Tunisian NGO compiles directory of Arab microfinance institutions
Tunis, Tunisia, June, 22 2007 -
The Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR) announced last week that it has developed an information resource that will help women lift themselves and their families out of poverty by helping them gain access to small credits.
Microcredits are small loans that allow poorer borrowers to enter the formal financial sector at a level that they can afford. The credits are large enough for one person to undertake a small income-generating project, but small enough that the borrower can repay the loan without an insurmountable burden on their ability to support themselves and their family.
Specialized financial institutions offering microcredits and other microfinance services such as deposits, transfers and insurance have appeared in the Arab world. But despite high levels of poverty and unemployment in the region, the distribution of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and their membership in regional networks such as Sanabel and Microfinance Network remain uneven.
An advance copy of the directory revealed a large disparity in the number and size of MFIs in the Maghreb. The directory lists 66 MFIs in Tunisia, 42 in Morocco, 36 in Mauritania and 14 in Algeria.
CAWTAR's Hedia Sebai said the idea to compile the directory of the region's MFIs stemmed from the UN General Assembly’s declaration of 2005 as the Global Year of Combating Poverty. The primary goal of the initiative, Sebai said, is to "bring together information for all those who need it", including both men and women who seek a loan to help them get over the first hurdle in improving their social circumstances.
"It will help women like me searching for funding institutions to overcome the difficulty of locating precise addresses," said Radhia Zarkouni, as she prepared submit a loan application to the Tunisian Solidarity Bank in order to set up a sewing workshop, said she had not heard of this guide previously.
The guide includes full contact information for each institution and details on services it offers and the borrowers it targets.
President of the Tunisian American Association for Behaviour Studies, Chemma Gharghouri, said that the directory would help not only those searching for loans, but also grassroots organisations seeking to exchange expertise and communication with each other.
Gharghouri called for the establishment of a Maghreb MFI alliance, saying that "our associations are small associations and a single one cannot work alone, particularly in matters related to interacting with international donor organisations."
"Information such as this the guide provides is priceless," said Mohamed Zamnader, director of the National Association for Agricultural Development (ANDA). "It makes it easier for organisations to communicate with each other and it gives those wishing to start their private projects precise and clear addresses."