Unitus to Accelerate Access to Microfinance in East Africa
New Partnership with Tanzanian Microfinance Institution Tujijenge Part of Larger Strategy to Bring Growth and Innovation to the Fight against Poverty in Africa
Seattle, WA, November 19, 2008 — Unitus, Inc. today announced plans to accelerate access to microfinance in East Africa. An international nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing global poverty by increasing access to microfinance, Unitus will bring its proven Acceleration Model to a region deeply impacted by poverty yet rich with entrepreneurial spirit. In the coming months, Unitus will select and partner with a broad range of high-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Kenya and Tanzania in order to help them increase efficiency, reach more customers, and facilitate the development of a wide range of financial products and services designed to meet the needs of the working poor. In addition, Unitus will seek to launch and collaborate on a variety of initiatives designed to fuel the growth of microfinance in the region.
Poverty in East Africa is severe, with a majority of people surviving on less than $2 per day—90% of the population in Tanzania and nearly 60% of the population in Kenya live in extreme poverty. While microfinance has been present in the region for a number of years, availability remains limited; just 8% of the families that could benefit from microfinance have access to the life-changing services it provides. Seeking to close this regional “poverty gap,” Unitus aims to catalyze additional microfinance sector growth, strengthen existing institutions, and fuel technological and social innovations that will create much-needed economic opportunities for the poor. Building upon its extensive experience in fueling the once nascent microfinance sector in India, Unitus will bring a wide range of industry expertise, capital access, strategic consulting, and a network of practitioners, entrepreneurs, and investors to help spark the necessary growth for East African microfinance.
New Partnership to Increase Access to Microfinance in Tanzania
Present in East Africa since 2003—via a partnership with Jamii Bora Trust, an innovative, high-growth MFI serving urban and rural populations in Kenya—Unitus is now expanding its partner portfolio to include Tujijenge, a young MFI based in Tanzania. Founded in 2006 by a team of highly experienced microfinance professionals, Tujijenge (which means “let’s build ourselves” in Swahili) currently serves more than 6,000 poor clients in the urban and semi-urban areas of Dar es Salaam.
Led by Executive Director Felistas Coutinho and Managing Director Winnie Terry, Tujijenge has a strong track record of growth, more than doubling both its staff and client outreach in the past 12 months. Aggressive growth plans over the next three years will see Tujijenge expand into four new semi-urban regions and reach 52,000 poor clients—nearly nine times as many as today.
With strategic consulting, technology, operations, and network support from Unitus, Tujijenge will be able to expand not only its client outreach, but also its product and service offerings, building upon a strong base of entrepreneurial leadership and microfinance industry expertise.
“Tujijenge represents an ideal partner for Unitus’s first venture into Tanzania,” said Ed Bland, President of Unitus. “They have a high-caliber management team, a proven track record, and impressive plans for future growth. The Tanzanian market for microfinance shows great potential for further growth and the enormous possibility to transform the lives of millions. We look forward to working with Tujijenge on their expansion plans to provide financial services to more of Tanzania’s working poor.”
”Unitus could not have come at a better time for us,” said Winnie Terry, Tujijenge’s Managing Director. “At the moment, Tujijenge is introducing several major changes: installing new management information software, launching teller operations, and opening a second branch. Additionally, we are piloting individual lending and the use of mobile banking technology. All of these tasks need thoughtful decisions, and we are confident that working with Unitus will help us to achieve our goals.”
Unitus Network Grows to Serve 6 Million Poor Families
Tujijenge represents the twenty-third partner in the Unitus network, which spans nine different countries around the world. Today, Unitus also announced that its partners are now serving more than 6 million families globally. This represents nearly double the number reached at the end of 2007. In a year marked by rising food and fuel prices and the global credit crunch, this expanded access to microfinance for millions more families is an especially critical milestone in the ongoing fight against global poverty.
Unitus, an international nonprofit organization, works to reduce global poverty by increasing access to life-changing microfinance services. We seek out and partner with young, high-potential microfinance institutions (MFIs), helping them build capacity, attract capital, and achieve exponential growth. Through this leveraged approach, Unitus seeks to empower millions of the world’s working poor while transforming the financial systems now left out of their reach. The Unitus portfolio reaches more than 6 million families through 23 partners in Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, and Tanzania.
Unitus has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, PBS, and National Public Radio. We received Fast Company magazine’s Social Capitalist award for 2006, 2007, and 2008, and were awarded the prestigious 4-star rating for sound fiscal management from Charity Navigator in 2007 and 2008. Unitus is a 501(c)3 with offices in Seattle, Washington and Bangalore, India. For more information, please visit www.unitus.com.
About Tujijenge Tanzania
Founded in 2006, Tujijenge’s mission is to improve the lives of families in Tanzania through the provision of microfinance. The organization currently serves 6,000 poor clients in the urban and semi-urban areas of Dar es Salaam. As an organization, Tujijenge values sustainability, integrity, teamwork, and respect for humanity, and seeks to embody these values throughout its work. For more information on Tujijenge Tanzania, please visit http://tujijengeafrika.org/Tujijenge.html.