Victoria Kisyombe is a leader who has used innovation, initiative, and determination to empower women in Tanzania to become economically self-sufficient, focusing especially on women who are heading families after being widowed by the rapidly spreading scourge of HIV/AIDS. Given women’s lack of collateral and resulting lack of access to capital, Victoria also began piloting micro-leasing as a solution. She changed the criteria of eligibility to enable women with no assets and little business experience to engage in commercial activities to support themselves and their families. The ability to generate cash flow, rather than collateral, became the factor that determined whether an applicant would be considered. Sero Lease and Finance Ltd (SELFINA) was formally registered in 2002 and has developed into a sustainable, for-profit operation providing micro-leasing to thousands of women clients in Tanzania. Victoria’s successful micro-leasing model has generated praise beyond Tanzania, and efforts are under way to expand the model to other countries in the region. Victoria has been a true innovator and pioneer in an important area, helping improve the livelihoods of thousands of impoverished women in her country, truly making a world of difference.
Victoria Kisyombe was profiled by the World Bank in 2007 – Doing Business in Africa; she is an alumnus of Vital Voices. She is one of the winners of the 2009 TIAW World of Difference 100 Awards. The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) recognizes women whose efforts have advanced the economic empowerment of women locally, regionally or worldwide.
Victoria was recently recognized as Winner of the Africa Social Entrepreneur of 2010 by the World Economic Forum/Schwab Foundation and has become a Schwab Fellow and Member of the World Economic Forum.
As Tanzania marks 50 years of independence, Victoria goes down in history of the country and has received an award of “Woman of determination 2011.”
Victoria Kisyombe is also a Pioneer Member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum based in Lyon, France.