Développement international Desjardins (DID) recently announced it would set up four new entrepreneur financial centres (EFC) in Africa and Latin America over the next five years, with financial assistance from the Government of Canada (provided by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development).The first EFC will be established in Tunisia.
Over the last few months, DID has begun the preliminaries for start-up of an EFC in this country. Approval was obtained in October 2014 from the Tunisian microfinance control agency for a provisional operating licence and full legal incorporation procedures are currently underway. Two DID experts were mobilized in November 2014 to carry out on-site activities to prepare for start-up of operations in 2015.
The head office of the EFC will be established in Tunis, but branch offices and service outlets will also be set up in the cities of Sfax and Sousse. The target zone has a total of 3.5 million individuals. While home to only one third of the population, these areas account for 45 percent of the businesses in the country. DID (through the Desjardins Fund for Inclusive Finance) and Africinvest are the promoters and shareholders of the EFC start-up.
The EFCs established by DID are known for the close relationship they build with the entrepreneurs receiving assistance, extensive knowledge of the sectors being financed, rigorous governance practices and risk management inspired by the Desjardins Group (the world’s fourth largest cooperative financial group) as well as being known for the creation of mechanisms designed for sharing the value that is created with their clients and employees. They are all aimed at increasing access by micro and small enterprises to the financing they need, and as a result, stimulating job creation and local economic development.