A young male tailor works at a sewing machine
VSO/Jack Howson

Encouraging grassroots growth in Tanzania

Tanzania Local Enterprise Development (T-LED)

This project has now ended.

Funded by GAC, the Tanzania Local Enterprise Development (T-LED) project is supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to thrive, and increasing employment opportunities within them.

The five-year project will promote sustainable economic growth, create 2,500 new jobs, and increase the income of 1,300 SMEs, by: 

  • improving people's knowledge of market opportunities and financing available;
  • supporting women’s ability to develop their businesses;
  • strengthening existing institutions to offer better, market-driven and gender-sensitive support to SMEs.

T-LED has supported 1,361 SMEs to date.


SMEs involved in T-LED have created 2,156 new jobs.


Participants have seen an average 65% increase in income.


76% of female business owners have improved their confidence, negotiation and networking skills.

We're working to improve the chances for small and medium enterprises in Tanzania

Supporting businesses to thrive

SMEs are categorised into three tiers based on their revenue, size of staff, and time in business. The specific services offered then depend on how each business has been categorised, ensuring relevant support is given when it’s needed the most.

Enterprise Innovation Centres

We’ve established three regional Enterprise Innovation Centres in Mwanza, Iringa and Mtwara, which provide market-driven and gender-responsive business development and financial services.

These centres are critically important for creating links between businesses, and assisting people in getting their start-ups off the ground.

A woman sits holding a tub of peanut butter, with more tubs in front of her
VSO/Jack Howson
Entrepreneur Bora Mganda is growing her nutritional food business with support from T-LED expert volunteers, who are supporting her to scale up to match demand by investing in technology.

Volunteers with technical expertise are based within the Centres, as well as running outreach activities in the wider communities. Volunteers coach entrepreneurs and work to improve their access to finance, technology and markets, alongside forging connections between new businesses and existing private sector companies.

Last year, 18 national and 19 international volunteers collaborated with national partner organisations to share their expertise in areas including business, marketing, graphic design, environment, gender and finance.

Putting females first

T-LED has a particular focus on working to overcome the additional challenges faced by female business owners and women-led SMEs.

We’re building the capacity of the Tanzania Women Chamber of Commerce (TWCC) to lead on delivering gender initiatives, including advocating for systemic changes based on issues identified by female business owners.

We’ve established a regional gender desk within the Enterprise Incubation Centres, where we offer specific support tailored to the needs of women. 76% of female entrepreneurs who’ve benefited from this training have improved their confidence, negotiation and networking skills, and over 93% feel they have become more assertive, taking on leadership roles and making decisions in their business.

A woman punches the air and smiles in the street outside a row of buildings
VSO/Jack Howson
Felister Matoke Nyange has grown her tailoring business and now employs 33 marginalised young people.

From a single sewing machine to a team of 33: Felister’s story

One woman whose business has been transformed by T-LED is Mwanza-based tailor Felister Matoke Nyange. "T-LED is everything to me", she says. "Without it, I couldn’t support marginalised women."

After starting out with just a £17 sewing machine in the mid-1990s, Felister is now using the support of VSO volunteers to develop her business. Thanks to the expert training, business advice and market linkages she's developed through her involvement in T-LED, she now employs 33 marginalised young people and has just secured a £22,500 contract.

For Felister, the impact has been life-changing: "None of this would ever have been possible without VSO. Without it, there was no chance of securing big orders... no opportunities to purchase the extra equipment to fulfil those orders, and no money to expand my premises and create more jobs."

"It's meant my business can grow and I can be there for more young marginalised women in a way that I was never able to when I was in their situation."

Stories from T-LED

Two female students pose in front of a wall of hanging fabrics at the Subra Tailoring Enterprise
VSO/Nicky Woo

Breaking down bottlenecks to growth in Tanzania

With one of the world’s youngest populations, Tanzania’s economic growth is being driven by young entrepreneurs.

Mangrove planting

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