Strong family relations playing key role in energy micro-enterprises in Tanzania

August 20, 2015 | By
GVEP International

Women entrepreneurs’ success in running energy micro-enterprises requires enormous support from their families. As a result, GVEP is engaging both men and women to ensure the growth of women-run energy businesses.

Ruth at her phone charging and barber businessIn Tanzania, just like in other countries in Africa where men have more access to and control of assets and income, their place in the management of resources is key. It is therefore crucial to understand men’s role in supporting the running of women-led enterprises. Most times, businesses run by women have failed due to the lack of co-operation from their spouses, especially where loans are involved. However, significant success has been recorded where the men offer support to their wives in running women-led or joint enterprises.

In 2009, Ruth Musenyi ventured into the renewable energy sector that had hitherto been regarded as a male-dominated field in Tanzania. She started by charging mobile phones using a car battery, but made the switch to solar upon being recruited into a GVEP micro-enterprise development programme. Some business and technology training, along with access to appropriate enterprise financing, transformed her business in just a few years.

Ruth also stresses that she owes her success to the support she received from her husband in running the business once she had received the loan.

“My husband and I jointly run our different businesses, although I am the one registered under the GVEP programme. In fact, he sometimes attends the business and technology mentorship sessions when I am held up with other things or attending to domestic chores,” she says at her business premises situated in Misungwi District, on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The couple now complement each other in running their enterprises and have equal accessibility to their business and financial resources.

“We make collective decisions on any matter related to our businesses, just like we do with our domestic issues. I also put to practice the technical skills learned from the mentorship sessions to solve some of the technical challenges that emerge,” explains Thomas Bulegi, Ruth’s husband.

GVEP’s Tanzania Country Manager Adam Mbwambo explains that most women-led businesses face multiple challenges, especially where the man – the household head – is not supportive.

“There are cases where women must have their husband’s approval to apply for bank loans or to use matrimonial properties as collateral.  Some men even take charge of the income generated by their wives’ efforts. This leads to squabbles over property, with some even ending in divorce,” he says.

“In Tanzania, we have worked with the husbands of potential women entrepreneurs to secure their support so that their wives can participate in the programme. We also ensure that our training approaches and methodologies ensure active participation and address different needs in order to engage both men and women effectively,” explains Adam.

The programme supported Ruth in acquiring extensive business acumen, which she says has enabled her to develop her business professionally.

“I benefitted greatly from GVEP’s capacity building initiatives that included localised training on book keeping and financial management, interactive workshops as well as mentoring, networking with other businesses, visits to market places and exposure to the experiences of successful businesses,” she says.

Ruth’s promising business was taken to the next level when it was selected into the Capital Access for Renewable Energy Enterprises (CARE2) programme, which nurtures businesses with potential to scale up.

“GVEP supported me in accessing a loan of Tsh 3,000,000 ($1,610) from Wadoki Saccos, which I used to purchase solar equipment and to renovate my business premises. I managed to steadily repay the amount on time and was even able to top-up the loan with Tsh 5,000,000 ($2,683), which I used to expand my business and conduct further renovations,” she says.

Apart from her solar phone charging business, Ruth diversified her services and set up a barber shop as well as a pharmacy – a one of a kind facility within the business centre. Her husband runs the pharmacy and barber shop, all the while helping her out with the phone charging business.

As a result of her remarkable achievement, Ruth has set her eyes on opening a beverage depot.

“I am very optimistic that this project will pick up, as we have no such business here. I will also be able to supply neighbouring villages. In order for me to meet my financial expectations for the new business, I have maintained good working relationships with financial institutions so that I can access credit facilities any time I need to expand,” she says.

“Clean energy has made my life a lot easier! I am living a modern life like those in big cities, yet still being in a small village. Additionally, the proceeds from my business have not only enabled me to expand and venture into other sectors, but also buy a piece of land. I can now pay school fees for my children as well as tuition fees for my husband, who is a training to be a pharmacist,” says the mother of four, who also takes care of two relatives.

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