, and here are more details:
NM: This is our collateral-free microloans offering given exclusively to women through women’s groups. We provide access to credit facilities to businesswomen and small scale farmers who will otherwise have no access to financial services so that they can build their small scale business into sustainable enterprises.
To offer further support we also provide social education and financial literacy during weekly group meetings.
Small Enterprise Loans
NM: The Small Enterprise Pro-gram (SEP) caters for the “missing middle” – those who have graduated from the groups but are still not able to be catered for by the formal financial institutions. Through SEP, we are able to support the women beneficiaries who graduate from group based lending modal and other male and female individual entrepreneurs who have no access to other financial institutions.
Our approach of providing financial and other skills support work together to assist our clients to grow their businesses.
Where do you think the SMEs sector is heading to?
NM: If this question was asked just three months ago before the pandemic, I would have a different answer. Culturally, Tanzania is underpinned by a huge entrepreneurial spirit which forms a bedrock of the SME sector. The sector has been flourishing, as most businesses have been doing well and probably planning on expansion which in turn would have resulted into more people getting employed in the sector and further contribute to the country’s economy. However, we have witnessed most businesses being affected within and without the country by the COVID19.
Despite the COVID-19 challenge, overall the Small and Medium Enterprises the SME sector remains a backbone of emerging economies and will play a critical part in the drive by the government of trans-forming Tanzania into a middle income economy.
How do you maintain your organization’s commitment against the unpredictability of loans repayment from your customers?
NM: Commitment defines our existence. There’s no room for drifting away from our fundamental role of uplifting the most marginalized persons. As an organization, we have entrenched tried and tested processes that have helped us to develop a strong bond with our clients.
Through our collateral free loans in the women groups, there is high accountability within the members which help to ensure that members keep up with their repayment schedules. Groups are formed in such a way all the members know each other well and live around the same community and therefore making it hard for any member to run away from their responsibility.
Furthermore, we try to assess the capability of our clients to repay the loan by analyzing their businesses and income. Our mission is not just to offer loans to anyone and anyhow, but we are committed to the principles of consumer protection, hence we provide funds that meet the client’s needs while avoiding over in datedness.
What do your esteemed customers speak of your service?
NM: Customers have become our brand ambassadors, as I am sure you might have noticed BRAC Tanzania does not advertise but we have an influx of people in need of our services through referrals from our clients. On the other hand, we have put in place a Client Complaints Mechanism that allows our clients to provide feedback using a toll free number and through our staff on areas where we can improve our services. We also carry out annual Customer Satisfaction Surveys and we take any feedback very seriously in line with our strategic objective on client centricity.”
What legacy does the company wish to leave in the SME sector?
NM: The organization is trans-forming itself into being a top a partner of choice and top of the mind brand. Ultimately, we would like to be a one-stop-shop by transforming into a microfinance bank. BRAC Tanzania has encouraging client success stories, with some of the clients who began with us at the bottom of the pyramid but are now either landlords, employers or have managed to send their children to university.
Microfinance just like any other sector was not spared against the onslaughts of the pandemic. How did BRAC navigate through it?
NM: We are not yet out of the woods as we are still navigating through the pandemic. Our first response was to prioritize the health and safety of our staff by providing them with relevant awareness messages and personal protective equipment (PPE). We also had to suspend our field activities to allow us to reorganize our group lending methodology in line with the social distancing requirements.
During this period, we provided our clients with repayment holidays so that they are also able to take care of their families. We have since resumed our operations and are encouraged by the massive response from our clients, who are not only eager to repay their loans but also to recapitalize their businesses. For those who are struggling, we have put refinancing and rescheduling arrangements to allow them to recover.
What is the biggest achievements of the company since 2007?
NM: BRAC Tanzania is a mission-driven organisation that strives to empower people at the bottom of the pyramid to realise their potential. Since our inception, we have cumulatively disbursed to over two million people across the country, of which 96% are women in rural areas (55%).In addition, we have been able to expand our footprint to 150 branches located in 116 districts across the country. Through various surveys, we have received feedback that our financial services have not only empowered the majority of women at the bottom of the pyramid but have also allowed them to unlock their potential.
NM: BRAC Tanzania Finance Limited is part of the larger organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972, by the late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. BRAC creates opportunities for people living in poverty to fulfil basic human requirements and more. We support them to realise their potential using proven and innovative solutions so they can take control of their own lives.
Out of Bangladesh, BRAC is also in other countries in Africa and Asia including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Philipines, Nepal and South Sudan, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia.