Microenterprise

Why Microenterprise?

There simply aren’t enough jobs for young people looking for work in the Arab world. Public sector jobs are no longer a guarantee for graduates, and the private sector is unable to grow fast enough. For example, in Egypt 600,000 young people enter the labor market each year, but only about 250,000 of them find a job.

The result—millions of young adults are forced to make a living by starting their own very small enterprises, or “microenterprises,” despite the low incomes that these businesses often provide. For many of these young “micro-entrepreneurs,” only thing standing between a subsistence level income and thriving, sustainable businesses is a lack of reliable, affordable capital. Unfortunately, too many financial institutions see young people as a risk when it comes to loaning money.

Silatech works to bridge this gap, connecting young micro-entrepreneurs with financing and complementary business support services to help them start and grow their own businesses.


Scope and Results

Through our partnerships with financial institutions (FIs), NGOs, businesses, and various youth-serving organizations, including educational institutions, Silatech now has operations in Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria (currently on hold), Morocco, Tunisia, and Somalia.

Together, these operations have financed more than 60,000 youth run businesses, sustaining and creating an estimated 120,000 jobs since programming began in late 2009. In the process, Silatech has raised more than US$ 60 million of co-funding for its microenterprise programs, making us the largest provider of youth-focused microenterprise services in the Middle East and North Africa.


Support Strategy

We offer three different types of support to young Arab micro-entrepreneurs.

  • Seed Investment Funds from Silatech to encourage financial institutions to start introducing financial products and services to the high-growth youth market, in the process changing the mindset of the financial industry towards young people as viable clients. Support includes the provision of debt, equity and catalytic grants such as guarantees.

  • Technical Assistance, to financial institutions, including youth product development, technology and training and marketing support to help these institutions develop and deploy youth-focused products and services with a special focus on youth-run enterprises; and,

  • Ecosystem Support to strengthen the surrounding enterprise environment and help in the creation and growth of youth microenterprises.


  • Regional Programs

    More specifically, Silatech currently has five key regional microenterprise programs operating within this framework:

  • A Regional Youth Loans Facility offering financial incentives and technical assistance to financial institutions across the region to introduce youth microcredit products.

  • A Regional Youth Startup Guarantee Fund (YSGF), which is unlocking financial support for young startup entrepreneurs, a group that financial institutions have traditionally been reluctant to provide with credit services.

  • A Regional Online Giving Platform enabling individuals to provide revolving financing to young microentrepreneurs throughout the region, starting from as little as $25.

  • A Regional Youth Savings Initiative which supports the economic empowerment of disadvantaged youth by offering them specialized micro-savings accounts, linking them to financial literacy training, and conducting social marketing activities to increase their awareness of the importance of savings.

  • A Non-Financial Services Microenterprise Support Initiative which provides youth microenterprises with business support solutions as a complement to financial services, and include financial literacy, enterprise training, pre-finance incubation, post-finance business support, and market access opportunities.


  • Regional Programs

    Silatech currently supports five regional microenterprise programs, providing financial and non-financial products and services to young micro-entrepreneurs in the region.

    Regional Youth Loans Facility

    This program helps financial institutions across the region to create and introduce youth-focused loans and other financial products for micro- and small entrepreneurs.

    Building upon Silatech’s successful track record, our Regional Youth Loans Facility provides financial incentives to selected financial institutions (FIs) through concessional debt (and equity funding in some cases), as well as catalytic grants such as guarantees, in order to encourage them to expand the provision of financing to youth-run enterprises in their markets.

    Typically, any seed funding from Silatech is matched by co-funding from the FIs themselves, and is further leveraged through investment partnerships with regional and international investors (donors, impact investors, or high-net-worth-individuals).

    We also provide technical assistance in order to help financial institutions design and launch youth-focused loan products in the market. Typically, this takes the form of product design support, training for their staff, financial training to young clients, as well as marketing and outreach strategies for them to effectively reach and service young clients.

    This initiative helps provide access to finance for youth-run businesses, often in an environment where many FIs implicitly or explicitly consider youth as high credit risks, and restrict access to lending.

    We don’t just SAY that youth are no higher a credit risk than other demographic groups. With seed financing invested by Silatech, we put our money on the line to back up the assertion.

    Silatech currently partners with financial institutions in Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, and Somalia who now are either offering or designing youth-focused credit products as a result of this initiative.

    Regional Youth Startup Guarantee Fund (YSGF)

    The purpose of this fund is to unlock financial support for youth with less than twelve months of business experience, a group which has whom have traditionally been excluded from credit services by financial institutions because of the higher risk of lending to startup businesses.

    Financial institutions typically require twelve months of business operating experience before making a lending decision for a young entrepreneur. However, because of their circumstances, many young entrepreneur cannot mobilize the necessary capital from friends and family to get their businesses started, so they aren’t able to get that critical twelve months of experience that banks usually require. This initiative aims to break that vicious circle, helping young entrepreneurs start up their own businesses. Silatech has launched this product in Yemen and Lebanon and is in discussion with a number of additional partners to implement similar guarantee structures.

    Regional Online Giving Platform

    Kiva Arab Youth, the first phase of this initiative, was launched in early 2012. Implemented in partnership with Kiva, the world’s largest microlending platform, Kiva Arab Youth allows online lending to young microentrepreneurs in five Arab countries (Palestine, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Somalia) via an “Arab Youth Channel” on Kiva, starting from amounts as small as $25.

    Silatech has also structured a Matched Loan Facility on this channel dedicated to income generating projects by Arab youth. This means when a user makes a loan toward this group, Silatech will also lend the same amount, doubling their impact.

    Building on this experience for the second phase, Silatech is currently developing a standalone platform, Narwi, contextualizing this process for the region. Narwi is a Micro-Endowment (or Waqf) platform available in Arabic, French, and English, as well as offering a number of secure payment gateway options. Narwi will be sourcing profiles of young Arab microentrepreneurs from Kiva while it builds its capacity to onboard Field Partners of its own. This second phase will also consider ways to tap into the broader stream of Islamic and other charitable giving, and integrate mobile services.

    Non-Financial Support Services

    This initiative seeks to extend support to youth enterprises beyond financial access, connecting them to an enterprise support value chain that offers solutions and support throughout the enterprise lifecycle.

    Our non-financial support services include awareness raising, pre-finance incubation, training, financial literacy, enterprise training, business development services (including micro-franchising models), as well as access to markets.

    Silatech seeks to connect key financial institutions and their young clients with youth-serving organizations and other education and training providers. Silatech, in partnership, with a range of regional and international partners is developing and testing a package of support services that provides the best opportunities for youth run businesses to start, sustain and grow.

    Regional Youth Savings Initiative

    This initiative helps socioeconomically disadvantaged youth to build their financial assets by offering them specialized micro-savings accounts, linking them to financial literacy training, and conducting social marketing activities to increase their awareness of the importance of savings.

    Regional partners providing financing and technical assistance include GIZ (German Development Cooperation) and Sanabel (The Arab Microfinance Network). Key operational partners include financial institutions, youth serving organizations, national microfinance networks and media firms.

    Silatech’s Regional Youth Savings Initiative emerged from a pilot project in Yemen that has already enabled more than 80,000 youth to access savings accounts for the first time in Yemen and Morocco.

    Projects

    Regional

    Narwi

    When launched, “Narwi” (www.narwi.org) will be the first online Micro-Endowment (or Waqf) platform. It will allow users to create a personal Endowment that they can contribute toward financing the young Arab micro-entrepreneur of their choice. Our mission is to connect these young micro-entrepreneurs with capital and knowledge, mobilized through the crowd, which enables them to grow sustainable businesses and create jobs for others. These endowments are reimbursed into the users’ account as the micro-entrepreneur makes their repayments, so that contributions move on to support others as well. Narwi will be implemented with a network of international and regional partners; it follows Silatech's successful partnership with Kiva in implementing "Kiva Arab Youth."

    Countries covered: Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Somalia


    Kiva Arab Youth

    Started in March 2012, Kiva Arab Youth is a partnership between Silatech and Kiva, the world's largest microlending platform which allows visitors to make direct, online loans of as little as $25 to young Arabs of their choice who are either starting a new business or seeking to expand an existing one. As of March 2014, Kiva Arab Youth had mobilized over 150,000 individuals who collectively have lent more than $6.7 million to fund 5,000 young Arab entrepreneurs through MFI field partners in six countries (Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and Somalia, the latter two having been brokered by Silatech).

    Countries covered: Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Somalia


    Regional Youth Savings Initiative

    This initiative supports economic empowerment of socio-economically disadvantaged youth in building assets by offering them specialized micro-savings accounts, linking them to financial literacy training, and conducting social marketing activities to increase their and broader societies’ awareness of the importance of savings.

    Countries covered: Yemen, Morocco


    Morocco

    IFAD Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Program

    $3 million program working with local partners – including microfinance institutions, banks, non-profits and companies in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen – to build their capacity to design, manage and sustain youth-inclusive financial products and complementary non-financial services to disadvantaged and financially excluded youth living in rural areas.

    Countries covered: Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia


    Regional Youth Savings Initiative

    This initiative supports economic empowerment of socio-economically disadvantaged youth in building assets by offering them specialized micro-savings accounts, linking them to financial literacy training, and conducting social marketing activities to increase their and broader societies’ awareness of the importance of savings.

    Countries covered: Yemen, Morocco


    Youth Loan Project (Boudour)

    Silatech is providing technical assistance to Attawfiq Microfinance in Morocco to support their ability to expand the provision of youth financial services, including the launch of a dedicated youth loan product.

    Countries covered: Morocco


    Moroccan Youth Financing Facility

    Silatech and Jaida (a wholesale financing institution for the Moroccan microfinance sector) have created a USD 3 million Moroccan Youth Enterprise Fund, which provides lines of credit, technical assistance and client training to enable the microfinance sector in Morocco to expand its provision of youth financial services.

    Countries covered: Morocco


    Yemen

    Regional Youth Savings Initiative

    This initiative supports economic empowerment of socio-economically disadvantaged youth in building assets by offering them specialized micro-savings accounts, linking them to financial literacy training, and conducting social marketing activities to increase their and broader societies’ awareness of the importance of savings.

    Countries covered: Yemen, Morocco


    Youth Loan Fund

    Silatech has a longstanding partnership with Al Amal Microfinance Bank (AMB) on the development of innovative youth financial services. Through this pioneering project with AMB, a youth strategy has been developed for the financial institution which has included a loan product for existing youth-run enterprises, a startup product called Mashrou3i, a youth savings account, and support to the creation of a sister entity Al Amal Foundation which provides pre- and post-finance training and business support to youth-run enterprises.

    Countries covered: Yemen


    Youth Small Enterprise Loan Fund

    Silatech is providing technical and financial assistance to support Yemen’s Small Enterprise Development Fund in youth financial services, including the launch of a dedicated youth small enterprise loan product.

    Countries covered: Yemen


    Egypt

    Village RoSCAs for Community Savings and Borrowing

    This research project is testing a number of methods to build village RoSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Associations) that would enhance micro savings and borrowing among villagers. The objective is to enhance access to finance among the villagers, while building on their capacities, without pushing them into debt traps.

    Countries covered: Egypt


    Capacity Building for Egyptian Microfinance

    Through Silatech’s partnership with Microsoft, this project will provide IT software from Microsoft to MFIs, in addition to developing new software for loan tracking to automate management and improve efficiency. In addition, the program will provide capacity building programs to support MFIs in helping startup entrepreneurs.

    Countries covered: Egypt


    Youth Enterprise Growth Initiative

    Together with the UK-based Mowgli Foundation, Silatech is providing a package of non-financial services (training, mentorship and access to finance) to support the growth of micro enterprises run by high potential youth clients of the Alexandria Business Association (ABA). With funding from DFID, Silatech is also partnering with Yale University to carry out a study into the impact of providing higher levels of financing to high potential clients of ABA,

    Countries covered: Egypt


    Yomken

    Silatech is supporting the development and expansion of Yomken’s (Yomken.com) operations for their crowdfunding and open innovation services.

    Countries covered: Egypt


    Rural Youth Economic Empowerment through Community Development Associations

    Silatech is supporting Community Development Associations (CDAs) and the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) which they serve to provide a package of training, business development services and financing solutions to youth.

    Countries covered: Egypt


    Somalia

    Microfinance Technical Assistance Project – Puntland

    Silatech is supporting a Puntland-based NGO, Help Leads to Hope, to design and launch a youth-focused microfinance institution—Kaamil MFI—which will facilitate access to loan capital and micro savings facilities for young entrepreneurs in Puntland and beyond.

    Countries covered: Somalia (Puntland)


    Kaah Islamic Microfinance Services

    Silatech, Kaah Express and the American Refugee Committee have partnered to launch Kaah Islamic Microfinance Services, a youth-focused microfinance institution which will leverage the existing Kaah Express networks and agents in urban and rural areas. Silatech provides technical assistance.

    Countries covered: Somalia (all parts)


    Somaliland Youth Enterprise Fund (SYEF)

    Silatech and the microfinance arm of Doses of Hope (DOH), Kaaba Microfinance Institution (K-MFI), and AFF/Shuraako (non-profit operating foundation) and Kiva have established a revolving fund in order to create sustainable and resilient self-employment opportunities directly targeting youth-run small businesses in Somaliland.

    Countries covered: Somalia (Somaliland)


    Microfinance Technical Assistance Project—all of Somalia

    Silatech has entered into a partnership with Dahabshiil (a leading African money services business) to support the company’s spin-off microfinance institution, with the objective of promoting Somali youth enterprise development and providing employment solutions throughout Somalia.


    Somali Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Program (SYEEP)

    Silatech, Shaqodoon and the American Refugee Committee have partnered to create SYEEP, the primary component of which is the establishment of specially-designed “One Stop Shop” (OSS) centers for youth employment and business support services.

    Countries covered: Somalia


    Tunisia

    MobiSouk

    A part of Silatech’s Najja7ni service in Tunisia, MobiSouk is a mobile based marketplace that connects young entrepreneurs without Internet access to customers (B2C) and other businesses (B2B), where they can offer services and products.

    Countries covered: Tunisia


    Technical Assistance to Entrepreneurship Finance Centre (EFC)

    In partnership with Tuninvest, Développement international Desjardins (DID), Silatech is providing support to the design of youth financial and non-financial services for Technical Assistance to Entrepreneurship Finance Centre (EFC).


    Lebanon

    Technical Assistance to Ibdaa Microfinance

    Silatech is providing technical assistance and financial support to Ibdaa’s youth startup product (Mashroui), in addition to a standard youth loan product targeting existing businesses (Shabab).

    Countries covered: Lebanon


    Jordan

    Youth Enterprise Programme with Tamweelcom

    Silatech provides technical assistance and financial support to Tamweelcom, one of Jordan’s largest and most established MFIs. The objective is to target socially and economically challenged youth with start up business projects in Jordan.

    Countries covered: Jordan


    Sudan

    Technical Assistance to IRADA

    Provision of loan capital in addition to technical assistance and BDS solutions to IRADA to launch youth financial services combined with training to existing/future youth clients across Sudan.

    Countries covered: Sudan


    Youth Microenterprise Funds

    By providing seed funding, Silatech incentivizes financial institutions to enter the high-growth “youth market.” Based on an expression of interest from a partner financial institution for a particular type of funding, Silatech carries out a diagnostic of the institution to determine the viability of an investment.

    On the basis of a successful diagnostic, Silatech negotiates and agrees terms and conditions for financing. Typically, any Silatech funding is matched by the financial institution, and deployed through a pilot project that qualifies for additional funding upon successful delivery.

    Over time, we also bring other investors and donors to participate in these funding structures, thereby increasing the resources available to help provide young Arab entrepreneurs with much-needed financial products and services.

    We currently offer access to five forms of seed financing: debt investment, convertible debt or quasi-equity, equity, loan guarantees, and online giving.

    Debt Investment

    Typically, these are medium-term loans offered to a financial institution at below-market lending rates, in local currency, for them to match with other funds in order to introduce youth-focused financial services.

    Convertible Debt or Quasi-Equity

    This is debt, under the same principles as above, for microfinance banks or commercially-oriented microfinance institutions (MFIs). However, there is the option to convert the debt to equity in the partner institution over a period of time.

    Equity

    This is direct investment from Silatech into existing microfinance banks or commercially-oriented microfinance institutions (MFIs), or founding capital in the case of new financial institutions. All equity acquisitions are made with the clear intent of expanding service to young clients.

    Loan Guarantees

    Typically, loan guarantees are used to partially cover the risk of extending microcredit to a new higher-risk target segment—for example, lending to youth-owned startup microenterprises.

    Online Giving

    Online giving includes Kiva Arab Youth, Silatech's microlending platform with Kiva that allows financial institutions to access microloan funding from individual lenders from across the world. When launched, this will also include Narwi, an online micro-endowment (or waqf) platform allowing regional microfinance institutions to profile their borrowers as recipients of user endowments.

    If you are a financial institution interested in partnering with Silatech to develop youth-specific products and services to reach the high-growth, high-potential youth market, we encourage you to contact us directly at info@silatech.com.

    Technical Assistance

    Silatech provides technical assistance (TA) to partner financial institutions in building sustainable and commercially-viable youth-focused products, processes and procedures.

    Through its industry leading partnerships, Silatech has core capability in a range of TA services:

  • Design and deployment of youth lending facilities and youth financial products (specialized youth loans, youth savings and other products)

  • Staff training on how to address the youth market

  • Social performance monitoring and evaluation support solutions

  • Marketing and outreach strategies to reach young people

  • Development of non-financial business support services (enterprise training, access to markets, etc.)

  • Based on an expression of interest from a partner financial institution for technical assistance, Silatech typically carries out a review of the institution to determine its capacity and motivation to intentionally target young people as a new client base.

    On the basis of this review, we negotiate and agree terms and conditions for the technical assistance so that the FI is appropriately supported as it works to target this under-penetrated yet high-growth market.

    If you are a financial institution, or an organization working in the field of youth enterprise development in the Arab world, and you are interested in technical assistance, technology solutions, or other support to help you develop and deliver youth-specific products and services, we may be able to assist you. Contact us directly at info@silatech.com.

    Ecosystem Support

    In addition to offering technical assistance to financial institutions, Silatech works through its network of partnerships and alliances to build an overall ecosystem of support for youth microenterprises. Through entrepreneurship or financial literacy training, business incubation support, access to local or international markets, as well as other business development services, our network of partners provides support for young entrepreneurs throughout the entire “enterprise life cycle”—from business conceptualization, to startup, and eventually to growth and development. 

    Silatech’s role in this “partner ecosystem” takes a variety of forms: donor, investor, technical expert, advisor, partnership enabler, or simply awareness raiser.

    If you are a microentrepreneur, or an organization working in the field of youth enterprise development in the Arab world, and you are interested in technical assistance, technology solutions, or business development services, we may be able to assist you. Contact us directly at info@silatech.com.

    Technology Partnerships

    At Silatech, we see technology as a key catalyst for increasing youth economic inclusion.  Furthermore, recognizing that youth are often some of the fastest adopters of new technology, we are continuously looking at ways to leverage technology to increase the scale and impact of our youth microenterprise interventions.

    Silatech is working with a number of partners engaged in the technology space and is open to exploring additional collaborations in the following key fields:

  • Introduction of mobile money services and their application to the microfinance sector with a particular emphasis on their adoption by young clients

  • Usage of SMS- and USSD-based informational and client management services by financial institutions and youth serving organizations to help them reach large numbers of young people in a more timely and efficient way

  • Usage of Web- and mobile-based platforms to facilitate the provision of both financial- and non-financial-based support services to microenterprises

  • If you are a technology provider or a technical services organization working on the provision of Web- and mobile-based microenterprise support services in the Arab world, and feel you may be able to support our objectives, contact us directly at info@silatech.com.