Spreading Love, One Micro-Lease at a Time
Infusing her work with love and compassion, a micro-lender created by a Tanzanian widow has transformed the lives of thousands in that African nation over the last decade.
SERO Lease and Finance Limited (SELFINA) is an indigenous microfinance institution that specializes in offering lease finance to women in Tanzania. Since 2002, SELFINA has helped 25,000 women in Tanzania, creating some 125,000 jobs.
The name came from “Sero,” a cow that Dr. Victoria Kisyombe’s husband left behind when he died. “At first I looked at her as just a cow,” Kisyombe said. “But then I saw what’s possible if one has an asset.”
SELFINA has taken a lead role as a pioneer of micro-credit in Tanzania through micro-leasing, with particular attention to widows and young girls. Many women are not considered credit worthy by financial institutions in the country as they lack tangible collateral assets.
“In Tanzania and the rest of Africa, women don’t inherit wealth,” says Edward Kessy, senior investment facilitation manager with the Tanzania National Economic Empowerment Council. “Men are the ones who own land, and the key collateral in this country is land.”
So SELFINA grants micro-leases for equipment ranging from beauty shop hair dryers to baking equipment to wells for agriculture, many to women who have no credit history at all.
The Fetzer Institute is working with SELFINA to build awareness of the group’s good work, to study and distill lessons from its success, and to document the work through a short film.
“The secret behind it is the love we have for people,” Kisyombe says. “There’s always love for those who are in need and those who surround them. And the women we support try to reach out and support other women and other members of society.“
Through this energy, Kisyombe has created a virtuous cycle of empowerment and opportunity for Tanzanian women. “I’m proud to work for SELFINA because I am a woman. Dr. Victoria is a woman, and we’re helping women,” says SELFINA area manager Magreth Ligate.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Business Professions.