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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Strive to be job creators, not job seekers, women graduates urged

18th October 2011

In this week's column, Gerald Kitabu interviewed Marieth Leonard Ngoma, an academician and entrepreneur on the position of women entrepreneurs in the country: Excerpts:

QUESTION: What opportunities are there for women entrepreneurs in the country today?

ANSWER: In fact, there are many opportunities for women economic empowerment. Technology is changing very fast and so are demands. This means that there are increasingly potential customers ranging from homes, streets to big markets which would need different products and services at different times.

Q: Many women cite lack of capital as a major obstacle to their business development. What are your views on this?

A: Doing business needs hardworking, curiosity and zeal. If one does not have enough capital, he or she can begin with a small business and then improve and develop it into a large company. That depends on one’s plans and objectives. As for the government, it has done a lot in improving business environment for the women and other people to access capital through different financial institutions such as SACCOS, NGOs, and VICOBA.

These are some of the catalysts for allowing people to be self- employed. However, there are now women sensitisations groups such as Equal Opportunity for All trust Fund (EOTF), Tanzanian Women Entrepreneur Networking Development Exposition {TWENDE} and the University of Dar es salaam Entrepreneurial Centre (UDEC). These facilitate and support all people and women in particular, by equipping them with entrepreneurship knowledge and to provide advice on business issues

So, determined women who want to get out of poverty can use such avenues and see the difference in their businesses.

Q: You have worked in different financial institutions as an accountant. Why did you change your mind and to become an entrepreneur?

ANSWER: Well, it is a very good question. In most cases when we are at school, the curriculum and syllabus prompts most students to go for direct employment after finishing their studies. This is very unfortunate -- especially at this fast changing world of science and technology.

Since I was young I had a dream to be a job creator and not job seeker. Experience shows that most of those who have managed to change the world are entrepreneurs such as Microsoft chief Bill Gates, founder of social networking site face book, American computer entrepreneur, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg and the former chief of Apple Inc. American entrepreneur and inventor the late Steve Jobs just to name few.

So, employment for me was like a field ground through which I could practise and later on use the knowledge gained from the university to create jobs for others. For me, resigning was a positive challenge but also I wanted to give chance to other fresh graduates to obtain skills and experience in their specialisation just like me.

Q: What kind of women trade is hot in the market?

A: It depends on one’s choice: knowledge of the business and experience. Let’s take an example of owning a boutique. Experience shows that women entrepreneurs who own today’s world giant boutiques started their business as small suppliers. There are many such good examples in Africa, Asia and America where the Nordstrom boutique in Seattle, Washington, US, which is one of the biggest companies in the world, started as a small business.

In Tanzania today owning boutique could be one of the simplest techniques to become a part of the lucrative and successful women entrepreneurs. In the developed world, even in some East African countries, most successful boutique owners in West gate, East gate in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban earn good income while investing in other fields as well.

Just like other countries, in Tanzania, the market determines what one should sell. In my case I am planning to venture into technological entrepreneurship after accumulating enough capital. Currently I am dealing with a number of fashion boutiques at Sinza Afrika Sana.

My items range from men's wear to evening dress for queens, princesses and academy award winners. Since most Tanzanians love sports, I am also selling sportswear, beachwear, novelty items, baseball caps, T-shirts, lingerie, shoes and sandals, handbags, accessories and watches.

However, for upcoming women entrepreneurs with limited budget they don’t even need to lease an expensive space like the shops at New Post Office or Masaki; they can simply begin as suppliers of their products in different institutions and offices just like what I am doing at the University of Dar es Salaam. It is a good start and slowly one will build a network and increase her capital to open a shopping mall in just few years.

Q: What is your view on the business climate in Tanzania for women?

A: For sure, one of the best and conducive business climate in East Africa is doing business in Tanzania -- it is very easy for a woman to develop faster in business if she is determined and committed. The government itself is currently attracting women to invest in entrepreneurship due to lack of employment in the public sector.

However, various strategies are being adopted by the government including MKUKUTA just to promote their businesses only that a woman wants to be a businesswoman should be courageous and focused.

Q: What challenges are you facing in the course of doing your business?

A: There are a number of challenges including high taxes, fluctuation of the Tanzanian shillings against dollar, failure of people to appreciate the issues of quality, low purchasing power for the majority Tanzanians, counterfeit products, and stiff competition.

Q: Some women would want to do business but they lack education. What should they do?

A: Tanzania has many business education colleges and universities which they can use to acquire the necessary knowledge of doing business. There is the College of Business Education (CBE), Institute of Finance Management, Business School of the University of Dar es Salaam and many others.

I understand that trade and business systems are changing faster such that doing successful business requires one to have at least knowledge of business.

For example, after realising it as a challenge to business development, I decided to join the University of Dar es salaam Business School for a Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise (PGDEED). This course has assisted me to be knowledgeable in various issues related to business and entrepreneurship in particular.

Now I am able to do business confidently. I plan to pursue a Masters degree in International Business so as to widen my knowledge on how to deal with international markets. I also attend seminars and workshops through which I get a lot of knowledge.

I am also a member of the University Business Networking of Dares Salaam through which I get interaction with many entrepreneurs through various networking events and also coordinate participation of members in the trade fairs and exhibition.

For example, in Sept 2011 I was able to participate in the exhibition organized by the Tanzanian Women Entrepreneur Networking Development Exposition (TWENDE) through University Business Networking.

Q: Do Tanzanian women entrepreneurs stand a chance to benefit from the East Africa Common Market?

A: Tanzanians women entrepreneurs stand a better chance to benefit from the East African Common Markets because with the coming together of a huge market obviously even those who were afraid of taking risk may try.

The government through the Ministry of Industries and Trade, should continue with its role of providing information and look for potential markets in the region so that women can have a wider knowledge of different items needed in the regional markets.

However, since goods, markets and jobs in this free common market is in stiff competition, there is need to improve local goods and products especially in packaging, to be in very high quality before exporting them to other markets in the region.

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