27 February 2012
Silatech and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have signed today an agreement to provide innovative financial services to thousands of young Palestinian entrepreneurs in the Levant region. The agreement was signed by Peter Ford, representing the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, and Tarik Yousef, Chief Executive Officer of Silatech.
Despite UNRWA’s traditionally strong outreach to young entrepreneurs aged 18-30, there is a significant cohort of young prospective clients who wish to start new income generating projects, but are not able to get access to microcredit.
This cohort represents a significant bottleneck in providing financial access for young people, and also a development opportunity, given the large numbers of youth entering labour markets in UNRWA’s countries of operation. Many of these young people have few choices but to engage in self-employment activities, but they face the perennial “catch 22” problem of not being able to start a business without a loan, but not being able to get a loan without a minimum of three months’ business operating experience.
Responding to this unmet need, UNRWA and Silatech have structured an initiative which will enable UNRWA to further deepen its outreach to young entrepreneurs by reducing the risk in lending to start-up businesses.
The partnership involves the launch of a new youth start-up loan product called “Mubadarati”, which will be financed by UNRWA’s microfinance program and supported by a unique partial guarantee financed by Silatech.
This guarantee will reduce the degree of financial risk incurred by UNRWA, thereby unlocking millions of dollars in additional UNRWA loans and helping thousands more youth start new business ventures in UNRWA’s countries of operation.
“Mubadarati” is the first youth start-up loan product to be offered in the West Bank and Gaza, while the Silatech loan guarantee is the first of its type in the Arab region.
In an inspirational line from Palestine’s poet laureate, Mahmoud Darwish, it will enable them to declare, “I will become what I want one day” (sa’sbihu yawman ma’ureed).
According to Tarik Yousef, “Through this partnership, Silatech and UNRWA will help unlock opportunities for young Palestinian entrepreneurs to finance their own businesses, develop their entrepreneurial skills, and create new employment opportunities both for themselves and others.”
In his comments, Peter Ford stated that: “This initiative responds to the desire and demand of youth throughout the region to end their exclusion. Both UNRWA and Silatech are committed to policies of economic empowerment and financial inclusion that will enable Palestinian youth to play their full economic and social role in the societies in which they live and work.”
Donor Relations Coordinator, UNRWA
Tel: +962 (6) 5808 523
Silatech is an innovative social enterprise, established to address the critical and growing need to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for young people. The initiative promotes large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship, and access to capital and markets for young people, starting first in the Arab world, where the highest rate of youth unemployment exists. Silatech has introduced a holistic model for youth micro-enterprise in the Arab region which has supported thousands of youth businesses start or grow over creating more than 30,000 jobs in the process.
For more information, please visit: http://www.silatech.com
UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for some five million registered Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a solution to their plight. Since 1991, UNRWA has provided 266,000 loans worth USD 302 million, a third of which have been to young men and women between 18 and 30 years of age who have used these loans to develop enterprise, create employment, build homes, educate themselves, and begin family life.
For more information, please visit: http://www.unrwa.org