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12 December 2008

Empowering women through micro-finance

Hello again.  This week’s entry is provided as a follow up to Dyan Decker’s article from the summer, in which she described her hopes for her forthcoming trip to Tanzania as part of the PwC Ulysses programme. 

Dyan, pictured below with her colleagues Nicolas and German, spent eight weeks in Tanzania as part of Ulysses - the PwC initiative which enables our partners to undertake a unique global leadership development programme.

Dyan, Nicolas and German were in Tanzania to work with Selfina – an NGO established for the purpose of delivering micro-finance solutions exclusively to entrepreneurial women in Tanzania in the form of loans, leases of equipment and sale and lease back. That project was launched by Dr Victoria Kisyombe, Selfina's Managing Director, in 1994 when her circumstances made her aware that Tanzanian women - and specifically widows - deserved to be offered solutions which could empower them economically. Selfina has now delivered almost 10,000 loans and is aiming at reaching c. 100,000 loans over the next five years.

(This short film clip, The Girl Effect, tells a very compelling story of how education and micro-finance can make a real difference to women in countries such as Tanzania.)

About Nicolas

Nicolas is a senior corporate law partner in the M&A practice of Landwell & Associés, the correspondent law firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers based in Paris. He joined the partnership in 2006 and specialises in merger and acquisition transactions for clients operating in France and abroad. Nicolas has acted as a lead advisor in the context of a large number of acquisitions and disposals in a variety of industry sectors. He is also one of the founding members of the PwC France India Business Group and has worked on a number of transactions involving French and Indian companies.

Here’s a picture of Nicolas (on the far left) with Dr Victoria and the rest of the Ulysses project team,  Dyan and German, and here is his story of what he learned from working with Dr Victoria:


“I was lucky enough - together with Dyan Decker and German Ganado, PwC partners based respectively in Los Angeles and Mexico City - to spend 8 weeks, as part of the PwC Ulysses Responsible Leadership development programme, working for Sero Finance Leasing Ltd (Selfina) in Tanzania.

Starting in early July 2008, we spent eight weeks in Tanzania assessing Selfina’s operations, analyzing Selfina’s needs and providing recommendations related to operational and financial areas. Our work in Selfina came at a time when it is attracting the growing interest of a number of stakeholders, such as the Tanzanian Government (who were measuring the social impact and general environment of Selfina’s activities), the Tanzanian Parliament (in the framework of the enactment of a new leasing law), the Tanzanian Central Bank, the International Women and Social Entrepreneurs Forums, and the World Bank. In particular, Selfina has been now recognised by the World Bank Group’s Gender Action Plan as an organisation that promotes women’s economic empowerment.

This growing interest in Selfina by a variety of institutions worldwide is recognition of its success in serving low income Tanzanian women and allowing them to develop economically for the good of their families and the community at large, by proposing innovative products more adapted to their situations than those offered by traditional banks. It is also recognition of its capacity in reaching a critical size in a profitable way.

It became clear that, loan over loan, Selfina's female clients, in many instances, develop a business that is profitable enough to allow them to repay their loans (less than 2% default), and to impact their living standards, increase their autonomy vis-à-vis their husbands (when married) and the community, allow them to send their children to school, hire personnel and more generally influence the development of their community. Micro-finance appeared as an efficient way to empower women and reduce poverty. Many clients nevertheless expressed their wish to see interest rates (which can reach 33% per year) decrease.

From a more personal standpoint, this experience has put me outside of my comfort zone, in a situation where my technical expertise as an M&A lawyer was not relevant.

"How should I act to make my stay in Tanzania meaningful to me, my team, Selfina, my family and other stakeholders?"

- was a constant concern (and there were times when I doubted I/we could achieve that goal).

Bringing value to Selfina and having an impact on its future development drove me to rely on personal inner resources such as my capacity to listen with an open mind and with kindness, be present to people and situations and sense what was at stake in each situation. It was crucial also to understand and accept cultural differences, let go of my certainties and prejudices, take time before making judgments and drawing conclusions and refuse to apply recipes or ready made solutions. That resulted in actually investing in relationships by relying on trust and a sense of care between people, and sharing and collaborating with others - in some cases, without avoiding robust dialogue. I became more and more invested personally in the success of Selfina, putting myself in the shoes of its Managing Director, staff, clients, investors and other stakeholders, which led me eventually to accept an offer to sit on their advisory board and pursue the collaboration further.

Meeting and working with Dr Victoria Kisyombe was a real privilege. She is an actual leader who once had a vision, a dream, at a particularly painful time in her life. Through patience, courage, trust, initiative and care to others, she managed to make her dream a reality, and a successful one.

This experience gave me a broader perspective of how my actions - both professionally and personally - can actually be meaningful to me and the community. It made me aware of the role that PwC, as a global professional service provider, has in the rapidly changing world in which we live, and of the impact each one of PwC’s professionals may have by being a responsible human being working not only for but also from PwC, with a view of promoting sustainable solutions for our clients, our firm and the community at large.”


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It is good to be empowered with people like this. Micro-finance can help other to be empowered.

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