Silatech and PlaNet Finance to support young entrepreneurs

February 1, 2014 9:18 am

Silatech has joined forces with international NGO PlaNet Finance to support the Youth Entrepreneurship Project (YEP), a three-year initiative to improve access to financial services for young entrepreneurs in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon. The project is expected to benefit over 3,000 economically and socially disadvantaged youth and their families.

Launched by PlaNet Finance in February 2013, the Youth Entrepreneurship Project is a regional program designed to empower youth economically in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon by boosting the capacity of selected microfinance institutions from each country. The project is financed by the European Union, and partner microfinance organizations include the Arab Center for Agricultural Development (ACAD) (Palestine), the Alexandria Businessmen’s Association (Egypt), and the Lebanese Association for Development (Al Majmoua) (Lebanon).

During 2013, PlaNet Finance conducted market research including surveys, questionnaires and interviews to determine the needs of young microentrepreneurs in each country. Subsequently, a specially tailored program of assistance was designed based on the particular needs of each market. Silatech and PlaNet Finance signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on the Youth Entrepreneurship Project in later 2013 and the program is now set to launch.

PlaNet Finance will provide training to the staff of the three partner microfinance institutions (MFIs), while Silatech will provide business support services such as mentoring to young microentrepreneurs to improve their chances of business success, as well as usage of its trademark Tamheed psychometric assessment tool to MFIs to screen the entrepreneurial capabilities of potential youth beneficiaries. Both Silatech and PlaNet Finance will provide technical assistance to the participating microfinance institutions to help design and develop dedicated youth loan products. Silatech is also in discussion with the partner MFIs with regard to the provision of loan capital for on lending by the MFIs to young entrepreneurs.

According to Silatech CEO Dr. Tarik M. Yousef, “Young entrepreneurs face a difficult set of challenges starting and expanding businesses in our region. Access to finance through formal channels such as banks and financial institutions remains an obstacle, and entrepreneurship support programs are rare. We are proud to join with PlaNet Finance for the Youth Entrepreneurship Project, which will help extend access to finance and business support for microentrepreneurs.”

Amr Hegazi, Regional Director for the MENA region at PlaNet Finance also added “We at the PlaNet Finance MENA are very pleased to enter into a strategic partnership with Silatech for ongoing and future projects in the Middle East and North Africa region. Silatech’s experience and knowledge in the fields of market research, business development and youth entrepreneurship will be a great added value for PlaNet Finance’s current projects in Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine focusing on the economic empowerment of marginalized youth. Our regional team looks forward to this special cooperation that will inevitably lead to enhancing the economic and social livelihoods of marginalized Arab youth segments in desperate need for technical capacity building and financial support.”

At 26 percent, the Arab world has the highest youth unemployment rate of any region in the world.

Microfinance has proven to be a valuable tool in the effort to fight unemployment and poverty throughout the world, and microenterprise support programs such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Project aim to connect young microentrepreneurs with financing and complementary business support services to help them start and grow their own businesses.

Silatech is a regional social initiative that works to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for young people throughout the Arab world. The organization promotes large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship, access to capital and markets, and the participation and engagement of young people in economic and social development. With projects in 11 Arab countries, since 2009 Silatech microenterprise partnerships have fully financed over 40,000 youth businesses and provided assistance to over 200,000 young people. Silatech is the largest provider of youth-focused microenterprise services in the Middle East and North Africa.

PlaNet Finance, founded in 1998, is an international aid organization whose mission is to help impoverished people develop independent revenue generating activities to sustainably improve their living conditions. In the MENA region, PlaNet Finance has been active for over 10 years, with permanent offices in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and the UAE. Microfinance programes have been managed in many other countries in the MENA region, namely Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia and Sudan. In 2011/12 alone, PlaNet Finance implemented 11 projects in over 6 countries reaching out to almost 700,000 people in the region and of which 70% of them were women.