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Helping small and medium enterprises to grow, encouraging inclusive business development that generates decent employment opportunities for poor and marginalised communities. 

Working with volunteers, local partners and government, our project teams offer business development services to help entrepreneurs move their SMEs (small and medium enterprises) into the formal economy.

We support businesses with different levels of advice and services, depending on their needs: 

  • Training Services: A basic entrepreneurship training curriculum is run by local government and is open to all SMEs. 
  • Advisory Services: Offered to SMEs who have progressed their business during the training. Business management, marketing and finance expertise is delivered by volunteers. 
  • Advanced Business Development Services: Offered based on the needs of individual SMEs in line with the advisory services provided. Support for branding, marketing, operating models, access to finance and strategic consulting are all delivered by expert volunteers.

Project focus: T-LED - Encouraging grassroots growth in Tanzania 

Funded by GAC, the Tanzania Local Enterprise Development (T-LED) project will create 2,500 new jobs and increase the income of 1,300 SMEs by: 

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

"T-LED is everything to me" says Felister Matoke Nyange. "Without it, I couldn’t support marginalised women." 

From starting with a £17 sewing machine in the mid-1990s, she’s used the support of VSO volunteers in Mwanza on the Tanzania Local Enterprise Development (T-LED) programme to develop her tailoring business. Twenty five years later, she's employed 33 marginalised young people and has just secured a £22,500 contract. 

Volunteers with technical expertise are embedded in institutions as well as out in communities, coaching entrepreneurs to improve access to finance, technology and markets, and making connections with private sector companies. 

Felister Matoke Nyange Tanzania VSO/Jack Howson

Felister Matoke Nyange has grown her tailoring business and now employs 33 marginalised young people.

The T-LED project has established Enterprise Innovation Centres that provide business development services to SMEs. These centres are critically important for creating links between businesses and assisting people in getting start-ups off the ground or growing their businesses. 

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 from these schools, 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."

Other areas of our work supporting resilient livelihoods: