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Support for Tunisian business leaders and micro-entrepreneurs was one of the key aspects of the visit to Tunisia of Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), and Philippe de Fontaine Vive, EIB Vice-President. Two new finance contracts totalling EUR 21m (TND 48m) were signed with the microfinance institution Taysir and Banque Tuniso-Koweitienne (BTK) in the framework of a partnership agreement with Réseau Entreprendre.

These are new types of partnerships with high social value added, aimed at helping small project sponsors that are finding it difficult to obtain credit by providing them with finance tailored to their situation, thereby enabling them to integrate into society sustainably. These financing operations will also encourage the creation of local start-ups in the most disadvantaged areas of Tunisia.

"This new finance for micro-enterprises is vital for Tunisia as it will have a crucial effect in terms of support for business and jobs", remarked EIB President Werner Hoyer. "Support for the private sector is a priority for the EIB in Europe and the Mediterranean region. In this way, we are creating the conditions for shared prosperity."

"Supporting Tunisia's economic transition is first and foremost a responsible, innovative investment centred on the economic and social priorities of this country. I am also delighted that civil society is associated with us in supporting small and micro-enterprises. The younger generations' future depends on this", said EIB Vice-President Philippe de Fontaine Vive.

In view of the current liquidity crisis, this EIB support for the private sector via innovative partnerships will contribute to the consolidation of Tunisia's banking sector thanks to the diversification of sources of finance and the long maturities of the lines of credit offered by the EIB, which are increasingly rare on the market.

First partnership with the innovative microfinance institution Taysir

With this loan of EUR 1m (TND 2.34m) signed on 3 December 2014, the EIB has chosen to support the business activity of the microfinance institution Taysir, which is specialised in developing micro-enterprises in disadvantaged areas of Tunisia. This loan will be aimed especially at small farmers, stockbreeders and young people, in particular graduates who wish to set up a business.

This is an EIB subordinated loan – the first to be granted in the microfinance sector in Tunisia and the Mediterranean partner countries – which will enable Taysir to have a true leveraging effect and refinance more easily via local financial institutions. This loan is particularly important for Taysir because Tunisian microfinance institutions are unable to collect savings.

Taysir's activity in Tunisia is innovative in more than one respect. Based on Adie's experience in France, Taysir offers an integrated lending approach combining personalised support for final beneficiaries, the use of new technologies for the mobile banking payment system and innovative partnerships, e.g. with Danone in the rural lending sector for the dairy industry.

Civil society – key for enabling the EIB to support Tunisian micro-enterprises

The finance contract that will be signed on 4 December 2014 between the EIB and Banque Tuniso-Koweitienne (BTK) in the framework of a partnership agreement with Réseau Entreprendre is of symbolic importance and innovative and is set to be repeated in other Mediterranean countries. This is the first time that the EIB has, in association with a Tunisian bank, offered a financial product developed in close cooperation with civil society in order to meet the funding requirements of small project sponsors as efficiently as possible.

The EIB is therefore providing a EUR 20m line of credit to BTK, of which 10% will be earmarked for micro-enterprises monitored by Réseau Entreprendre, which will receive a preferential rate of interest from BTK. Réseau Entreprendre Tunis, which promotes the creation of these micro-enterprises by awarding interest-free loans, combined with customised coaching for entrepreneurs during the early years of their businesses, will select the micro-enterprises that comply with the transparency charter approved by BTK and Réseau Entreprendre.

EIB, the leading international financier in Tunisia

Since the democratic uprising of 2011 in the Mediterranean, the EIB has capitalised on the partnership and trust that it has established with Tunisia and mobilised its available resources and skills to respond as best it can to the economic and social challenges facing the country. Thus, since 2011, the EIB has signed new financing operations totalling EUR 1.150bn for the implementation of new projects in key sectors of the Tunisian economy such as energy, SMEs, infrastructure, education and social housing. The EIB's financing has been stepped up and this year alone, EUR 570m has been provided, so making 2014 a record year.