Tunis/Tunisia — With difficulties of access to bank financing and lack of liquidity at the level of banks, economic operators are increasingly seeking alternative or complementary financing to traditional funding, this is what revealed a webinar on “Financing and assistance tools in favour of SMEs seeking development,” organised on Friday by the Confederation of Tunisian Citizen Enterprises (CONECT), in parntership with the USAID-Tunisia JOBS and the Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation (APII).
“The funding of enterprises, notably Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), is a recurrent problem in Tunisia,” CONECT President Tarak Cherif said during the webinair, considering that “the COVID-19 crisis has worsened an already complicated situation.”
“The Tunisian enterprise was undercapitalised even before the pandemic,” he explained, “added to this a tightening of liquidity at the level of banks, further accentuated by the State’s recourse to domestic debt to finance its budget deficit. With the COVID, the situation has worsened, especially since most of the promises made by the State to support businesses have not been honoured, and even the few promises honoured came very late.”
“The complexity of the situation is even more palpable at the regional level and we hoped that the 2021 Finance Bill would bring bold provisions for the benefit of enterprises, which did not happen.”
Cherif voiced however, wish that this will be rectified as long as the 2021 Finane Bill has not yet been passed, taking into consideration the proposals tabled by CONECT to the Finance Parliamentary Committee (load transfer, exemption of reinvested profits, etc.).
In view of these difficulties, Cherif estimated that the recourse to alternative and complementary financing to conventional ones, has become a necessity for the national economic operators.
Invited, in this regard, to present the funding platform “Joussour Invest,” one of the Project Tunisia Jobs leaders Ines Allouche said that “JoussourInvest.tn is the first digital marketplace in Tunisia developed by Tunisia Jobs, in collaboration with the CDC, BVMT and ATIC.
“It helps digitalise the submission of applications for capital financing and the establishment of contacts between capital investors and SMEs seeking funding.
Allouche recalled that this platform had been officially launched on September 24, indicating that by december 1, 49 investors have been active on this platform and that 1,655 SMEs from all regions have joined it.
Besides, “312 capital investment requests have been submitted through this platform. 17 are still in the Due Diligene stage, and a transaction has been made for 5 million dinars,” she added.
“The submission of investment files and document and data exchange between SMEs and the investors are 100% digitised, with a high data protection,” she specified, adding that “the platform is for all SMEs, all sectors of activities and in all regions, and offers a large selection of investors.”
“It is a very young product designed to meet the needs of the Tunisian enterpreunarial eco-system, that will develop further according to its needs,” she concluded.
The “Joussour Invest” platform was set up by the Tunisia JOBS programme (5-year project worth $69.5 million funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), with a view to providing Tunisian enterprises with the necessary resources to increase their sales, exports and growth.
Another innovative funding mechanism, the crowdfunding, was also discussed during the webinar. In this connection, Coordinator of the APII’s crowdfunding steering committee Najmeddine Boukhari recalled that Law No.2020-37 of August 6,2020 on Crowdfunding had been promulgated in August 2020, pointing out that the implementation decrees that set the investment ceilings and the implementation conditions are in the approval phase and will soon see light of day.
“An action plan for the enforcement of this law, which is intended for all stakeholders, is also being drawn up.”
Boukhari indicated that crowdfunding “is an industry that is exploding throughout the world and which will help Tunisia drain funds from the diaspora and foreign investors and boost local development by increasing local investments.”