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Women’s bank takes off in Tanzania

Africa’s first bank aimed specifically at women has been so successful in its first years it is overwhelmed by demand.

Based in Tanzania’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Women Bank (TWB) was launched in 2009 in a government effort to empower women, although men can also open accounts.

Women only need an ID card or passport to open an account, unlike other banks which ask for title deeds or other proofs clients have money. And people only need 3,000 Tanzanian shillings (about £1) in savings - much less than other banks.

Our big challenge today is not the market competition but how to meet the rising demand for our services," managing director, Margareth Chacha, told Tanzania’s Daily News, yesterday,  noting, "...the issue is, TWB is dealing with a starved and ignored population.

While the banking sector is rapidly becoming competitive, "Our market remains untouched because we are serving the segment that others have snubbed,” she said. “My firm belief is that whenever TWB goes, it will easily become popular."

The bank is now trying to raise money through share sales, to fund an expansion into the rest of the country, where most of the central east African country’s poorest women live.

We expect that we shall be ready to sell shares by the last quarter of this year or early next year,” said Ms Chacha. “I'm determined to see as many women as possible buying the majority shares to become effective owners of the bank."

As well as offering women special step-by-step financial advice, the bank is also trying to raise money to be able to offer women and young people low rate loans.

Generally, all aspect of the bank are growing fast, said Ms Chacha, adding, "It's normally not easy for a bank to issue loans in the early days of its launching but TWB has tried its best."

It’s just published quarterly financial statements for the period ending December 31, 2010, show the bank's loan portfolio grew by almost 60 per cent in a three-month period from 5bn/- in September to 8bn/- in December. Its assets grew by six per cent from 16bn/- to 17bn/- while customers' deposits increased from 12bn/- to 13bn/- during that period. Currently, the bank opens 80 new accounts daily.

MP Gertrude Mongella hailed the achievement and said it was also an honour for Tanzanian women who have struggled over the years to see their dream come true.

Hayley attribution