MEII takes a specialized approach to each of our countries of operation.
SME Technical Assistance
Missing Middle SMEs
First, to support economic development and employment in Tunisian SMEs, the Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII), in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) launched the Tunisian Credit Guarantee Facility (TCGF) in 2015. TCGF is designed to stimulate appropriately structured lending to bankable Tunisian SMEs utilizing cash flow-based lending techniques. MEII employs a comprehensive technical assistance strategy devised to complement the guarantee facility.
Second, MEII has developed Tamweeli Assist and Tamweeli Academy which is aimed at improving the accounting and financial literacy of SMEs. MEII believes that improved financial literacy leads to enhancing financial transparency and governance, which can facilitate better access to finance for SMEs and allow them to grow and hire more people. By developing the financial literacy and financial disclosure, SMEs can transparently present their bankability and cash flows to financial intermediaries, which in turn can better assess risk and underwrite loans.
Third, In 2015, MEII launched the Tamweeli Matchmaking Platform in Palestine. Tamweeli is an innovative online platform that harnesses the security, speed, and simplicity of the internet to streamline the financing process for both financial intermediaries and SMEs by connecting businesses with financing requests to financial intermediaries, mainly banks and MFIs.
Fourth, MEII is seeking to leverage its accumulated experience and is committed to raising the Fund in order to create jobs, reach a greater number of entrepreneurs and businesses, and fundamentally transform SME access to finance in the MENA region. The principal rationale for the Fund is to address a market failure to provide adequate and appropriate financing to feed growth in MENA’s SME sectors and introduce new financial products that better suit the needs of the “Missing Middle” SMEs.
With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic rolling over into 2021, Tunisia's fiscal outlook is continuously weakening. Real GDP contracted by 8.8% in 2020 as sharp declines in domestic and external demand followed the pandemic. With a 9.3% contraction, manufacturing, a mainstay of the Tunisian economy, was deeply impacted. An 80% decline in passenger arrivals also caused a downturn in tourism and transport. (World Bank)
While growth is expected to accelerate later this year, it will take serious efforts to return to pre-pandemic levels. The trajectory for economic growth in Tunisia will largely dependent on vaccine rollouts and global partnerships to mitigate what was lost.
Small and Medium Enterprises in Tunisia
According to the IFC, 98% of businesses in Tunisia are MSMEs, which account for about 40% of GDP and 56% of employment. While about 71% if MSMEs are banked, one-fourth of SMEs consider access to finance as a major obstacle to the operation of their business. SMEs ability to obtain financing for their business operations and investments is therefore crucial to Tunisia s future economic development.
Additionally, woman remained underserved in access to finance. Women in Tunisia participate in the ownership of 18-23
percent of the country’s formally registered firms. Yet their financial needs are largely unmet and their credit demand (among formal MSMEs) is estimated to be $595 million. (IFC)
Along with the majority of the global economy, the private sector was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite recording one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa, the Tunisian government has resisted imposing a second nationwide lockdown stating that the country "cannot afford it".