Kawther Bedhiaf is one of 1,000 ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ in Tunisia who have benefited from an EBRD credit line designed to help those frequently overlooked by commercial banks, as part of a project supported by European Union funding under its EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion.
Under the initiative, the EBRD has leant TND 4 million (the equivalent of €1.6 million) to Microcred for on-lending to women, young entrepreneurs and people living in rural areas to develop their own businesses.
Kawther Bedhiaf grew up in a town called Hedra, close to the mountains. “Being surrounded by beautiful nature inspired me to become interested in local herbs and oils,” she explains. “My interest became a passion, so I decided to learn everything possible about organic products.” Soon it dawned on her that her interest could be turned into a profitable business.
“I started to become a hairdresser, then studied to become a beautician. I took out a loan and started working.” A small loan of TND 4,000 through the EBRD credit line helped Kawther establish her dream business. Her beauty parlour uses only organic products and offers a full range of services: facial care, body massages, haircuts and treatments, manicures and pedicures.
Now, her business has become so popular that Kawther employs several people to work with her. She is particularly proud of having created job opportunities for other local women.
For small businesses and for entrepreneurs, access to finance is a major challenge in Tunisia, especially in less-developed regions.
“Our cooperation with the EBRD has helped us to provide financial support to the less developed regions of the country and to contribute to create new opportunities where they are most needed,” said Sehl Zargouni, Chief Executive Officer of Microcred Tunisia.
“Through the EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion we are able to help dynamic entrepreneurs to grow and create new jobs. This is how we can concretely improve people’s lives,” says Patrice Bergamini, Head of the EU Delegation to Tunisia.
Together with the EU, the EBRD is offering more loans of this kind to support women, young entrepreneurs and rural populations across the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, helping to ensure sustainable, inclusive growth.
The EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion is a comprehensive programme to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region to become more competitive and grow. It provides finance and know-how to boost development and create jobs.