How to Start a Business in Tanzania with (Almost) No Money

  | 6 min read

Why should you start your own business?


Working for yourself is one of the most challenging yet rewarding decisions you can make in your life. Not everyone is cut out to be employed by other people, and if you exhibit signs of being an entrepreneur then it may be time to branch out and start your own company. However, one of the biggest barriers to launching a business is not ambition or even having a good idea, instead, it’s having enough starting capital. While there a more and more banks in Tanzania that do offer loans, they often require you to already have at least 20% of the capital needed and the interest rates can scare off people who are already cautious about their limited resources. Moreover, with generally low salaries and high costs of living, it can take you decades to save the amount of money you think you need for your business venture.


A note on registering your business


You will need some capital to get all the necessary paperwork to legally operate your business in Tanzania. In fact, the World Bank’s Doing Business Report has a detailed explanation of all the necessary steps you’ll have to take to register your business in Tanzania. Luckily, the less capital you have the less amount of money you’ll have to pay overall.


Well, despite these challenges, it’s still possible to start a business and grow it into a successful company that will sustain you and your family for years to come. In fact, here are 5 tips that will help you on your path as an entrepreneur.


  1. What do you have?


You may have a great business idea that you are excited to try out, but before you commit to it and develop a business plan you need to seriously evaluate the resources and knowledge base you have available to you at the moment. This includes:


  • What do you know? Including, what professional experience you have that will help you run the business.
  • What skills are you really good at?
  • What resources do you currently have? For instance, do you have a laptop or tablet you can use for your business? If you want to engage in agricultural activities,  do you have access to some land or raw materials?


All in all, you need to modify your approach when thinking about your business plan. So instead of creating your plan and thinking about what resources you’ll need. You need to first look at what resources you already have, and create a business plan based on that. This will prevent you from coming up with strategies that require a lot of capital and resources that you don’t have access to, or force you to invest in acquiring knowledge and experience that you don’t already have.


  1. Who do you know?


You’ve surely heard of the saying, ‘it’s not about what you know, but who you know”. Well, part of analysing what resources you already have is figuring out who you know and how they can potentially help you in your business venture. Ok, so you may not know a senior level member of a bank or anyone with the authority to help you take shortcuts in registering and establishing your business (which you shouldn’t do anyways). But you may have:


  • A network of friends with high numbers of followers on social media that can help promote your business
  • Older family members with their own network of influential friends that can assist you in meeting some potential investors, sponsors, partners, etc
  • Peers in the industry that can mentor you and give you feedback and tips as you develop your business


  1. Cut operating costs


Unless you want to start your own restaurant or any business that absolutely needs a physical address, when starting out, it’s best to keep your operating costs as low as possible by working from your current place of residence.


Moreover, while you can’t do everything alone in the long-run, try and only hire the most essential of employees like an accountant and do as much as possible by yourself (for as long as you can). However, when things get overwhelming, you should definitely hire people to help you. One way to lower costs of employees is to outsource work to freelancers through sites like Upwork and Truelancer, as they tend to charge fair rates. However, over time, it’s ideal to hire full-time employees who you can work with closely and create a sense of community.


  1. The internet is your friend


The internet is probably the biggest ally for most  entrepreneurs. Not only can you find potential freelance employees to work with online, but you can also get tonnes of free resources (blogs, ebooks, tutorials) that will help you gain new skills and knowledge for your business. Moreover, you can find and connect with potential investors and customers on different social media platforms, and advertise your business at low costs on popular platforms like ZoomTanzania.


  1. Invest what you can afford to lose


Many aspiring entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that they should only invest money in their businesses when they can be guaranteed a return on investment. This is why you’ll find that someone will wait until their side business starts to generate significant revenue to quit their job. And while this is a smart way to think, it can also result in you missing your opportunity to enter the market at the right time. So instead of waiting until you are ‘guaranteed’ success, you should calculate how much money you are willing to lose and invest that. That way, you won’t have to wait a long time to launch your business, and you won’t be devastated if your venture initially fails.


There’s no better time to start your business than the present


At the end of the day, starting your own business is always a gamble, there is no way to guarantee 100% success. But, if you follow these tips then you can find a feasible way to start your business with the resources you already have, rather than miss out on your opportunity because hauna hela. Take some calculated risks and hopefully, your efforts will pay up in the long run.

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.