“Women have constantly been at the forefront of Tanzania’s Financial Companies and We are here for it”
Tanzania’s financial services sector is an important engine of economic growth and includes banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, and credit reference bureaus. In addition to these, several mobile phone companies offer mobile financial products, which have helped to drive financial inclusion for women and low-income people.
Leading Ladies Africa has set out to celebrate 7 of these women who have continued to be in the forefront and supported women inclusion in the workplace in Tanzania.
After 17 years in corporate and investment banking, in 2017, Sylvia-Shelukindo joined forces with three other career bankers to found Bankable Tanzania (Bankable), a financial advisory firm that works with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and companies to enable access to debt, equity, and consulting services. Bankable’s clients include women entrepreneurs and impact funds that have a mandate to invest in women-led and youth-led enterprises that have economic and social impact.
Sylvia Shelukindo is a Co-founder and Partner overseeing Debt Advisory at Bankable. She started her career in 2003 at African Banking Corporation in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Prior to co-founding Bankable, Sylvia was the Head of Client Coverage at Stanbic Bank Tanzania primarily responsible for Corporate and Institutional Banking, focusing on origination, structuring, execution and conversion across multiple sectors.
#InHerWords “There are impact funds and accelerators that train women entrepreneurs and give them a small starting loan if they qualify. But women are simply not taking advantage of such opportunities.”
For Juanita-Mramba, work is about more than getting a paycheck—it is about finding meaning and improving economic development in Tanzania.
She found her sense of purpose in 2010, when she returned to Standard Chartered Bank as Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing, where, amongst other achievements, she co-designed strategies for digital banking products and services that have increased financial inclusion in Tanzania.
She advises young employees, and especially young women, to find a peer at work who they can trust and ask for constructive criticism. “Have one go-to person at work with whom you can confide, vent, laugh, and exchange ideas, and who will give you honest feedback. This ‘go-to’ person, who acts as an informal mentor, can be a woman or a man.”
#InHerWords “Women leaders need to continually upskill themselves and make a special effort to understand the changing demographics of the workforce.”
Blandina-Kilama has always been clear about the purpose of her work.
She is set to improve women’s inclusion, and not just financially. Even before she decided to enter the financial services sector, she was interested in learning about issues related to women’s inclusion—be it in nutrition, healthcare, education, career development, or poverty alleviation.
She studied economics at the undergraduate level at the University of Dar es Salaam and went on to get a master’s in International Development from the Harvard Kennedy School in the United States, and a doctorate in Development Economics and International Development from Leiden University in the Netherlands.
#InHerWords “It is difficult for women to access mentors and role models since they have fewer networking opportunities. My hope for Sneakers and Heels is to build a network of mentors, and help young women identify relevant mentors.”
While rising to the highest echelons, Margaret-Ikongo has torn down barriers for women in Tanzania’s financial sector. She is a former Managing Director of the National Insurance Corporation (NIC), and the first, and the only woman, so far, to attain this position.
Currently, she is also a board member for three major Tanzanian corporations—NMB Bank, Vodacom Tanzania, and AAR Insurance Tanzania. Previously, from 2013 to 2016, she was a Trustee at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). As a result of her extensive knowledge of insurance and risk management, she is a highly sought-after executive.
#InHerWords “It didn’t matter if I could be fired for standing up for principles. I believed the NIC should not be sold, and I was willing to defend my position.”
Rosalynn-Mndolwa-Mworia found her career purpose at Vodacom Tanzania—the company that launched M-Pesa, Tanzania’s first mobile money product, in 2008. M-Pesa has revolutionized payments and become a key part of Tanzania’s financial inclusion strategy as the country seeks to include more women and youth in its financial system. Today, the company has 23 million customers, including the very poor. As Vodacom’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Rosalynn is responsible for ensuring that gender is integrated into the company’s marketing strategy, as well as its community investment approach.
She acknowledges the struggles that previous generations of women have endured as they worked to improve women’s opportunities in the workplace. She says that the current generation of women must play a role too in improving women’s career prospects.
#InHerWords “If you can change the life of a woman in the community, you are changing the whole community. If a woman is empowered, she will, in turn, positively impact her many circle”.
One of the first internal issues Natu-Mwamba addressed was the death of women directors across the central bank, which had resulted in a significant gender gap in the central bank’s management committees.
She raised the issue of the gender gap with the central bank’s Executive Office, and a new policy was developed to appoint a female senior manager to the internal committees that lacked female director representation. This allowed the committees to be more inclusive while giving leadership experience to female senior managers. Throughout her time at the bank, Natu vigorously promoted women’s career advancement.
She identified high performing female staff; developed a portfolio that showcased their expertise, skills, and performance; and presented them as candidates for promotion. By the time Natu completed her tenure at BOT in 2017, one third of its management positions were occupied by women.
#InHerWords “Although I was focused on managing my portfolio, as the first woman ever to reach such heights, I felt responsible for opening more doors for women. Imagine the chilling effect on a woman who wants to bring a case to the disciplinary committee, but all the members are men.”
Ruth-Zaipuna became the first Tanzanian and second woman CEO of NMB Bank in 2020 one of Tanzania’s largest banks. This was just two years after she was recruited as NMB’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Over the preceding two decades, she had cultivated deep technical and strategic skills, and as CFO, these skills, plus her ability to lead, garnered the attention of NMB’s board members, who promoted Ruth to CEO.
Ruth’s experience illustrates that supportive employers can be instrumental in enabling women to succeed, even when they are most vulnerable.
#InHerWords “If you have a finance department that challenges business, you will see results.”