Tanzania: First Women’s Bank begins operations

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The Tanzania Women’s Bank (TWB) was inaugurated on July 28 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This pioneering initiative, the first of its kind in Africa, essentially aims at promoting economic activities undertaken by women. This comes as a relief for African women who, despite their enormous contribution towards economic development, paradoxically, do not always have easy access to banking services for economic reasons.

Women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, now have their own bank. Although men are allowed to open an account, the establishment focuses, essentially, on female clientele who are more often than not excluded from the mainstream banking system. “In Tanzania and throughout Africa, women have less access to banking services because they are not well informed,” Margareth Mattabi Chacha, Executive Director of the Tanzania Women’s Bank (TWB) told Afrik-news.com. “They (mostly) don’t work and are not economically strong enough to start an account at a regular bank. ”

To enable women to access these services, the establishment has simplified otherwise onerous administrative procedures. To open an account, only one identification and an initial sum of 3 000 Tanzanian shillings (2 €) deposit is required. Clients are welcomed by professionals who advise and accompany them in their endeavours. “It’s also a place of education for women. There’s always someone to explain things at their own pace,” Margareth Mattabi Chacha continues. Going to the bank is also an opportunity to meet other women in the same situation. “We want to facilitate the creation of a group,” says the CEO.

A long-term project

Women groups called for the establishment of this type of bank. “In 1999, women got together to ask for their own bank. They were looking for a place where they would be listened to and where their needs could be taken into account,” says Margareth Mattabi Chacha. According to her, the women persevered until their dream became reality. “It took them ten years to gather the necessary funds. Their biggest challenge was to satisfy all the conditions needed to be recognised as a bank.” So far, the initiative is a success. Since its opening to the public on July 28, the bank has already attracted 500 customers, 70% of who are women. This figure is expected to continue to grow rapidly.

Th brains behind this banking institution plan to move beyond the Tanzanian boundaries. Their goal is to reach as many women as possible from all over the continent. In addition to their office in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzanian capital, new branches will be created in other regions. “Women have no access to infrastructure in the city because many of them live in the countryside,” says Margareth Mattabi Chacha. To avoid the trip to ATMs from becoming an obstacle, Tanzania Women’s Bank plans to make banking available via the mobile phone, a service provided by a number of banks on the continent.

After the establishment of micro-credit facilities for women, this project is another step towards the economic empowerment of women in Africa.

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