By Intissar K. Rajabany.
Tripoli, 13 June 2013:
In Libya, business support networks for entrepreneurs in general, and for women entrepreneurs in particular, . . .[restrict]are weak.
MEDA has been working in the past few months on establishing an SME development program: Libya Women’s Economic Empowerment (LWEE) to address this. LWEE which is largely sponsored by USAID will provide businesswomen and potential entrepreneurs with the capacity building training required for them to develop their businesses and take them to the next level.
Women owners of mid-level SMEs will develop and expand their businesses through training, coaching/mentorship, networking opportunities and buyer engagement. A matching grants fund will help propel the most promising businesses forward towards growth and job creation.
MEDA is an international development association that creates sustainable business solutions to poverty and spurs economic growth. It has partnered with the Libyan Woman Forum, Phoenix and Consultants Alliance to implement this two year project.
On Sunday June 2nd, 2013 the first phase of the project was launched in Tripoli where twenty Libyan women from all over Libya attended the pilot training.
The goal of the project is to contribute to the growth of the Libyan non-oil private sector through strong, knowledgeable and competitive businesswomen who operate successful and job creating enterprises. This will be achieved through a five step approach summarized below:
1- Entrepreneurship and business training – MEDA, along with the local partners, will offer training – both formal in-class and practical hands-on coaching, to women entrepreneurs and business owners.
2- Business plan competition – The women who have successfully completed the Entrepreneurship and Business training will have the opportunity to participate in a business plan competition which will award personalized training and access to a matching grants fund.
3- Intensive training, mentoring, and networking – The winners of the business plan competition will access further training and mentoring on topics specifically related to their sectors of operations. This training will allow the women to refine their business plans and strategies as well as prepare for and optimize the investment from the matching grants fund.
4- Businesswomen SME Matching Grants Fund – Women who win the business case competition will be awarded funds – on a 1:1 ratio up to a certain limit. Through the selection process, women who currently operate a business or those who seek to launch promising businesses, will have the seed money required to give their enterprise a significant boost of capital. Businesses which demonstrate potential for success: revenue growth and very importantly, job creation, will be supported, encouraged and mentored.
5- Capacity building of local partners – In order to encourage systemic changes in the Libyan private sector, business and finance capacity must be improved. This last activity will underlie the whole program and work with the project’s local partners toward improving their capacity as services providers to the business community as a whole and specifically businesswomen in Libya.
The pilot course ends in the last week of June as there will be no workshops in Ramadan. Training will resume after Eid El Fitr. What is unique about this program is that it is very much Libyan led as the materials have been developed by Libyans for the Libyan context and are delivered in Arabic.
Intissar K. Rajabany holds an MA in International Relations Theory from the University of Warwick. Her main interests are human rights, women empowerment in governance, Political Islam and security studies. She is MEDA country representative in Libya and can be reached at [email protected] [/restrict]