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Dar es Salaam – a city of hospitality & entrepreneurship
Moving across the world to a new city has been both an overwhelming and rewarding experience. As I settle into a new routine and learn to navigate a new city, I reflect on the people and experiences I have had thus far.
Let’s just say, it’s been amazing!
I arrived in Dar late on a Wednesday evening. The next morning, I arrived at the office to meet staff and receive orientation and training on MEDA’s SSBVC project.
SSBVC stands for Strengthening Small Business Value Chains (Kuza Biashara Sawia) project. This project aims to contribute to Tanzania’s economic growth and increase job creation by sustainably improving the business performance of small, growing businesses (SGBs) and small entrepreneurs.
You may be asking, how is MEDA involved in this process?
MEDA works with local partners to provide business development services and support market development. MEDA also partners with financial institutions to improve access to financial services in the extractives, agri-food, logistics, construction and manufacturing sectors.
Since my arrival, the local MEDA staff have been welcoming and incredibly gracious. My first night at my apartment was particularly memorable because one of the staff members brought me a housewarming gift. It was a small gesture that I greatly appreciated. From then on, I knew I was in good hands.
My glowing experience with the SSBVC team is not just personal, it is also professional. Even in my first couple days here, I have witnessed how incredibly talented, intelligent and hard-working the SSBVC team is. I am very excited to learn from their expertise – I just hope I can keep up!
But enough about me, let me tell you about three great experiences I have already had in Dar es Salaam!
Dar is an amazing city – and one thing is for sure, this city is bustling with entrepreneurial expertise and potential. Everywhere you go there are entrepreneurs. I know MEDA is in the right place.
My first weekend in Dar I had the unique opportunity to attend a local fashion show. A number of us were able to try on dresses by Kemi Kalikawe, a local designer that started her fashion enterprise in 2008 and has been designing garments ever since.
During Swahili Fashion Week, she won “2017 Innovative Designer of the Year” and has since travelled to participate in fashion shows all over the world.
Kemi’s business pursuits are not limited to fashion. She is also passionate about mentoring and investing in youth. Recently, Kemi launched a fashion incubator that helps young designers succeed. She is an incredible business woman and I am excited to see what she does next.
My first couple days in Dar were punctuated by many visits to the market. But my favourite visit was to the monthly farmer’s market in Oyster Bay. At this market, vendors promoted products from all over Tanzania – ranging from fresh produce, honey, spice, coffee and chocolates to natural skincare products. It was wonderful to talk with the small business owners and learn what inspired them to become entrepreneurs.
One business will always stay with me. It was owned by a husband and wife and sold coffee from the highland region of Tanzania. Their genuine kindness and delicious coffee sold me on the product – but what really convinced me was their story.
Their three-year-old business was created to support families whose children have cancer. They told me of the incredible financial burden illness places on families in Tanzania; not to mention the intense mental and emotional toll of walking a child through cancer. Their story nearly moved me to tears and is a business that I am more than happy to support, even if in a small way.
Finally, I had the opportunity to view a Tanzanian film called Fatuma. This film depicted the challenges women farmers face in Tanzania. It told the story of a rural farmer named Fatuma who faced trials like unfavorable weather, pests and poverty. Fatuma works incredibly hard to provide for her family – but when her husband squanders her prize-grown maize and marries off their 15-year-old daughter, Fatuma decides to fight back in order to keep her family afloat.
In the end, Fatuma joins a savings and loans group for women which empowers her to make independent decisions about her farm and her family.
What was even more interesting was watching the audience. It was intriguing to watch how they reacted to the events unfolding on the screen. As many of them saw their lives or the lives of others reflected in the film.
Fatuma won a number of awards at the 2018 Zanzibar International Film Festival, including Best Feature Film due to its accurate portrayal of the challenges many women still face as entrepreneurs.
Watching this film confirmed the work that MEDA is doing in Tanzania. I am excited to support women entrepreneurs through MEDA’s SSBVC project.
As I reflect on the experiences I have had this past month, I can only look forward with anticipation about upcoming experiences. I am excited to meet new people, learn new things and experience everything that Tanzania has to offer.
Bring on the next 5 months!
Chrissy is the Capacity Building & Communications Intern on the Strengthening Small Business Value Chains Project in Tanzania. She is currently working towards her Master’s of Development Practice through the University of Waterloo and is passionate about working with small and medium entrepreneurs around issues of gender equality, environmental sustainability and food security.