Despite modest economic good news in the West Bank, the number of unemployed refugees grew by nearly one per cent in the first half of 2011.
Thousands of young Palestinians will receive access to financial loans to support their new businesses through a United Nations-backed initiative announced today, which seeks to stimulate the creation of new jobs in the Middle East.
The “Mubadarati” loan programme will be carried out by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in collaboration with Silatech, a social enterprise company that focuses on creating opportunities for youth in the Arab world.
“This initiative responds to the desire and demand of youth throughout the region to end their exclusion,” said Peter Ford, representing the Commissioner-General of UNRWA at the signing of the partnership.
“Both UNRWA and Silatech are committed to policies of economic empowerment and financial inclusion that will enable Palestinian youth to play their full economic and social role in the societies in which they live and work.”
According to UNRWA, there are a significant number of young Palestinians between the ages of 18 and 30 who wish to start new income generating projects but are not able to get access to microcredit.
“They face the perennial ‘catch-22’ problem of not being able to start a business without a loan, but not being able to get a loan without a minimum of three months’ business operating experience,” the agency said in a news release.
To close this gap, the UNRWA-Silatech partnership will provide loans to young people while at the same time reducing the risk in lending to start-up businesses, as the loans will be financed by UNRWA’s microfinance program and supported by a partial guarantee financed by Silatech.
Silatech’s guarantee will reduce the degree of financial risk incurred by UNRWA, allowing the agency to give out millions of dollars in additional loans to help youth start new business ventures.
Mubadarati is the first youth start-up loan product to be offered in the West Bank and Gaza, while the Silatech loan guarantee is the first of its type in the Arab region.
“Through this partnership, Silatech and UNRWA will help unlock opportunities for young Palestinian entrepreneurs to finance their own businesses, develop their entrepreneurial skills, and create new employment opportunities both for themselves and others,” said Silatech’s chief executive, Tarik Yousef.
(www.un.org / 27.02.2012)