In the dire economic conditions of Palestine, financial inclusion could prove a successful way to unlock the potential of the Palestinian economy, encouraging entrepreneurial initiatives even among the most undeserved and vulnerable social groups. This is particularly crucial in the Gaza Strip, whose economy has been stagnating for years due to the protracted crisis.
START UP Palestine, a programme of AICS Jerusalem in partnership with the Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection (PFESP), aims at promoting private business initiatives - possibly with a significant job creation potential – by facilitating access to credit with concessional loans and providing a number of financial products tailored to the profiles and needs of different groups (i.e. women, youth, small farmers, etc.).
A credit line of 14 million euros specifically targets the Palestinian microfinance institutions (Faten, Asala, Acad, Vitas, Ibdaa, Reef) to improve their outreach and support entrepreneurial initiatives particularly among women, youth and the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.
Since 2014, almost 2,000 loans have been given through START UP credit line to start new businesses or expand existing ones, which has contributed to create approximately 3,000 jobs. Despite the critical situation in the Gaza Strip, several entrepreneurial projects have been financially supported through the credit line. Thanks to this opportunity, many beneficiaries (more than 40 percent women) have managed to successfully develop their business idea, which has significantly improved their living conditions, as well as of their families and their employees.
Sherin Sami Abu Mansi, a 37-year-old mother of two, lives in Deir El Balah, Gaza Strip.
Sherin and her husband own 32 acres of land and a long experience in seasonal agriculture. They grow cabbages, cauliflowers, eggplants, corn, pepper and other crops. This kind of agriculture needs special care, and some crops such as the tomato need to be grown in greenhouses. Sherin did not have enough money to setup her own greenhouses, so she asked for a loan from the microfinance institution ASALA.
With a loan of 5,000 $ she installed the greenhouses three years ago and started growing tomatoes. The tomato production has significantly increased her annual income, as well as the monthly revenues of the 5 households working with on this project. Thanks to this, Sherin could afford to send her children to better schools and build a new house for her family.
Sherin is currently considering expanding her activity and to install solar panels to reduce the costs.
Maisa Jarad, a married woman of 29 years old, is from East Beit Hanoun – Gaza Strip, a very poor and marginalized area.
Maisa and her husband were unemployed for long time, they almost lost any hope to have a stable and decent income, until Maisa found out about the possibilities offered under START UP. She applied for funding from ASALA and received a loan of 8,000 $.
Her husband had experience in farming, so she developed a business idea in animal husbandry: she decided to use the yard beside her home to breed goats and her house roof for chickens. This project allowed Maisa and her husband to work and generate income for their large family by selling goats and producing goat products like milk and cheese. They can also sell chickens now.
After this success in creating a sustainable small project, they are thinking to expand it through additional funds.
Mohammed Al-Zaharna is from Gaza City, since 2016 he has owned and operated a company producing aluminum products such as decorations, windows, doors, handrails and kitchen items, etc.
Given the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed could not afford to buy the tools and machinery necessary for his enterprise. Finally, he received a 15,000 $ from the micro finance institution Faten.
The new equipment allowed the company to remarkably expand its production capacity, which increased its revenues and ultimately created employment opportunities for 6 people.
Firas Monther Siam is 23 years old and he was unemployed for long time.
His father tried to help him start a small business, since Firas had good experience as a barber and wanted to open his own salon. He looked for funds in order to start his project, he received a loan of 7,000 $ from the microfinance institution Faten, which allowed him to rent a place and start his activity in 2016.
The project enabled him to get a stable income of 700 $ - 1,000 $ per month. Firas could also save enough money to start another business, a flower decoration shops, particularly to decorate cars with wreaths and other flower ornaments. This new enterprise created 3 jobs for 3 families.
Firas is a very ambitious person and is planning to further expand his business in the near future.