EBRD and EU spur inclusive growth in Tunisia

By Volker Ahlemeyer

EBRD and EU spur inclusive growth in Tunisia

En français

Microcred loans benefit 1,000 micro-sized firms

Kawther Bedhiaf’s professional dream started when she was a child in the Tunisian countryside.

“I grew up in a town called Hedra, close to the mountains. Being surrounded by beautiful nature inspired me to become interested in local herbs and oils,” she explained.

“My friends sometimes teased me about this and called me ‘Bio-Kawther’. My interest became a passion, so I decided to learn everything possible about organic products.”

Kawther is one of 1,000 ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ who have benefited from an EBRD credit line that is designed to help those frequently overlooked by commercial banks. A loan of TND 4 million (€1.6 million equivalent) to Microcred is on-lent to women, young entrepreneurs and people living in rural areas to develop their own businesses.

The project is supported by European Union funding under its EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion.*

Beauty parlour as market niche

“I had the idea when I was at home,” Kawther said. It suddenly dawned on her that her interest could be turned into a profitable business.

“I started to become a hairdresser, then studied to become a beautician. I took out a loan and started working.”

A small loan of TND 4,000 helped Kawther establish her dream business. Her beauty parlour uses only organic products and offers a full range of services: facial care, body massages, haircuts and treatments, manicures and pedicures.

She also added a hammam, a spa that is booked by groups of women who want to relax in private among friends.

Using natural products is not only in line with Kawther’s upbringing and philosophy, but also increasingly in demand among Tunisian consumers. More and more stands and shops offer these products in the local soukh, where Kawther buys her oils, ingredients and lotions.

This has an important knock-on effect, as her suppliers benefit from her success, too.

 “Kawther visits us two to three times a week to buy hair and oil products for her beauty parlour,” explained a supplier. “She is a loyal client.”

Her business is well known locally. Indeed, it has become so popular that Kawther needed to employ several people to work with her. She is particularly proud of having created job opportunities for other local women.

With a small loan of TND 4,000 we’ve helped Kawther establish her dream business. Her beauty parlour uses only organic products and offers a full range of services: facial care, body massages, haircuts and treatments, manicures and pedicures.

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Reaching out to Tunisia’s regions

For small businesses and for entrepreneurs, access to finance is a major challenge in Tunisia, especially in less-developed regions.

“We are continuously expanding our activities all over Tunisia and increasing our operational efficiency”, said Sehl Zargouni, Chief Executive Officer of Microcred Tunisia.

“Our cooperation with the EBRD has helped us to provide financial support to the less developed regions of the country and to contribute to create new opportunities where they are most needed.”

“Through the EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion we are able to help dynamic entrepreneurs to grow and create new jobs. This is how we can concretely improve people’s lives,” says Patrice Bergamini, Head of the EU Delegation to Tunisia.

Together with the EU, the EBRD is offering more loans of this kind to support women, young entrepreneurs and rural populations across the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, helping to ensure sustainable, inclusive growth.

Kawther believes that there is still huge potential to improve people’s lives by helping them to develop their own businesses. It’s a personal and professional journey, a positive experience that has provided her with new independence and one that she strongly recommends.

“I really encourage Tunisian women to take out small loans to make a living for themselves, start their own projects and succeed like me.”

* The EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion is a comprehensive programme to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region to become more competitive and grow. It provides finance and know-how to boost development and create jobs.