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Nadera Abdul Latif, a 42-year-old entrepreneur who founded a small, artisanal soap-making company from her home in Jerash, Jordan, almost never went into business at all. Not because her home-made olive oil soaps weren’t popular—but because they were.

Abdul Latif started crafting her soaps with 500 Jordanian dinars (around $700) of her own, selling to neighbors and local residents. Business at Hadrian, as she named her company, was brisk from the start. But when she wanted to expand Hadrian she learned that a bank loan would require collateral. This mother of five, who also works as a general health technician, could offer nothing.

So Tamweelcom, one of the largest microfinance companies in the country, lent Abdul Latif the equivalent of $1,400, and later another loan of around $2,500. She used the funds to purchase glycerin, essential oils, and herbs—improving her soaps further—and demand grew. In 2017, Abdul Latif was awarded the Citi Bank for Small Business Award, which helped her procure a business license, establish a workshop, and promote her products more widely. All seven of her employees are women.

“I try to give women a chance to work and make money as I believe that women should support each other and work hard to enhance their life, exactly like me,” she says.

Microfinance loans are essential to help entrepreneurs in Jordan reduce vulnerability, increase their incomes, and improve their living conditions. IFC has been working with Tamweelcom since 2010 and last year we provided it with a $10 million loan in local currency so it could increase outreach to small business owners, including women like Abdul Latif.

Nadera Abdul Latif's business has enabled her to buy a house and provide for her family.

Long-term Goals

With Tamweelcom’s loans, Abdul Latif bought new machines for soap production and moved into a larger workspace to accommodate her growing business. One of her goals is expanding her reach to more countries. New social media accounts for Hadrian have already helped her export some products to Germany and Qatar. Ultimately, she’d like to automate her production line and continue to create job opportunities for women in her hometown.

This hints at the promise of microfinance in Jordan, an economy hindered by rising unemployment and an influx of refugees, among other issues. Together, these challenges have constrained national growth and pushed the poverty rate above 14 percent.

Jordan’s micro, small, and medium enterprises—which account for over 90 percent of businesses and comprise around 70 percent of private sector employment—also confront serious obstacles. Access to formal financial services remains limited—in fact, this sector receives just 10 percent of total bank lending. A large number of unregistered home-based businesses and self-employed workers also have no access to bank finance.

Loans from Tamweelcom helped Emad Dababneh open two sewing shops.

Empowering Entrepreneurs

Microfinance can play a pivotal role in easing these burdens, and that’s where Tamweelcom helps its clients.

“Our long-term strategic partnership with IFC continues to be aimed at sustainably expanding our reach across Jordan and the micro and small business sector where access to financial services is very limited,” says Niveen Abboushi, Chairwoman of Tamweelcom. “Tamweelcom is committed to supporting Jordan’s National Financial Inclusion strategy and re-shaping the future of this industry through a growing suite of responsible financial solutions pinned on a digital transformation.”

During the past decade, as part of several comprehensive advisory engagements, IFC has supported Tamweelcom’s construction of a robust risk management framework. This effort has allowed the microfinance institution to more than double its portfolio and expand outreach from 73,000 to over 93,000 active borrowers. IFC has also supported the re-design and piloting of Tamweelcom’s business loan product, which by the end of December 2018 had disbursed over 1,600 loans valued at over 17 million Jordanian dinars (around $24 million).

For Abdul Latif, success as an entrepreneur has offered her family better opportunities. She has been able to purchase a house and a car and is able to provide for her children’s health and education.

“I am proud to be one of the pioneers who managed to become a producer with just a simple and inexpensive idea,” she says.

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Published in May 2019