“In one year we have come a long way and Tunisia is taking concrete steps in the adoption of social business. It will soon be a model for African countries and I am very happy,” said Professor Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, pioneer of microcredit and co-founder of the Yunus Social Business (YSB) during his visit to Tunisia on 9 and 10 May 2014.
This, his second visit to Tunisia, offered a renewed opportunity to meet representatives of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and to review progress on social business initiatives in Africa following his participation in the 2013 National Conference on Social Business and the launch of the AfDB Holistic Social Business Movement (HSBM) Programme.
“Today HSBM Programme is well advanced in Tunisia, an indication of the appetite that exists for social business among Tunisians,” said Aly Abou-Sabaa, AfDB Vice President for Agriculture, Water, Human Development, Governance and Natural Resources. The HSBM programme has established a steering committee composed of representatives from government, private sector, civil society and service providers, created an incubator and launched the first Social Business Accelerator in Tunisia called “iBDA”.
Following the call for proposals for iBDA, launched on 25 March 2014, more than 2,300 applications arrived from different parts of Tunisia. iBDA is an initiative that offers potential social business entrepreneurs the opportunity to benefit from an accelerated training of two months, followed by funding from 100,000 to 600,000 dinars per project and personalized coaching for finally selected projects.
The selection criteria for iBDA projects include social impact, the strength of the business plan, whether the project is replicable and the capacity of the entrepreneur. Forty-two candidates were shortlisted based on these criteria and invited to an interview. Among those, 11 of the most promising entrepreneurs were selected for training and coaching which started on 5 May 2014. During his trip to Tunisia, Professor Yunus visited some of these entrepreneurs, including the Sejnene Potters Group, which promotes rural women’s crafts and helps them to access their marketing channels, and the “Dar Allema” project that supports marginalized elders.
“The social transition in Tunisia is an opportune time to open the door to creativity, to become an actor in the community and build a country on new foundations,” said Yunus.
He also met with representatives of the Tunisian Government including Taoufik Jelassi, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, Information Technology and Communication, as well as various business leaders to raise awareness and promote this new model of entrepreneurship development and job creation.
“A year later, it is an endogenous movement that developed in Tunisia and now we have demonstrated that this model can be an alternative or a different model of development rooted in the dynamics of civil society and not-for-profit private sector,” said Agnes Soucat, Director for Human Development at the AfDB. “One of the priorities of the Bank is to facilitate entrepreneurship that promotes youth employment, regional development and improvement of social services. We have already started projects for job creation like the Souk At-Tanmia and are ready to invest more in the social business movement in Africa,” she added.
The African Development Bank Ten-Year Strategy (2013-2022) and in its Human Capital Strategy (now in the final stages of development), present social business as a new approach that aims to promote job creation, private sector development, social innovation and inclusive growth. The pilot program started in Tunisia and Uganda will also be extended to Togo, with funding to be explored.
Yunus Social Business in brief
YSB is co-founded and chaired by Nobel Laureate for Peace, Professor Muhammad Yunus. YSB generally operates via incubators looking for, selecting and supporting Social Businesses and investment funds that finance loans and equity after a thorough selection process. YSB also offers consulting services to businesses, NGOs, foundations and governments. YSB currently operates in Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, India, Uganda and Tunisia and supports projects in many other countries.
AfDB’s support for entrepreneurship in Tunisia
Besides the iBDA initiative, AfDB supports other initiatives to develop entrepreneurship in Tunisia such as Souk At-Tanmia. Based on the principle of partnership, Souk At-Tanmia was launched in July 2012 to support the creation of businesses by providing integrated support to entrepreneurs in the form of grants and support services. Following a successful pilot phase in 2012 and 2013, which funded 61 projects, a second edition was launched on 30 April 2014. For more information please visit www.soukattanmia.org and Facebook.
The Bank is leveraging the synergies between Souk At-Tanmia and Ibda for the benefit of job creation for Tunisians.