One of the most important areas of focus for the IsDB, in their goal to help promote human development, is the reduction of poverty – one way to achieve this is through supporting microfinance institutions. In 2017, the IsDB invested TD 2.8 million (around US$ 1.1 million) in the equity capital of Zitouna Tamkeen (ZT), a full-fledged Islamic Microfinance institution with an authorized capital of TND 20 million (US$ 8 million), based in Tunisia. The mission of the ZT Microfinance Institution is to “Participate in the economic inclusion of disadvantaged groups through Islamic Microfinance, promoting initiative and supporting self-employment projects".
The establishment of ZT helps to serve a dual cause: first, it aids the development of Islamic microfinance in Tunisia; and secondly, it helps develop the Economic Empowerment concept in collaboration with different partners.
It is expected that ZT will be able to provide approx. TND 100 million (approx. US$ 40 million) in microfinance projects to about 37,000 customers over the first five years of its operation, which will not only increase the well-being of the Tunisian population, but also help to lift people out of poverty.
ZT will also help create jobs in a number of ways, from the hiring of skilled staff, to the financing of projects that will employ people with diverse skill sets, including farmers, artisans, and educated unemployed youths, etc.
Since it started its operations, ZT has done tremendous work in terms of economic empowerment for the youth, women and marginalized communities in border areas in Tunisia. ZT focuses on the economic empowerment approach centred on a fundamental concept: changing the conventional vision towards the poor or the unemployed and considering them as real business partners and not as beneficiaries who only seek funding.
ZT, in partnership with the Délice Holding Group, has come up with the Halib Bil Khair project. The project is based on economic empowerment in the milk production sector and will cover 3 regions: namely the Northwest, the Northeast and the Centre of Tunisia. The aim is to strengthen the production capacity of 2,500 beneficiaries over a five-year period through training workshops in the management of dairy farming and the financing of the components of agricultural micro-projects (pure-bred heifers, milking machines, milk cooling mini-tanks, stables and supplements) through the Islamic finance instruments. This project mainly targets vulnerable populations, especially small-scale dairy farmers and unemployed higher education graduates. Similarly, rural women will play an important role, through the participatory approach in micro-projects of family farming.