Tunis, February 28, 2020
Good evening everyone. I am proud to join you to celebrate the tremendous success of the Financial Services Volunteer Corps in Tunisia. I would like to thank Andrew Spindler – the CEO of FSVC – for the kind invitation and to his team for putting together this terrific event. On behalf of the U.S. Embassy, I am delighted that you chose to have your meeting in Tunis with representatives from 10 countries, and we hope that Tunisia’s wonderful culture and people inspire you.
The American Government is proud to count FSVC as a partner and an ally— in fact, we have supported six different FSVC projects in Tunisia since 2011. These projects have ranged from combatting terrorism financing to supporting entrepreneurship and providing training in NGO accounting. As most of you know, the U.S. Embassy currently supports two FSVC projects in Tunisia with $1.9 million in financing. The first, with the Chambers of Commerce. We applaud FSVC’s targeted focus on helping specific chambers to improve in Tunisia and are expecting great outcomes from the project. The second project, called Impact Finance, has enabled small and medium enterprises to obtain non-traditional loans. This project has already produced great results and provided the startup capital needed for these enterprises to create jobs and boost the economy.
One impact of this project helped the Government of Tunisia access a dormant loan mechanism, which led to 71 Small and Medium Enterprises accessing $8.3 million in government loans. The Impact Finance project has also helped business centers improve their access-to-finance services, which led to 215 SMEs obtaining $4.7 million in bank loans. What does that mean for individual Tunisians? As an example, Mariem Msaddek, the founder of the Best Lab engineering company, and who is with us tonight, could realign her business model to improve her operational margin and eliminate her need for external funding. Congratulations Mariem.
In total, the United States has provided Tunisia with $1.8 billion in foreign assistance since 2011 to strengthen the country’s economy and security and support Tunisia’s democracy. We are making this investment because we believe in Tunisia’s future. Within the realm of economic growth, the U.S. Embassy is particularly focused on youth employment and private sector engagement. We recognize that an inclusive workforce – to include individual men, women, youth, and citizens from every region of the country – is essential for Tunisia to thrive.
The United States has long been a strong supporter of small businesses– in Tunisia and worldwide. America was built by the hard work, spirit, and creativity of small business owners—people like Richard and Maurice McDonald who started with one restaurant in California, Milton Hershey building an entire town including a school and orphanage from his milk chocolate success, and Oprah Winfrey beating long odds to build a media empire. It’s a history of accomplishment we are very proud of, and we are delighted to share this appreciation for small businesses with FSVC and its partners.
Starting your own business, in its essence, is the pursuit of individual Tunisian dreams, not without risk, but ultimately the chance to make a real and lasting contribution to your country. The U.S. Embassy is honored to partner with FSVC to support individual dreams in Tunisia. We applaud you for the impact of all your efforts on private sector development and economic growth.