A “Starting Point” for Young Tunisians to Launch Careers

Enda inter-arabe provided Essia Chalweh with funding and training on marketing techniques and managerial skills. © Pouffy

In Arabic, Bidaya means “starting point”—and that’s exactly what Essia Chalweh needed. The 28-year-old Tunisian designer dreamed of starting a furniture company that incorporated traditional motifs and materials into modern chairs and stools, but she lacked financing to begin production.

Chalweh turned to IFC client Enda inter-arabe, the leading microfinance institution in Tunisia. It had launched its Bidaya program to help young entrepreneurs develop their businesses. She received a loan of 5,000 Tunisian Dinars (about $2,300) at a critical moment in her company’s evolution.

Now, Chalweh’s company, Pouffy—which sells trendy, handcrafted furniture—has started to become a well-known brand in Tunisia. It employs three people and markets its goods via a store, trade shows, and online shopping sites.

Chalweh is just one of many Tunisian entrepreneurs benefiting from the “starting point” Bidaya offers. Funded initially by the Swiss government, the program has provided 12,000 loans to about 10,000 microenterprises since its introduction in 2011, and it has fostered the creation of more than 8,000 jobs.


New Era, New Initiatives

IFC’s support to Enda inter-arabe extends back years before Bidaya’s launch, and is based on the premise that expanding access to finance helps stimulate growth and create jobs. This is especially important in the Middle East and North Africa, a region grappling with chronic youth unemployment and undiversified economies.

In addition to providing nearly $16 million in loans to fund ENDA’s growth, IFC has worked with the microfinance institution to design and implement a comprehensive capacity-building program that included risk management, institutional strengthening, and product strategy. Enda is now becoming a for-profit institution and stands as a model for similar institutions in the Arab world.

We also helped Enda review its product marketing strategy and costs, introduce an advanced risk-management framework, and develop risk-sharing products for customers seeking alternatives to conventional microfinance. In addition, we helped the institution develop an approach to reduce nonperforming loans following the 2010-2011 uprising in Tunisia.


Assistance After Funding

Bidaya’s offerings reinforce Enda’s long-standing vision, goals, and programs. Through Bidaya, Enda has provided post-creation technical assistance to more than 230 entrepreneurs who show great potential. Of the program’s borrowers, about 63 percent are under 35 years of age, 21 percent have an advanced degree, and 35 percent were unemployed at the time they got their first loan.

To further support those behind the start-up enterprises, Bidaya has designed a mentoring program in partnership with Youth Business International to promote training and networking.

Pouffy—Chalweh’s furniture boutique—has seen the results of such a comprehensive approach to growing small businesses and the people behind them. After providing the initial loan, Enda has continued supporting Chalweh: she benefited, for example, from Enda’s post-creation support program, in which she learned about social security, marketing techniques, and managerial skills. She also attends Entrepreneur Clubs, which have allowed her to connect with other young businesspeople.

Building on the success of networking strategies like these, Enda is now creating Entrepreneurship Villages. The first, launched in 2015, aims to develop 150 sustainable and innovative projects by assisting 200 entrepreneurs. Like Chalweh, they each have a vision—and they’re looking for the “starting point” that will launch it into reality.

To learn more about IFC’s work in microfinance, visit www.ifc.org/gfm

Stay connected: #6DecadesOfExperience

Published in December 2016


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