Trailblazing champion of women's financial empowerment

Founder & CEO, Sero Lease and Finance Ltd  SELFINA

Country: Tanzania

Sector: Micro-Leasing

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. Given women’s lack of collateral and resulting lack of access to capital, Victoria began pioneering micro-leasing as a solution. Her 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 finance 27,000 women, create 150,000 jobs, with 250,000 people impacted and US$17 Million revolved.

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Victoria's Startup Story 

Victoria’s incredible journey into entrepreneurship emerged as a result of personal tragedy and the unexpected death of her husband back in 1991. For her and their three young children, life was to change inexorably as she was left to deal with the resulting social and economic challenges facing them. An entrepreneurial approach to life thereafter provided the solution.

Originally from Mbeya in the South-West of Tanzania, Victoria’s primary and secondary education took place there before she moved to Kenya to complete her studies. She returned to Tanzania to attend the University of Dar es Salaam, where she completed a bachelor degree in Veterinary Science in 1983. With her degree in hand, she returned to her home of Mbeye to practice as a vet in this largely agricultural community. In 1986 she was awarded a scholarship by Edinburgh University to complete a Masters degree in Veterinary Science, an incredible personal achievement....

Read more about Victoria's startup story →

It is impossible not to be inspired by Victoria and her never give up attitude to life, no matter what obstacles were thrown in her way over the years. Today, she is positively changing the lives of thousands of women and their families, and indeed society as a whole, by providing support and empowerment through access to finance. She is a real Lioness of Africa and we are proud of all her achievements – she is making a real difference to the continent.  --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder & editor-in-chief



Founded by Dr. Victoria Kisyombe in 2002, SELFINA has taken a lead role as the pioneer of micro-credit in Tanzania through micro-leasing with particular attention to widows and young girls.

"If I can change the life of one person it makes a whole difference because behind that person there is a whole family. It’s a family, it’s a society, it’s Tanzania."

 “I saw that there were other women, other widows—some of them had not been to school like I had been and they were less privileged than I had been—and I thought: ‘How are they managing?”


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Awards & Accolades

Victoria's awards and honours include:

  • 2014 - Victoria receives The Vital Voices Global Leadership Award honouring her significant contribution to Women's Economic Empowerment
  • 2011 - Victoria receives award of “Women of determination 2011″ in recognition of her support on development of SMEs in Tanzania
  • 2011 - Victoria is honoured by Hon.Hillary Rodham Clinton a very prestigious Award on Economic Empowerment in Washington D.C. in recognition of her efforts to empower women in her country and for being a role model and a global leader in the economic empowerment sector
  • 2010 - Victoria is recognized as Winner of the Africa Social Entrepreneur Award by the World Economic Forum/Schwab Foundation
  • 2009 - Victoria is a winner of the 2009 TIAW World of Difference 100 Awards
  • 2007 - Victoria is profiled by the World Bank in their Doing Business in Africa Report
  • Victoria is a Schwab Fellow and a Member of the World Economic Forum
  • Victoria is a Pioneer Member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum based in Lyon, France
  •  Victoria is an alumnus of Vital Voices
  • Victoria is a member of the Diocesan Council of Eastern and Coastal, ELCT
  • Victoria is a member of United Evangelical Mission Council (Germany), Chairperson of UEM’s Foundation Board (Germany), Chairperson of UEM’s Investment Trust 
  • Victoria is Chairperson of Tumaini Makumira Univeristy Council 
  • Victoria is Member of Christian Council’s Policy and Finance Committee