Helping Small Businesses in Lebanon Gain Better Access To Finance

A $1,500 loan from an IFC client enabled Farid Sobh to buy a delivery van © Mohamed Essa/ IFC

Farid Sobh used to work as an ironsmith in the village of Mejdlaya in Lebanon—until his eyesight started deteriorating a few years ago because of the heat from the furnace.

“I was making good money, working for long hours with many clients,” says the 41-year-old father of three. “It was a family business, passed from father to sons. It almost destroyed my eyes, though. So I had to look for another job to support my family and keep my sight.”

Sobh turned to an IFC client, the country’s biggest microfinance organization—the Lebanese Association for Development, or Al Majmoua. Al Majmoua’s loans helped him establish a successful delivery business in his neighborhood. Today, he helps wholesalers distribute their products to medium and large supermarkets.

Sobh delivers supplies to the doorstep of local shop owners.

IFC extended a $2 million loan to Al Majmoua in 2014 to help it grow its loan portfolio and expand outreach to small-business owners like Sobh—and also to female entrepreneurs and the poor. With a market share of just under 50 percent and more than 46,000 active clients—more than half of whom are women—Al Majmoua has a well-established branch network, which it uses to reach out to underserved groups.

“The support from Al Majmoua was critical—it came at the right time,” says Sobh. His first loan from the institution—for $1,000—came through in just one week.

Sobh uses financing from Al Majmoua to buy eggs, milk, plastic goods and other products from farmers and wholesalers. He then goes to grocery markets to sell the products, after adding a small markup. He says it’s easier for shop owners to deal with him because “they don’t have to leave their business and search for products. I bring everything to their doorstep.”

In his first year, set out on foot to find clients. It didn’t get him very far. “So I used a second loan of $1,500 to buy a small van so I could go to other neighbors and find more clients,” he says. “But it was too small and couldn’t take a lot of goods. So later on, I used a third loan of $3,000 to buy a bigger van, which helps me distribute more products.”

“I started off with just five clients in my neighborhood—now I have around 50 clients across the whole town,” he says.

At IFC, we believe that better access to finance helps stimulate growth, create jobs, and reduce poverty. Our strategy in Lebanon—and the wider Middle East and North Africa—is to expand financial services to underserved regions and people, including female entrepreneurs. We do this in part by supporting leading microfinance institutions that have the capacity to grow.

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Published in August 2016


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