Tanzania Virtual Business Incubator Programme

About the Programme

The Tanzania Virtual Business Incubator Programme started in 2009 as a pilot to test a new way of supporting women micro-entrepreneurs.

It is more popularly known as MKUBWA, the Swahili acronym for ‘Mpango wa Kukuza Ujasiriamali na Biashara kwa Wanawake’ which translates to “Programme to grow entrepreneurship and women entrepreneurs”. MKUBWA is also a Swahili word that means ‘BIG’, which is the aim of our programme – to grow women’s micro economic activities into big enterprises.

To initiate the programme, a World Bank-funded study identified sub-sectors with the highest growth potential for empowering women entrepreneurs. These were:  textile and tailoring (including batik making), handcrafts, food and soap processing and poultry keeping. These sub-sectors formed the basis for the programme.

The programme targets low income women entrepreneurs in Dar es Salaam and Kibaha who engage in the identified sub-sectors. The programme provides the women with a flexible package of business development services that are designed to support, facilitate and accelerate the growth of their businesses.

The women receive hands on training, individual coaching and mentoring, and business counselling. They are linked to business and market networks, regulatory authorities, and financial service providers. They also receive support on sector-specific product design and development from international experts.

Our programme collaborates with other institutions, like government ministries and civil society organizations, to provide additional services to the women entrepreneurs. The women are linked to the Business Registration and Licensing Authority for business formalization, Tanzania Revenue Authority for tax compliance, and other similar business-related services.

Social cultural norms often provide obstacles to women’s ability to run their own businesses, so our programme links them to entities that can help them address these social cultural issues. Specifically, the Ministry of Health counsels the women on how to run their businesses while supporting sick or elderly family members; Tanzania Women Lawyer’s Association teaches them women’s rights and human trafficking issues; and CCBRT raises their awareness on how to deal with health issues like fistula or children with disabilities.

Programme Results

Our programme has helped over 2,000 women entrepreneurs to increase the productivity, sales and profit of their micro enterprises. It has also helped to raise their self-confidence which has resulted in improved control over household income, children’s access to opportunities and general household well-being.

Several of the women who received advanced business development services developed new products and were able to improve their marketing strategies, technical and business skills, and increase their access to markets and financial services.  A catalogue of the women’s products has been showcased in textile exhibitions in Madrid and Barcelona and as a result, some of the women have been supplying beadwork and textiles to buyers in Spain since 2013.

The programme is on its third phase now and looks to empower a further 2,000 women entrepreneurs.

Programme Funders

The Tanzania Virtual Business Incubator Programme is supported by Comic Relief and the Cherie Blair Foundation. Previous supporters were the World Bank and the Italian Association for Women in Development (AIDOS) which developed the specific incubator model that is being used in the programme.