USAID’s JOBS Activity in Tunisia launched an innovative online marketplace to assist SMEs affected by the pandemic with obtaining funding to stay afloat and grow their operations.
This September, Chemonics held its second annual company-wide contest to identify innovative approaches and solutions that drive locally led development. The contest encouraged all members of Chemonics’ global workforce to share how they center local communities and users in inclusive design. Submissions included examples of project teams engaging the public and private sectors, civil society, and underrepresented stakeholders to solve development challenges. Judges selected five finalists from 21 submissions and awarded one of two winning prizes to USAID’s Jobs, Opportunities, and Business Success (JOBS) Activity in Tunisia.
JOBS creates opportunities for individual firms in Tunisia through targeted assistance that allow these firms to expand and hire new employees while responding to COVID-19’s devastating effects. The pandemic had an adverse global economic impact on small businesses. In Tunisia, many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) needed equity funds to stay afloat, let alone achieve growth. So, the Tunisian government developed a $230 million (USD) Emergency Fund. However, implementing the mechanism and disbursing funds to well-deserving SME owners posed challenges. JOBS contributed to solutions by stepping in and developing an online marketplace, “JoussourInvest,” to facilitate the application process and funding distribution through a transparent, regulated system. With JoussourInvest, the Tunisian private equity ecosystem is consolidated in one marketplace, attracting stock market brokerages looking to offer capital-market services and funding. The online marketplace is expected to be one of the largest partnership-facilitation tools in Tunisia’s financial sector.
Applying a user-centered, localization-focused approach, JoussourInvest identifies and reduces key constraints in accessing equity financing. JOBS focused on the specific, local needs of Tunisia’s private sector and economy, designing the platform to match the need for private capital with the sources of private capital. JoussourInvest is more than a tool for the private sector to find or collect basic information. This online SME marketplace enables the private sector to conduct a significant portion of the transaction process online. The increase in economic processes completed online has, in turn, increased private sector engagement in the digital economy.
“This digital solution has facilitated transactions exceeding $25 million in private equity for more than 35 SMEs to date throughout Tunisia — and made a real difference in people’s lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” noted JOBS’ Access to Finance Team Leader Ines Allouche. “The platform will continue beyond JOBS’ support, generating even greater success in the future.”
Since the end of September 2020, the platform has:
- Attracted more than 50 investors, including fund managers, venture capital companies, and stock market brokerage firms looking to offer capital-market services
- Identified more than 2,000 SMEs most in need of additional equity funding in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Enabled SMEs to submit more than 400 investment requests
- Facilitated the closure of 35 transactions for a total amount of approximately $25 million, including two cash-out deals
- Generated reliable macro data on the financing needs and health of Tunisian SMEs through a web-based Power BI dashboard
“Linking companies in need of funds to investors is what drove us to work with our Tunisian partners to create Joussourinvest,” noted JOBS’ Chief of Party Danilo Cruz-DePaula. “We understood that facilitating these contacts and bringing needed transparency to the process was essential to expedite the disbursement of private equity as well as the GOT’s Emergency Fund and assist companies at this crucial time.”