Dr. Victoria Kisyombe is the founder of SELFINA, a company in Tanzania that provides micro-leasing to mostly widows and young girls. Victoria is a leader who has used innovation, initiative, and determination to empower women in Tanzania to become economically self-sufficient.
Victoria’s pioneering micro-leasing model as an alternative way to financing women has generated praise beyond Tanzania, and efforts are under way to expand the model to other countries in the region. SELFINA has gone on to economically empower more than 25,000 women with a total credit worth 25 billion Tanzanian Shillings (approximately $17 million US dollars). Over 250,000 lives have been impacted through the benefits accrued and more than 125,000 jobs have been created.
"If I can change the life of one person it makes a difference because behind that person there is a whole family. It’s a family, it’s a society, it’s Tanzania."
Victoria Kisyombe is a leader who has used innovation, initiative, and determination to empower women in Tanzania. Given women’s lack of collateral and resulting lack of access to capital, Victoria also began piloting micro-leasing as a solution. She changed the criteria of eligibility to enable women with no assets and little business experience to engage in commercial activities to support themselves and their families. The ability to generate cash flow, rather than collateral, became the factor that determined whether an applicant would be considered. SELFINA is a for-profit company with a social mission for impact providing micro-leasing to thousands of women clients in Tanzania.
Starting from a very humble beginning, SELFINA has gone on to improve financial inclusion for women. More than 27,500 women have received lease finance, 250,000 lives have been impacted, 150,000 jobs created and more than US$ 17 million has been availed to women through a revolving fund.
Victoria’s successful micro-leasing model has generated praise beyond Tanzania. She has been profiled by the World Bank “Doing Business in Africa”, by CNN, Lionesses of Africa, and by Deutsche Welle to mention a few.
"This is the era for Africa to move forward, and if Africa is moving forward, the women can move forward with it."
In 2010 she received an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award from the World Economic Forum and Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs in recognition of visionary, pragmatic and courageous contributions that significantly improve the state of the world.
In July 2014 she received a Global Leadership Award by Vital Voices Global Leadership founded by Hon. Hillary Clinton. Alyse Nelson, The President and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership said this with regard to the award: “Your unyielding commitment to the economic empowerment of the women in Tanzania has had an enormous, transformative impact on your community and country. Your vision and innovative spirit set you apart as a global role model, and the significance of your work will be felt for generations to come.”
Earlier in 2009 she received a TIAW World of Difference 100 Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution in making “all the difference in the world” to the economic empowerment of women by The Alliance for Women (Canada).
During 50 years of independence celebrations of her country Tanzania, Victoria was recognized as a Woman of Determination in recognition of her support on the development of SMEs in Tanzania.
"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."
Victoria has been a true innovator and pioneer in an important area, helping improve the livelihoods of thousands of impoverished women in her country, truly making a world of difference.
In recognition of the above, Victoria Kisyombe has become a permanent Member of Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum; Emeritus Council Member of World Economic Forum New Growth Models.
She is a Pioneer Member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum based in Lyon, France and an Associate Member of Women Global Banking Alliance which is based in USA.
Victoria is also Emeritus Council Member of United Evangelical Mission (UEM, Germany), Emeritus Chairperson of UEM's Foundation Board (Germany) and Emeritus Chairperson of UEM's Investment Trust.
Victoria is the Chairperson of Centre of Advancement of Women in Agriculture in Tanzania (CAWAT) which is supported by Land O Lakes (USA). She is also a Member of the Task Force of the Mechanization and Financial Committee of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF).
Because of her work Victoria has traveled to many countries around the world inspiring other women and also promoting lease finance as an important development tool for Africa and especially for women. Her voice has echoed at many international forums.