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EBRD and EU support inclusion of women, youth and regions in Tunisia

By Volker Ahlemeyer

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Boosting Tunisia’s economy for the benefit of everyone

Soumaya Riahi lives close to Mastouta, a small village in northern Tunisia. At the age of 23, she had been unemployed for three years, as the area offers only limited opportunities for young people.

Soumaya is one of many Tunisians facing similar challenges, with youth unemployment estimated at above 30 per cent.

The EBRD and the European Union (EU) provide targeted support to female entrepreneurs, young people and those living in less-developed regions. A Din 4 million (€1.6 million equivalent) credit line through Microcred is helping boost the participation of these segments of society to ensure sustainable, inclusive growth in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region.

Small amounts that make a difference

Soumaya’s idea was to start a small cow farm in her home village to produce milk and further grow the farm, and with it her business. To put her plan into action, she obtained a small loan of Din 5,000 (approximately €1,700) from Microcred that allowed her to purchase the first few animals.

“I wanted to start a small venture that I could expand little by little over time,” she explains. Apart from the finance needed, Soumaya also benefited from a training programme for young people on how to manage a business. This allowed her to establish a concrete plan on how to build her small enterprise.

Her hard work has paid off very quickly: “My living conditions – and those of my family – have changed for the better thanks to this project,” she says. “This has given me hope, because I believe in my project and I am fully committed to making it a success.”

In Tunisia, the activities with Microcred have helped more than 1,000 entrepreneurs who would not have previously been able to realise their ventures. This includes, for example, Sofia who wanted to expand her small tailoring business in Le Kef, not far from the Libyan border – or Imed who added new fruit and vegetable varieties to his market stand in the same town.

Regional impact

In total, the EBRD provides €100 million in credit lines to financial partner institutions in the SEMED region. The aim is to provide much-needed access to finance to local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and help them grow. This, in turn, is expected to provide a boost to the economy and new employment opportunities. The EU supports this project with €27.6 million through its EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion.*

“Our goal is to spur economic growth by ensuring that more people have adequate access to the advice and finance they need to contribute meaningfully to the economy,” says Antoine Sallé de Chou, Head of the EBRD’s Tunisia office. “This will help to create new employment opportunities across Tunisia and release the full potential of the country’s economy.”

“Thanks to our joint cooperation with the EBRD and other international financial institutions within the EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion, there is a potential to reach out to more than 200,000 enterprises in the Southern Neighbourhood region. This can create a lot of new jobs, thus making a huge difference in people’s lives,” adds Patrice Bergamini, Head of the EU Delegation to Tunisia.

Back in Mastouta, Soumaya stresses that this is only the start and she still has big plans for the future. “I am planning to take out a further loan to buy more cows and further grow my business.”

* 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.

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