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Mashrou3i in Focus: Business in Southern Tunisia October 2019

Transforming Challenges into opportunities

Entrepreneurs in Southern Tunisia face a unique set of challenges; from navigating underdeveloped infrastructure to accessing information or surviving the business slow-down during the scorching summer. Yet there is rising optimism among local small business owners, including those supported by the USAID-funded Mashrou3i project, who are taking advantage of the region’s diverse untapped opportunities.

ADDing Value to traditional products

Southern Tunisia is renowned for its dunes, palm oases and - most notably - its delicious dates. Agripreneurs, like Mohamed Tahar Jaziri, are finding innovative ways to add value to this important traditional product, bringing much needed jobs to the region. Launched in April 2019, Jektis Agro offers a variety of date derivatives, such as jam, syrup and date sugar, mainly for export. Located in the free trade zone of Zarzis, the company currently employs 33 people, all from the region of Medenine, and plans to recruit 27 more in October.

Mashrou3i assisted Mohamed in overcoming administrative and accounting hurdles to successfully launch his business. The project’s regional experts are also supporting the entrepreneur to gain certification in two essential food standards for accessing the US and European markets – the British Retail Consortium Standard (BRC) and the International Food Standard (IFS).

Getting both these certifications is important for us to access export markets. Many steps are required which involved a lot of time and investment. But today, thanks to USAID Mashrou3i, we’ve almost finished the process and have already achieved 90% of all the standards required for these certifications. It is time to invest in the South. Opportunities are not lacking, you just have to trust the region and its people.

OFFERING services for a unique ECOSYSTEM

Safa Jaouadi, Engineer and founder of a company specialized in water well drilling in Tozeur

Also known as the gateway to the Sahara, Southern Tunisia has an arid climate with desert soils and salt flats. Drilling for water is difficult and asks for careful planning and a high level of expertise. Safa Jaouadi, from Tozeur saw an opportunity in this challenge. The hydraulic engineer founded a company specialized in water well drilling that employs 2 people. To help ensure the successful launch and sustainability of her business, Mashrou3i funded a 6,000 TND software and technical training to enable her to carry out professional geographical studies. The project also provided Safa with training in financial incentives and sales techniques to reinforce her soft skills.

Southern Tunisia offers many opportunities in the water drilling sector. I’m grateful that I can help solve a real problem for many farmers here in Tozeur, and also contribute to promoting our regional products. The software and training provided by Mashrou3i is very important for my business and will enable me to conduct professional studies for my clients.

Early Bird Catches the Worm

Marwa Belghit, Owner of Amazonia Gym, Kebili

In January 2019, Marwa Belghit launched the first gym in Douz West. The sports center offers a wide range of activities for the whole family, including fitness, muscle building techniques, Taekwondo, kick boxing, Zumba and aerobics.

Here in Douz, mentalities have changed a lot. There is a real need and demand for this kind of project. More and more people are realizing that sport is a great way to socialize, have fun and improve your wellbeing. Thanks to the support of Mashrou3i and HP LIFE e-learning, I learned how to determine a break-even point, how to calculate my costs and how to achieve profitability.

The former sports teacher is reaping the benefits of being the first to tap into this local market opportunity. By offering preferential prices for families, she has quickly gained a lot of subscribers. And to overcome any potential downturn in the summer season, Marwa reorganized the schedule so activities and workouts start earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.

A COMPETITIVE EDGE

Fidaa Lamirem, Co-manager of Next Generation IT (NG IT), Medenine

Entrepreneurs like Fidaa Lamirem are proving that Southern Tunisia can offer a competitive edge to companies that benefit from lower costs. The 25-year-old is the co-manager of Next Generation IT (NG IT), an IT company that specializes in web and mobile development which works almost exclusively for clients in France. NG IT employs 3 web developers abroad and 7 people in Medenine including web designers, developers and data entry officers. The business also provides weekend training and evening classes through its IFMed training center in topics such as accounting, languages, IT and cyber security.

We have skills and very good profiles in web development that enable us to achieve our client’s goals. Thanks to Mashrou3i, we recently benefited from a training in digital marketing that taught us new tools and techniques to improve our communication through social media and to strengthen our digital strategy.

Embracing DIGITAL

Nour El Houda Hachani, Founder of Light Agency, Tozeur

Young entrepreneurs in the South are bringing change and promoting a new era in business. Nour el Houda Hachani from Tozeur launched an innovative business that provides services in app development and electronic archiving to help companies in their digital transformation journey.

Light Agency currently employs 6 full-time and 10 seasonal staff. While business is growing, getting large contracts from public institutions is difficult for young start ups. By law, these are only awarded to companies with more than 2 years of experience. To get around this challenge, Nour has focused on providing her services to private companies in the region, like small date processing firms, that are often using outdated analogue management systems.

I have already helped 5 small companies in the region who were still working with paper and pens. We gave them upstream support with their accounting and inventory management, sales and human resources. We also trained them to better organize their activities, laying the foundations for data storage.

Mashrou3i provided Nour with training in sales techniques and digital marketing to help improve her outreach on social media and attract new clients. The project also provided 20 hours of technical training on the IT software Symphony to strengthen the team’s skills.

The Mashrou3i training was crucial for upgrading and improving our services. We obtained a certification for this IT tool that enables us now to attract new clients in international markets. In the future, I hope to also get business contracts in Tunis that we can manage here in Tozeur, offering the same high quality but at a competitive price.

With the support of Mashrou3i, a growing number of entrepreneurs are proving the arid South of Tunisia has an ocean of business opportunities. Generation Z is ready to take up the challenge of bringing change to their region. In the words of Mohamed Jaziri, "It is time to invest in the South. Opportunities are not lacking, you just have to trust the region and its people."

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Credits:

Inclut une image créée par Simon - "date palm palm dates"UNIDO