Featured Photo: Supporting small business and job creation in the West Bank
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, tourism is a key industry and a key employer. But operating even a small souvenir shop requires access to credit to purchase inventory.
Afram Kando operates Rimon Kando & Sons, a family-owned souvenir shop, which has been able to expand with the help of loans backed by the OPIC-supported Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII).
While small businesses comprise the vast majority of businesses in the West Bank, they have long struggled to access financing because banks demanded collateral in exchange for credit. Businesses in the tourism sector are particularly challenged to obtain loans due to the cyclical nature of their operations. The MEII model has encouraged local banks to provide small business loans based on cash flow, rather than collateral, which has made it easier for businesses like Rimon Kando & Sons to borrow. Because MEII also requires rigorous reporting and encourages banks to provide technical support along with financing, it has helped small businesses develop the skills to expand and hire more workers.
With the support of financing, the Rimon Kando business has expanded from a staff of three family members to seven employees, and has been able to increase its revenue and wages.
The business is one of many that have benefited from OPIC’s support of the Middle East Investment Initiative. To date, OPIC’s loan guaranties to two MEII loan guaranty facilities have supported more than 1100 small and medium enterprises in sectors from agriculture to manufacturing to retail. These loans, to small businesses that would not otherwise have been able to obtain financing, have supported 17,000 jobs, many that are employing women.