How was my First Day with FINCA Tanzania?

Let me make a proper introduction first. This is Tanzanian style. Always ask “How are you?” first, follow suite and get to the point only after having heard “Welcome!” If you can’t wait to read how my day was, kindly jump to the bottom.

FINCA stands for the Foundation for International Community Assistance. John Hatch conceived “Village Banking” in 1984. His plan enabled poor Bolivian farmers with no collateral to access loans through a collective guarantee.  In 1985 Hatch established FINCA.


Fast forward to 2015. After 30 years FINCA operates subsidiaries in 23 countries of Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America, serving over one and a half million people.

“FINCA is not a typical charity. Although we are a nonprofit, we operate using sound business principles and an entrepreneurial spirit. We have developed a very innovative organizational structure that set a new standard for the microfinance industry which allows us to mobilize private and commercial capital while keeping true to our mission. We deliver a real “double bottom line” that couples positive social impact with financial sustainability. Our ultimate goal is to combat poverty by creating employment, raising family incomes and reducing poverty world-wide.” (from their website)


Founded in 1998, FINCA Tanzania became the first microfinance institution in the country to be granted a microfinance banking license in 2013, allowing it to mobilize savings from both clients and the general public. Being regulated has both an upside and a downside. All new products and agents now need the approval of the Bank of Tanzania. Using the name FINCA Microfinance Bank to collect savings needed a different approval step which was only completed last month (in June 2015). On the positive side FINCA can now complete the money cycle and get relatively cheap money to use as loans to become even more sustainable. It has now also been awarded a seat at the table of the regulated banks. With 26 branches and 700 employees, it serves urban and rural clients throughout the country.

The CEO was so kind as to pick me up at the hotel and offer me some insights during and after the drive to the head office on Morogoro Road. There I shook hands with management and 100 other people. My head was spinning – so many names. I got introduced to my new team (friendly people), the individual lending process (tough KPIs), the mobile banking (simply perfect – no smartphone or app required), some current challenges (one experienced team member leaving), local food (Ugali kuku nusu – polenta with half a chicken), met my old acquaintance Stoney Tangawizi (more about it in another post) and got to have a look at my apartment. A good first day!

Everything from payment to account statement in one simple mobile banking application, doesn’t even need a smartphone.

2 thoughts on “How was my First Day with FINCA Tanzania?”

  1. Hi Dominik, good to hear that you had good start in T. We wish you an exciting time in Tanzania. Currently we are experiencing tempartures of around 35 degrees in the last days. I am very interested in your statement that “a mobile application can work, doesn’t even need a smartphone”. Could you share more about this when you are back ?

    All the best from good old Europe !
    Swissyland is missing you
    Stay cool, stay tuned


    1. Hi Frank, it been a good and enriching experience so far. As far as the mobile experience goes – it’s a new world. Mobile banking is based on USSD codes, so the telco carrier must be involved. It’s mainly about mobile payment and account statements, but in a very simple way, using *xxx# codes

      Example telco “Airtel”
      Airtel Money service allows customers to pay their bills such as utility, receive bank transaction alerts, check account balance and receive mini statements, among other services.
      To access to the bank menu customer should dial shorts codes and follow the instruction Tanzania Postal Bank – dial *150*21#, Bank of Africa – dial *150*13#, etc.


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