In his first media appearance, CEO of Zitouna Tamkeen, Nabil Ghalleb unveiled the vision of this microfinance institution in relation to the proposal of the Prime Minister to create a special fund of 250 million dinars dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship.
This vision revolves around the creation of a fund that will not only mobilize more financial resources from other donors but also act as a platform that gathers a set of structures.
He also stressed the objectives set for the mobilization of financing lines in the order of 100 million dinars while deploying a network of 25 agencies to reach 65,000 beneficiaries.
In addition to these actions, Zitouna Tamkeen plans to launch the International Center for Economic Capacity Development (ICEE), which will be a real laboratory for the development of capacity- building projects.
Can you give us an assessment of Zitouna Tamkeen and the projects financed since its start?
Today it is still early to talk about a statistical review. We are in the starting phase and Zitouna Tamkeen is growing day by day, driven by the conviction to build a better world by participating in the economic and financial inclusion of the country’s disadvantaged populations.
With regard to financed projects, Zitouna Tamkeen, in partnership with the Délice Holding Group, will soon launch the project “Dairy Upstream: Lever for Regional Development”.
This first project is based on the approach of economic capacity in the sector of milk production and will cover 3 regions, namely the Northwest, the Northeast and the Center of Tunisia. The aim is to strengthen the production capacity of 2,500 beneficiaries over a five-year period through training workshops in the management of dairy farming and the financing of the components of agricultural micro-projects (pure-bred heifers, milking machines, milk cooling mini-tanks, stables and supplements) through the Islamic finance instruments.
What is the targeted population?
This project mainly targets vulnerable populations, especially small-scale dairy farmers and unemployed higher education graduates.
Similarly, rural women will play an important role, through the participatory approach in micro-projects of family farming.
It should be noted that the feasibility study of the project and the agreements with the stakeholders in the dairy sector have been completed in order to guarantee the start of the project before the end of 2016.
The Fernana delegation in the governorate of Jendouba was chosen for the launch of the pilot project, in the context of positive discrimination between regions and our firm conviction of the region’s eligibility to participate in sustainable development projects.
In addition to the upstream dairy project, other projects will soon be launched in other areas, such as beekeeping, trade, medicinal plants, the environment, fisheries, etc.
Is there a follow-up for these projects?
Certainly. There is always a follow-up for our projects. The follow-up and support will always be offered to the beneficiaries as this is an integral part of our package.
This monitoring is carried out by our field deployed agents and / or technicians and contract experts in case of need and according to the project.
What makes ZTM stand out from other microfinance institutions?
I do not want to compare myself to competition, but I am simply saying that we have two competitive advantages in Zitouna Tamkeen in the microfinance sector. These are the approach and the product.
For the approach, Zitouna Tamkeen adopts an approach of economic empowerment centered on a fundamental concept: changing our vision towards the poor or the unemployed and considering them as real partners of business and not as beneficiaries who only seek funding.
This is why Zitouna Tamkeen intervenes through a range of financial and non-financial services to promote entrepreneurship among young and old, notably: capacity building, business engineering, financing and support through our business agents deployed on the ground.
As far as we know, we are the only MFI with a central management dedicated to business engineering. We set up our projects of in-house economic empowerment, we close the financing schemes, we look for markets, and we build partnerships relevant to the success of the project, and so on. And this to finally offer structured and sustainable projects to the beneficiaries and to our partners.
As for the products, our financing respects the principles of the Islamic finance because we are convinced that the demand on these products keeps increasing in Tunisia. Thus it was necessary to come to supplement the conventional offer already existing by offering a sufficiently varied product range and leave it to the beneficiaries to decide.
What are your objectives especially in this gloomy situation?
The gloomy situation has affected everyone, but the quality of our national and international founders, the originality of our proven approach to economic empowerment in the four corners of the world, and our confidence in the resilience of our country to the economic crisis make that we remain optimistic about the achievement of Zitouna Tamkeen’s goals.
These objectives can be summed up in a few indicators over a five-year period, including: mobilizing financing lines in the order of 100 million dinars, deploying a network of 25 agencies, including 5 mobile units in addition to 5 regional branches to reach 65,000 beneficiaries.
Have you established partnerships with both public and private structures to achieve this?
We have already signed agreements with ministries, public institutions, higher education institutions, national and international NGOs and the private sector, our partner in projects that furnish our pipeline.
We are continuing to expand the network of our partners to foster the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tunisia.
To promote entrepreneurship, it was decided to create a special fund of 250 million dinars dedicated to young entrepreneurs. Have you developed a vision to ensure the proper use of this fund?
We have a somewhat particular view of this budget line. This vision revolves around the creation of a fund of funds that will not only mobilize more financial resources from other donors but also act as a platform that brings together a set of indispensable structures / solutions, essential, in our view, to promote this sector of microfinance and enable it to achieve the desired goals of everyone, including job creation and poverty reduction.
These structures / solutions are:
– A social impact investment fund: It is a private equity fund with a social impact and a reasonable financial return at different levels of maturity (start-up, venture capital or social venture capital, development capital, Etc.).
This fund will finance not only VSEs but also SMEs created by a large number of unemployed young people in solidarity. A participation decreasing in time from this fund could arrange small promising ones.
– A guarantee fund for MFIs: An effective and flexible guarantee fund that enables MFIs to easily carry out their financing activities with a sharing of responsibilities.
This fund may start with an initial allocation of 10 million dinars, which means commitments of up to 100 million dinars (due to the multiplier effect).
– Financing lines: The establishment of sustainable resources directed to the refinancing of MFIs.
– Technical assistance: support for development of the microfinance sector requires capacity building of actors at various levels, in order to improve their scope, effectiveness and sustainability.
This could be achieved through the establishment of technical assistance programs to strengthen the institutional capacity of MFIs / MACs, such as training, new technologies, information systems, internal and financial control mechanisms, social performance management system, impact, networking, etc.
How does Islamic micro-finance behave in Tunisia?
It should be emphasized that demand for Islamic financial products is important in Tunisia. According to a study carried out by Thomson Reuters in Tunisia, this demand could reach 40% of total demand on financial products, all categories combined, by 2018.
Zitouna Tamkeen will continue its financial function to popularize the culture of Islamic finance through symposiums and awareness-raising actions as part of a communication strategy that will help achieve these goals.
However, we are convinced that our competitive advantage is rather the approach to economic empowerment as I mentioned earlier; then we will channel our efforts towards the promotion of this approach.
How are you going to do that?
We are building strong relationships with civil society to jointly conduct advocacy actions to alert policy makers and public opinion about the importance of this approach and its effective role in fighting poverty and unemployment.
We are also planning to launch the International Center for Economic Capacity Development (ICEE), which will be a real laboratory for the development of capacity-building projects, which we believe will be a real investment bank not for the rich but for the poor.
This center will strengthen the “Tamkeen” ecosystem and will be our ambassador abroad and the arm of our development on a regional scale and why not a continental one.