Essma Ben Hamida

enda inter-arabe
Year founded: 

The first and only best-practice microfinance institution in Tunisia and one of the highest rated in the world.

Focus: Microfinance, Enterprise Development, Financial Inclusion, Women’s Empowerment, Rural Development, social performance,
Geographic Area of Impact: Tunisia
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 200,000 (2011)
Outstanding Portfolio: US$ 110 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 100%
Recognition: Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Middle East and North Africa, 2010

Government-funded social programmes and charities had created a widespread dependence mentality among poor Tunisians. Numerous feasibility studies have demonstrated, however, that there are many entrepreneurs among the poor, especially women, who are able to benefit from access to capital, training and market opportunities in both urban and rural areas. Enda’s experiment showed that the poor are able to “get” out of poverty if they have access to capital and that poor entrepreneurs are credit worthy.

Innovation and Activities
Enda inter-arabe is one of the highest rated microfinance institutions in the world, the only best practice microfinance institution in Tunisia, with 1000 staff (over 80% with a college degree) in 65 locations around the country. It serves close to 200,000 active clients with a gross loan portfolio of over US$ 110 million and a repayment rate of 95%. Enda has a five-diamond rating on MixMarket as well as alpha financial rating and has “Excellent” social rating from the specialized rating agency, MicroRate.

Enda provides lines of credit with strong customer service to overcome the “dependence” mindset. Along with its business and agricultural loans, it provides specialized products such as education and home improvement loans. Enda also provides business development services to its clients, including financial literacy, training, assistance to marketing through exhibitions and trade fairs and onsite counselling services. It hosts regular discussion groups to provide clients an opportunity to discuss business as well as social issues, such as legal rights, reproductive health and domestic violence.

To date, enda has distributed over one million loans, benefiting over 330,000 borrowers since 1995. In addition, studies have demonstrated one full-time salaried new job is created for every eight clients; thus, at least 25 000 additional jobs have been created by enda micro-entrepreneurs. Further impact includes improved school attendance, empowerment of women and career coaching and job training for enda’s staff, over half whose first job has been with enda. Enda also has one of the highest budgets among microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the region for capacity building to create a cadre of middle managers, with 90% of their staff coming from the low-income neighborhoods and villages where enda has branches.

Despite its strong position in the Tunisian market, enda regularly reduces its interest rates to serve its customers better. Enda has been actively lobbying for a sustainable microfinance sector in Tunisia to open the market and reach out to the 1 million potential microcredit customers. By expanding into rural areas (50% of enda’s 100 branches by 2015), enda aims to contribute to job creation and the empowerment of rural women. In 2011, enda launched a new product for start up businesses by the unemployed youth to contribute to job creation, to the economic development of the down trotted and remotest areas of the country .it intends to finance some 20 000 start ups by young micro entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneur
For over 15 years, Essma Ben Hamida travelled extensively as a journalist and UN consultant, specializing in political, humanitarian and development issues. Frustrated with the slow pace of development despite innumerable UN resolutions and development programmes, essma returned to Tunisia in 1990 and co-founded enda inter-arabe with her British husband, Michael Cracknell. She is also a founding member and former chair of Sanabel, the Microfinance Network of the Arab countries, with 83 member MFIs in 14 Arab countries.