Supporting social entrepreneurship, innovation and transparency in Tunisia

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For decades Tunisia has been one of Africa’s best performers in macroeconomic and social policies. But the social unrest and political turmoil that engulfed the country in January 2011 showed that, despite its comparative economic success, several key social and development challenges remained.

Souk At-Tanmia (development marketplace) is a platform of coordination established by the African Development Bank and its partners to provide an immediate, tangible and effective response to such challenges by supporting social entrepreneurship, innovation and transparency.

A tailor-made and quick impact initiative, Souk At-Tanmia aims to identify, fund and coach innovative grassroots projects that promise to generate sustainable employment and distribute revenues countrywide, especially in the poorest regions.

The initiative has brought together, in a coordinated manner, 20 partners, including the following:

  • Development institutions: the African Development Bank Group, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, U.S. Government, Danish Government, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Development Programme, International Labour Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and The British Council.
  • Private sector: Tunisiana, Total Tunisie, Talan, Mediterranean School of Business and Microsoft.
  • Public sector: Banque Tunisienne de Solidarité and Banque de Financement des PMEs.
  • Civil society: Touensa.
  • Professional bodies: Confédération des Entreprises Citoyennes de la Tunisie and Centre des Jeunes Dirigeants d’entreprise.

To date, the initiative has raised some US $1.2 million, which adds to an equivalent amount in terms of in-kind contributions through various forms of support from partners (coaching/mentoring, capacity-building seminar, web design).

Providing grants: the donation allocated to each selected project will be between US $6,000 and US $18,000. For the first edition, the initiative has awarded US $1.2 million in grants to 71 projects.

Providing financial support: to stimulate the development of small and medium-size enterprises, projects eligible for loans may use the seed grant to secure more funding from the banking sector. Of the 71 projects, 42 were able to raise additional funds from commercial banks.

Providing training and mentoring: In addition to its financial support through grants and loans, Souk At-Tanmia’s technical assistance, coaching and mentoring are an integral part of its activities. Almost all the partners are committed to them under the coordination of the United Nations agencies. So far, all 71 selected projects are benefiting from this program.

Projects were chosen based on profitability, feasibility and employment-generation potential. Additional bonuses were afforded to projects that showed innovation, helped vulnerable populations and helped reduce regional disparities.