enda inter-arabe leader interviewed on institution’s role in microfinance in Tunisia

July 12, 2013

Tunisia live interviewed the co-founder and secretary-general of Tunisia network member enda inter-arabe.

Micro-Finance in Tunisia: An Interview with Michael Cracknell of Enda

In January, the Ministry of Finance announced it would reform the legal framework for micro-finance institutions in Tunisia, but the market has been slow to develop. Tunisia Live conducted an email interview with Michael Cracknell, the co-founder and secretary general of Enda, the leading micro-finance institution in Tunisia, to better understand the state of this industry and its prospects going forward.

Cracknell sees the access to finance as a vital aspect of development in a country like Tunisia.

“No-one can escape from the poverty trap honestly without access to financial services,” Cracknell says. “It is very difficult to build a business, however tiny, without cash to run it.”

How is Enda a pioneer in the micro-finance sector in Tunisia?
Enda opened in Tunisia in 1990. There were just the two of us, Essma Ben Hamida and me. We had literally no funding. We began working at Ichkeul National Park, near Bizerte. In 1993, we opened a community center at Hay Ettadhamen, the largest poor suburb of Tunis. Through our work with young school dropouts and women through a health education project, we discovered a big potential among women to develop income-generating activities. But they had no money to buy raw materials like wool and cloth to begin working. That’s how we got involved in micro-finance, in 1995. Tunisia at the time had no micro-credit activities. We introduced the concept of “best practice” micro-credit to the country, which is why we are the pioneers in the sector. We are sad that after all these years, no one has followed our example, despite our success. There are still people who believe poverty has to be treated with charity. Through best-practice micro-credit, however, the poor solve their own problems with dignity and pride.

How is Enda fostering entrepreneurship in Tunisia?
Just as with our first clients at Hay Ettadhamen, by providing access to finance, we enable people to develop their business, however small. Today, we are serving nearly 230,000 micro-entrepreneurs from 70 branches throughout the country. Forty percent of our clients are in rural areas. Our portfolio is some 150 million dinars, or 75 million euros. Before the end of this year, we shall lend our billionth dinar.

Most micro-finance is involved in existing micro-enterprises. But Enda has now introduced a new product specifically designed to encourage young people (18 to 40) to solve their unemployment problems by creating their own business. This product, called bidaya, benefits from support from the Swiss Confederation and has been a great success. Potentially risky, it has proved that young people, whatever their educational level, are able to set up and run a business and earn their living thanks to it. Indeed, the 2,500 young people we have so far supported (since November 2011) have created another 2,000 salaried jobs. Our target is to have 20,000 bidaya clients by the end of 2015.

Read the full interview on the Tunisia live website.