Watu celebrates three years in Tanzania

Monday July 01 2024

Watu Tanzania enabling lives and bringing smiles. Photo | Watu Africa


  • In three years, Watu Tanzania has transformed the financial landscape by adapting its motor financing model to local needs, notably three-wheelers.
  • Watu's “Ride Green, Ride Clean” campaign and Secondary Marketplace have financed over 500 CNG tuktuks and refurbished 400+ bikes, promoting sustainability and efficiency.
  • Watu's financial education efforts have led to 91 percent of clients reporting positive experiences and 70 percent noting improved savings abilities in 2024.
  • Watu Simu has financed over 130,000 devices and empowered 300,000+ entrepreneurs, enhancing digital inclusion and economic participation.

Tanzania has recently witnessed a remarkable transformation in the financial sector, leveraging the rapid growth of technology in developing and distributing financial services and products. Despite these developments, access to and usage of formal financial services still needs to be distributed nationwide.

To address this challenge, Tanzania embarked on a national collaborative approach between the public and private sectors to advance policies and innovative financial solutions that expand outreach to unserved and underserved communities.

Watu Tanzania has demonstrated a strong commitment to sustainable mobility and financial inclusion in just three short years. The company has empowered entrepreneurs, promoted sustainable energy, and improved the quality of life for Tanzanians. This effort is a crucial aspect of its broader African mission and is integral to supporting sustainable development.


Entering the Tanzanian market

The company’s entry into the Tanzanian market began a significant transformation. "Tanzania has been a very interesting market for our business," says Rumisho, Country Manager. "While operating across several East African countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC, Tanzania’s untapped potential and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit have made it a focal point for our expansion efforts."

Initially, two-wheeler financing was introduced, replicating a successful model from other regions. However, the Tanzanian market quickly revealed a substantial demand for three-wheelers. "In all the markets we operated in before Tanzania, the two-wheeler business was our focus," explains Rumisho. "But recognising the demand for three-wheelers, we adapted our offerings to include both, demonstrating agility and responsiveness to local needs."

Customer-centric approach and financial literacy

A cornerstone of Watu’s success in Tanzania has been its unwavering commitment to a customer-centric approach. The company recognised the low penetration of the formal banking sector from its inception and saw a critical need to enhance financial literacy. "From the very beginning, we understood that the literacy level of our clients wasn’t at its best," Rumisho explains. This insight prompted the development of simplified Know Your Customer (KYC) processes and comprehensive financial education initiatives. These measures ensure clients fully grasp their financial obligations and the benefits of disciplined saving and repayment.

This emphasis on education has yielded impressive results, with 91 percent of clients surveyed in 2024 reporting positive experiences during onboarding and repayment. Moreover, 70 percent of clients noted an improvement in their ability to save, underscoring The Company’s significant role in fostering financial stability among its customers.

Expansion beyond two-wheeler financing

Watu Tanzania’s innovative spirit extends beyond two-wheeler financing, with significant strides in smartphone financing through the Watu Simu initiative. "We are one of the biggest players in smartphone financing in Tanzania," Rumisho proudly states. This diversification addresses various needs within the Tanzanian market, enhancing connectivity and digital inclusion since its inception. Tanzania boasts a rising smartphone usage rate of 15 percent in December 2021 to 32.6 percent in March 2024 (TCRA). Watu Simu has financed over 130,000 devices, significantly advancing digital inclusion in the country. The initiative boasts more than 400 registered and active dealers and partners nationwide, contributing to a robust network that facilitates widespread access to mobile technology. 

Commitment to sustainability

Watu’s commitment to sustainable practices is further demonstrated through its “Ride Green, Ride Clean '' campaign. The company has introduced financing for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) supporting H.E Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan rallying for clean energy and electric three-wheelers, providing cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional fuel-powered vehicles. "Right now, we know with the cost of electricity and everything, the cost of operating the electric asset is 50 percent less than the cost of operating a fuel-powered three-wheeler," Rumisho highlights. This initiative reduces client operational costs and aligns with global efforts to combat climate change. Since the launch of CNG tuk tuk financing in April 2024, Watu has financed over 500 CNG tuk tuks, with plans to finance 3,000 by the end of the year.


Rumisho Shikonyi, Country Manager, Watu (Tanzania) admiring a three- wheeler. Photo | Watu Africa

Technological innovation and market reach

Watu Tanzania's success is based on the strategic use of technology. Automated processes, app-based interactions, and GPS tracking ensure a seamless customer experience. The company operates a cashless business model, exclusively utilising digital payments via mobile money wallets. "Simplifying access with quick approvals and minimal requirements allows clients to leave with their assets the same day," explains Rumisho. This technological edge has been instrumental in building trust and efficiency within the market.

A key aspect of the business model is the Secondary Marketplace, which has evolved into an essential part of its operations. This marketplace provides storage, refurbishment, and sales of pre-owned assets, supporting sustainability and affordability. "The Secondary Marketplace has evolved into a vital business component," emphasises Rumisho. Since its inception, over 400 bikes have been refurbished, and more than 5,000 previously owned bikes have been sold, illustrating the marketplace’s role in rejuvenating used assets and offering affordable options to clients.

Operational excellence and workforce development

Managing a large and diverse client base presents challenges, but the company’s strength lies in its people. "Our business is purely built around people," says Rumisho. The company boasts a young, dynamic workforce committed to achieving daily operational goals. This dedication is reflected in their ability to attract local funding and maintain high employee retention rates.

One of Watu’s most significant achievements is developing a dedicated team. "For me, the biggest success is building up a team of 350 plus people with a shared commitment and well-coordinated towards delivering what we’re supposed to do daily," Rumisho reflects. The company promotes internal growth and offers opportunities for employees to advance their careers, contributing to high retention rates and a strong organisational culture.

Impact on local communities

The impact of Watu Tanzania’s operations extends far beyond individual clients, significantly enhancing the livelihoods of their families and communities. It has steadfastly committed to improving the quality of life for countless Tanzanians. "We have significantly impacted the individual household level," says Rumisho. Each asset benefits multiple family members, creating a ripple effect of economic benefits. “We conducted a survey showing that 66 percent of clients reported an improved quality of life through Watu.”

The East African caught Ms Zuriathi Mwanjonde, one of Watu’s customers in Tanzania, and quoted her saying, “I have been able to increase my daily income through my Boda boda loan. I am happy with this opportunity and advise anyone who has lost hope to persevere and seize it from Watu, as it can help them earn an income and even achieve great things.”

Moreover, Watu’s clients collectively cover up to 4.6 million kilometres daily, showcasing their services' extensive reach and impact. This level of mobility is crucial in a rapidly urbanising country like Tanzania, where efficient transportation solutions are essential for economic growth and development, especially when the sector alone created 2,379 jobs in January 2024, a significant increase from 542 jobs in the same period the previous year (TIC).

Future plans and expansion

Under Rumisho's leadership, Watu in Tanzania has significantly impacted individuals, communities, and the broader economy. Their dedication to sustainable mobility and financial inclusion in Africa is commendable. As they continue to innovate and grow, their mission remains to empower the future.

Rumisho aptly summarises their journey: "The wound is where the light enters you. Our challenges and successes have brought us light and inspiration, driving us to reach even greater heights. We look forward to many more years of transformation and empowerment."

This article was authored by Jasper Andrew Kwayu, email [email protected]