Dubai, April 27, 2016
On April 27, 2016 Grameen-Jameel Microfinance and CSR Al Ahli Holding Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote social entrepreneurship and support youth empowerment in the MENA region. This MoU aims to facilitate the cooperation and strengthen relations between the two organizations. Special focus will be placed in supporting mutual programs and activities fostering the social responsibility and social entrepreneurship in terms of knowledge and practices on long-term sustainable basis.
The agreement will serve as a framework to share experiences, practitioners and best practices and collaborate in events and joint programmes to build the entrepreneurship skills of the Arab youth as future leaders in the region.
As stated during the signing ceremony by Grameen-Jameel General Manager, Ms. Fatina Abu Okab:
“Through this partnership we aim to join our efforts in building the skills of young social entrepreneurs in the Arab world. We strongly believe this cooperation will boost the impact of both organisations. As Grameen-Jameel, we adhere to the social business principles, promoted by Prof. Muhamad Yunus, and we aspire to support the transformation of CSR program into sustainable businesses.”
Ms. Lina Hourani, CSR Director, noted “It is with great pleasure that we signed this cooperation agreement with Grameen-Jameel today in which we will share experiences, knowledge, connections and opportunities to create a better socially responsible generation .”
About Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG)
Al Ahli Holding Group is UAE-based dynamic group of companies that was formed over 40 years ago and has since evolved into a multi-disciplined corporation with a diverse portfolio of activities. Through its CSR division, it contributes back to society by aiming to develop youth, building their skills and widening their horizons and exposure.
Al Ahli CSR’s Mission is to build a well-developed and professional young Arab generation, who can compete and lead in the national and international business markets. Using the power of partnership and co-operation with different organizations as vehicle, Al Ahli CSR join hands with all partners to create the business leaders of tomorrow.
This mission is carried out through developing the Emirati and Arab youth by building their entrepreneurship skills through initiatives that will broaden their horizons and exposure, as well as programs that will support and heavily encourage their development of interpersonal and business skills.
Our latest bulletin is now released! Take a look inside to know more about Grameen-Jameel and partners’ achievements in the last year.
You will also find testimonial from Grameen-Jameel General Manager, Fatina Abu Okab, on where Grameen-Jameel is headed in upcoming years, as well as inspiring remarks from Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Foundation Founder Alex Counts.
Date: 10 and 11 May, 2015
Description: This course addresses recent regional and global changes in regulation and the subsequent evolution of Risk Management & Corporate Governance standards. It seeks to help MFIs enhance their management and strategic capabilities to meet operational commitments and stakeholder expectations, and the tools necessary to achieve this.
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Cairo, Egypt, February 16th, 2015
Prof. Muhammad Yunus was the special guest of the gathering organised by Grameen-Jameel on the 16th February 2015 in Cairo to discuss the new Egyptian microfinance law and the development of the microfinance industry in Arab region and beyond. In conjunction with his presence in Egypt for the “Conference of the Egyptian and Arab Woman 2030 “, hosted by Nisf El-Dunia – Al Ahram Group, Grameen-Jameel took the chance to invite the father of microfinance to share with the major key players the challenges and opportunities offered by the new law, to reflect on where the microfinance industry stands and to inspire from each other for new innovations to better serve poor clients.
The meeting was attended by senior representatives of governments and various international and financial institutions such as EFSA in the person of the Chairman Mr. Sherif Samy, World Bank, IFC, the Arab African International Bank, Banque du Caire, GIZ, Embassy of Switzerland, Egyptian MFIs, IESC Sanabel and CGAP.
“… poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed from the tallest tree in a tiny flowerpot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil base that you gave it is inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds, but society never gave them the proper base to grow in. All it takes to get poor people out of poverty is for us to create an enabling environment for them.”
With this inspiring quote from Prof. Yunus book – Building the Social Business, Deputy General Manager Ms. Fatina Abu Okab opened the meeting, highlighting all the needs to be addressed in order to better serve the poor. Grameen-Jameel has been very active in Egypt providing financing and technical assistance for the capacity building of the MFI partners to achieve operational and financial sustainability. Furthermore, Grameen-Jameel has played an active role in the whole microfinance sector in the Arab region through partnerships with 21 MFIs in 11 countries and the support to Sanabel network and Arabic Microfinance Gateway.
However, new challenges, learning opportunities and evolving needs are constantly stimulating Grameen-Jameel to do more and better. In particular, Grameen-Jameel is strongly promoting the development of Social Performance Management through the use and implementation of PPI, Progress out of Poverty Index, a Grameen Foundation tool to measure the change in poverty level. Grameen-Jameel is supporting the development of country scorecards and its adaptation within the Microfinance Institutions. Until now, Grameen-Jameel has developed six country scorecards in the region and Egypt is one of those.
Multiple initiatives and partnerships have been launched in the last years in order to engage the private sector in microfinance and to expand the range and quality of services available for low-income communities: micro-insurances with AXA, crowdfunding with Kiva, Affordable Technology for the poor with D-Lab and MIT University, Bankers without Borders program with Grameen Foundation and much more to be further developed.
The Nobel laureate Prof. Yunus has inspired the participants with his wide reflections and intense commitment in promoting social business. From its start, back in the ’70 in rural villages of Bangladesh, Grameen’s intervention has tremendously expanded from lending into saving, pension fund, a telephone company for the poor – Grameenphone, a social business fund for young entrepreneurs and so on. For Yunus the explanation of this expansion is quite simple and clear: listening to the needs of the poor and create new strategies and services to push them forward.
The discussion about different models, methodologies, words and concepts used in microfinance has been really livened up among the participants, especially for the concern of having the acknowledgement of their work and the possibilities to effectively serve their clients. To this regard, the inability for the MFIs to collect savings, in force in the regulations of many countries in MENA region, has been mentioned as a serious constraint.
Coming to the consideration of the new microfinance in Egypt, Prof. Yunus has stated that good intentions and a remarkable effort have been infused by the regulator to enable the MFIs to work in a better environment. Moreover, the law is short and can be largely improved and elaborated through the draft of specific rules and procedures. It’s up to MFIs, stakeholders and key players to collectively reflect to this regard and come up with suggestions and recommendations. The law, in fact, is a tool not to deny or bring back microfinance intervention but rather a framework to improve the industry and to better protect the clients. He also advised for a separate regulatory authority to oversee microcredit institutions than the one regulating conventional banks.
In his final thought Prof. Yunus has suggested to the organizations working in microfinance to experiment and gradually learn how to do better in order to create MF banks aiming to sustainability and responding to their mission. No matter of the terms or the methodologies we use, enhance the lives of the poor we served is our common goal.
January 14th, 2015 Dubai-UAE
A delegation of 20 MBA students from the School of Management of the University of San Francisco, was in the United Arab Emirates as part of an Academic Global Immersion (AGI, “International Study Tour,”), comprising visits to leading companies and meetings with respected business leaders from a variety of industries, and visited Grameen-Jameel’s office at International Humanitarian City (IHC) where it is registered and operating.
Mrs. Fatina Abu Okab, Deputy General Manager of Grameen–Jameel, delivered a presentation on the financial and non-financial services that Grameen-Jameel has offered since its inception. Grameen-Jameel was created to address the needs of the microfinance sector and offer support to help expand outreach to the poor, to have access to finance, to build micro enterprises and to create jobs. In the last ten years, over USD 60 M financing have been received by the MFIs, whether through guarantees or loans and over 400 consultancies and training sessions have been delivered. Grameen-Jameel has also supported the sector as a whole by supporting Sanabel and the Arabic microfinance gateway.
Moreover, Mr. Jehad Abdalmaula, Registration and Licensing Manager at IHC presented the various services provided by the IHC to more than 60 members various between UN agencies, international humanitarian organizations and commercial companies. The IHC was established in 2003 and grown to become the biggest humanitarian logistics hub worldwide.
Dr. Mouwafac Sidawi, Associate Professor and Chair Department of Business Analytics and Information Systems, has expressed that the delegation were very impressed with Grameen-Jameel’s achievements and will gladly cooperate with Grameen-Jameel in a variety of ways including scientific research in the development of the microfinance industry and launching new initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and unemployment.
The delegation was also given a tour of the UN Warehouses where Ms. Doris Mauron explained the unique role of IHC on offering its members specialized facilities and services especially in logistics infrastructure and providing a platform for UN, NPO and regional staff to strengthen aid responses.
On 28 September, 2014, Grameen-Jameel Microfinance and JANA Centers (Bena’a Productive Families Center) signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The aim of this agreement is to support economic and social development by strengthening and enhancing the outreach of microfinance in Saudi Arabia, providing JANA with the expertise and research to enhance their internal capabilities in better serving poor women.
JANA is one of the initiatives of the Suleiman Abdul Aziz Al Rajehi Charity Foundation, which targets community development in Saudi Arabia. JANA’s mission is to increase the income of poor women that have micro jobs by coaching and guiding them to enhance their businesses in order to be community productive individuals.
In addition to providing financing to microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the region, Grameen-Jameel offers a wide range of products and services to help MFIs serve more people and develop their capacity to grow in a sustainable way. “Entering a new country and particularly Saudi Arabia is a significant milestone” said Mr. Zaher Al Munajjed, Chairman of Grameen-Jameel. This cooperation renews the commitment made by both Grameen-Jameel and JANA towards fighting poverty.”
This agreement will enable the expansion of the provision of Microfinance services in Saudi Arabia and will increase its positive impact on the local community, reaching out to the poorest of the poor. This cooperation will also strengthen the industry’s capacity in the whole region.
The signing ceremony was held on the occasion of Grameen-Jameel Second Partner Meeting, in the presence of Grameen-Jameel Community including Partner CEO’s and delegates, and Grameen-Jameel’s Board members and team. For the signing of the MoU, JANA was represented by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Khamis, while Grameen-Jameel was represented by its Chairman, Mr. Zaher Al Munajjed.
Diversity of audience reflects changing landscape of microfinance sector and healthy sign of evolution towards more inclusive financial ecosystem.
More than 350 participants from microfinance institutions, donors, investors and representatives of the global microfinance industry took part in Sanabel (The Microfinance Network of Arab Countries) 2014 Conference at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City. The event was held under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development. H.E. Abdul Baset Al-Janahi, CEO, Dubai SME, delivered a keynote address on the opening day of the Conference.
Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited (Grameen-Jameel), the Strategic Partner of the Sanabel Conference, pointed out that the diversity of the audience at this edition of the event is a reflection of the changing landscape of the microfinance sector and a healthy sign of its evolution towards a more inclusive financial ecosystem.
“The overwhelming response, and the strong and diverse participation we are seeing at this event demonstrates that the Sanabel Conference is not limited to its members, partners and donors. It has beena point of interest for all stakeholders, including the governments, regulators, investors, private sector and other support service providers such as telecoms and insurance companies,” said a spokesperson from the Sanabel, the only regional network serving the microfinance sector in the Arab world since 2002.
Zaher Al Munajjed, Grameen-Jameel Chairman, said “The microfinance industry is rightly moving forward towards responsible finance, focusing on the impact of products and services through a deep understanding of the needs and challenges of its client base, and developing tools to measure the clients’ transformation out of poverty. The sector is also broadening its products scope towards other community segments such as youth and SMEs, which are economically active yet still underserved by the conventional financial institutions.”
“Moreover, Sanabel and its members support the movement towards financial inclusion which reinforces the concept that access to finance is a human right, not simply a financial transaction. This is a small reflection of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and in particular MDG 1, which stipulates the eradication of poverty and hunger in our world,” Al Munajjed added.
The Sanabel conference www.sanabelconf.org, held under the theme “Microfinance at Crossroads; Current Developments and Future Prospects in the Arab States”, took place at a crucial juncture, given the challenging political situation in many parts of the Arab world, which has created added pressure on the regional microfinance industry.
One of the major highlights of the two-day conference were the two awards, which will be announced during the conference – The Grameen-Jameel MFI Awards 2014, which recognizes Arab microfinance institutions that demonstrate excellence in the categories of Innovation, Leadership and Sustainable Growth, and The GIZ/Sanabel Award, which focuses on the innovative approaches to enhance access of financial services to women in the Arab countries.
The Sanabel Conference aims at providing an overview on the state of the microfinance industry in Arab countries, highlighting current developments and discussing present and future potential opportunities for growth. The conference serves as the ideal platform for exchanging experiences, ideas, knowledge and discussing good practices among Arab and international stakeholders. It is discussing in-depth wide-ranging topics related to regional and international microfinance, such as trends and opportunities, issues, best practices, innovative approaches, among others. The conference will pave the road to appropriate planning for financial inclusion in the Arab microfinance industry based on regional and international experiences.
Sanabel is also conducting training workshops on Client Protection Principles, Transformation, Youth Focused Financial Services, and The Value of Gender Performance Data. The first workshop was conducted on September 28th, while the second was held on October 1st.
Sanabel acknowledges the sponsors of its 10th annual conference namely; The Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, AGFUND, Metlife, The World Bank, GIZ, International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, Silatech, and Sanad Fund for MSME.
Sanabel has always been committed to supporting growth and innovation, and applying good practices and standards for the microfinance sector in the Arab world. Sanabel is a member-based network representing over 90 microfinance institutions from 13 different Arab countries namely; Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain.
We are facing bleak times. Tensions, strife and instability are plaguing most of the Arab world. Refugees fleeing for their lives in the millions are swelling the ranks of the needy, the poor and the underprivileged; and governments in many countries are unable to handle this crisis while international agencies are barely coping with the pressures.
The microfinance sector is, once again, on the frontline facing the challenges. We are being pressed from all sides to rethink how to best serve the needy micro entrepreneurs in these most difficult times. This has resulted in a soul searching that has sent many of us back to the basics: from putting the customer first, to shifting the mind-sets and re prioritizing, to adapting the product offering, everything is being questioned and all solutions tried.
In the midst of all these predicaments Grameen-Jameel remains committed to its calling to helping the underprivileged by supporting the development of the microfinance industry. In addition to pursuing its support to MFIs in the region through financing and technical assistance, Grameen-Jameel has developed a new strategy to expand its support to the sector through forging strategic partnerships/alliances with international companies and organizations that are leaders in their respective fields such as: AXA Insurance to promote micro-insurance, HSBC MENA to harness the expertise of banking professionals through the Bankers without Borders program, Kiva to tap the power of crowdfunding and further expand financing through the internet in the region, and last but not least the MIT D-Lab to develop affordable technological solutions for the poor.
Through these associations, we feel we can further support the self-sustained micro-entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises in the Arab world. By focusing our efforts on expanded responsible financing, expert technical assistance, protection through micro-insurance and life improvements through affordable technologies, we are sure that we will continue to make a positive impact on developing the microfinance sector despite the present turbulence.
As a strategic partner of Sanabel, we look forward to meeting you all in the upcoming Sanabel Conference in Dubai and we hope to have the opportunity to discuss with you there, all the challenges we face today. Hopefully we will also set together a road map for the future of the sector, to insure it will continue to provide hope and well-being to the needy and underprivileged of the Arab world.
For the second year, Grameen-Jameel is sponsoring the Social Enterprise Week 2014 which will be organized in Dubai between 4 and 9 March 2014. The Social enterprise week highlights the success of local and regional social entrepreneurs who have built social enterprises in diverse sectors from tourism to finance to fashion. It also seeks to foster a better understanding of how social enterprises can contribute to vibrant local economies. The event comprises of a full week of events cross Dubai. Participants will learn about social enterprises straight from the pioneers in the field and will listen to their experience about what it takes to help social businesses succeed. Participants will also manage to build the connections they need to take their social enterprise to the next level.
Following the various humanitarian initiatives and microfinance programs Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited has been managing for the past 10 years, a delegation – comprising MBA students and professors from the School of Management of the University of San Francisco – visited the Dubai office of Grameen-Jameel in IHC. The objective of the visit was to get a deeper understanding of the various achievements of Grameen-Jameel, which have specifically contributed to developing and supporting high-impact microfinance programs in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey.
Grameen-Jameel Microfinance Limited has announced that the various humanitarian initiatives and micro financing programs it has been undertaking have drawn the attention of many international and regional organizations. This was reaffirmed with the recent visit of a high-level delegation from the Productive Families Centers (JANA) in Saudi Arabia, which was established as one of the sustainable development programs of the Suleiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi Charitable Foundation. The visit of the delegation was aimed at getting a better understanding of the accomplishments of Grameen-Jameel, being the first social business focused on providing microfinance and capacity building support to the poor in the Arab world and Turkey.
As part of Grameen-Jameel’s efforts to promote clean energy, solar hot water heaters were gifted to families in Palestine in the West Bank area. Grameen-Jameel donated the units, which are distributed by Grameen-Jameel’s local microfinance partner, FATEN. Units were distributed in Qalqilia to Bedouin families inside the wall and to Bedouin families living in Al-Ojah village near Jericho.
Bedouin families live in marginalized areas in Palestine and these Solar Hot Water Heaters will offer them a hot water source throughout the year which will positively improve their living conditions.
The units, which provide 75 liters of hot water per day (even in winter), are portable, and can be easily moved from one place to another. Access to hot water helps to provide for hygienic sanitation and also provides the comfort of a warm shower in winter.
In December 2013, Grameen-Jameel approved two loans worth US$ 2 million divided equally between “Microfund for Women” (MFW) in Jordan and the “Lebanese Association for Development “Al Majmoua”. – in order to help both institutions expand their operations and increase their outreach to the largest possible number of poor borrowers in the two countries and contribute to the expansion of the growing microfinance sector in MENA region.