Zitouna Tamkeen: The innovation in the service of employment and poverty alleviation

The story began when one of the employees of the Islamic Development Bank had an idea in 2011, after he has been acquainted with the Bank’s experience in the field of Economic Empowerment in several of its member countries. The idea soon developed into a dream, then to a suggestion. Finally it has developed into a memorandum of understanding that had been signed between the Islamic Development Bank and the Zitouna Bank in 2014, to establish the first Economic Empowerment institution using Islamic financial tools not only in the Tunisia but also in the North African Region. It has been labelled “Zitouna Tamkeen” and has been legally established since the end of the year 2015.

The shareholders of Zitouna Tamkeen include, along with the Islamic Development Bank and the Zitouna Bank (The biggest Islamic Bank in Tunisia) which are the sponsors of the project, a number of nationally and internationally recognized institutions namely: Zitouna Takaful (the biggest Islamic Insurance company in Tunisia), Delice Holding and Poulina Group Holding (both ranked among the top 5 largest business groups in Tunisia),  the Tunisian Sovereign Wealth Fund and Jaida Fund (which is owned by  the Moroccan Sovereign Fund, the French Sovereign Fund , the French Development Agency AFD, the  German Development Agency KFW and  the Moroccan Postal Bank).

Zitouna Tamkeen mission is basically the economic integration of vulnerable population by the means of Islamic Microfinance tools and encouraging entrepreneurship. Its vision is to become a key factor in the field of Economic Empowerment on both national and International levels.

This young institution began officially its business activities in December 2016. Today, after one year and a half of activity, Zitouna Tamkeen has a portfolio of tens of millions of Dinars, thousands of clients, and 15 fixed branches (with a priority given to the least developed provinces in the country), two mobile branches to reach rural areas and landlocked zones. The institution has doubled its announced objectives in the business plan adopted by the Board of Directors due to the great success and positive feedback coming from local market despite being the latest one to join it. This effort should be a part of an overall institutional strategy aiming to build a network of 40 branches, 5 mobile ones (dispatched all over the national Territory) and 5 regional directorates in order to economically empower around 80000 beneficiaries, with an overall financing portfolio of 600 Million Dinars over the next five years to secure a market share varying between 15% and 20%.

The portfolio of Zitouna Tamkeen is divided into two subportfolios: an individual financing portfolio for individual financing which will not exceed 30% of the overall financing, and a portfolio dedicated to Economic Empowerment projects which will represent 70% of the overall financing by the end of the  business plan period.

Zitouna Tamkeen is also unique for having a business engineering Department within its organizational structure (A unique feature in comparison with the other competitors) that works on developing value chains and finding investment opportunities which are appropriate for the micro entrepreneurs while taking into consideration the characteristics of the regions where they live and their corresponding competitive advantages. Moreover, this department is responsible for, studying, designing, engineering, and structuring the Economic Empowerment projects; and establishing smart partnerships with the related economic and social parties, in addition to the local and international civil society organizations. This department helps also in offering access to markets to micro entrepreneurs.

As for the Economic Empowerment projects, “Zitouna Tamkeen”  has a rich pipeline of projects in different stages. From these projects we care to mention “Hlib el Khir”, a project that has been launched in partnership with Delice Holding, which includes 2500 small farmers. We also mention the beekeeping project, the project of “Cooperative of Chouat”, and the small industrial units project. Some other projects are in the stage of final study like the “Dates project”, the “Moringa Project”, the “Medical Plants Project” all of which are projects made for export and will involve thousands of small producers. Some other projects are still in the early study phases.  These projects include the agriculture sector, the manufacturing industry, Services, small industries, the environment, transportation, etc.

The various and complementary services offered by Zitouna Tamkeen provides, make it a key partner for its beneficiaries. Because on top of providing financing, the institution provide a package of non financial services which include: providing managerial and technical support during the different stages of a project starting from preparing the  feasibility study up to providing technical, financial, and soft skills trainings to the beneficiaries. Furthermore, monitoring and accompanying services  are offered to beneficiaries until the launching of their respective projects.

In order to guarantee the success of Zitouna Tamkeen’s activities and to provide the best conditions to implement the methodology of Economic Empowerment, “Tamkeen for Development” organization has been established. It is a Non-Governmental and a not-lucrative organization specialized in promoting the Economic Empowerment approach in addition to supporting the poor people who benefit from the projects through accompanying, monitoring, and guidance activities as well as increase the awareness with respect to poverty alleviation and unemployment. ”Tamkeen for Development” is working today, in cooperation with the United Nations, on ambitious projects related to the economic integration of the Tunisian youth in the least developed regions.

Also, Zitouna Tamkeen is currently working on establishing the “International Center for Economic Empowerment” which will be providing consulting, studies, building capacities, and know how transfer in the field of Economic Empowerment. This center will be developing sustainable projects and profitable investments with a huge social and economic impacts.

This Economic Empowerment ecosystem will turn the strategic vision that was set for Zitouna Tamkeen into a reality, the vision being that this institution will become a successful model for Economic Empowerment of poor people,  a model that can be developed and re-produced in the Islamic World in general, and more specifically in the Maghreb region and Africa. This should be done through a cooperation with the Islamic Development Bank Group, especially after His Excellency the President of the Bank, Dr. Bandar Al-Hajjar, visit to Zitouna Tamkeen , where he got acquainted with its achievements and announced his invaluable support for its activities.

The Institution of Zitouna Tamkeen can be seen as a success story built upon an ambitious vision, innovative thinking,  and strategic effective partnerships. The ultimate goal of Zitouna Tamkeen is to contribute to creating jobs, eradicating poverty and protecting human dignity. By doing this, Zitouna Tamkeen exhibits the continuity of the efforts deployed by Islamic Development Bank, and is in full harmony with the the Bank's noble mission.