USAID is helping to develop programs that generate sustained economic growth and provide meaningful employment opportunities for Tunisian youth. In January 2017, USAID/Tunisia awarded a $12.5 million grant to Mashrou3i, a program implemented in concert with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Hewlett-Packard Foundation, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization to provide entrepreneurship training and business coaching services to entrepreneurs in 14 interior governorates (Beja, Gabes, Gafsa, Kasserine, Kairouan, Kebili, Kef, Jendouba, Medenine, Sidi Bouzid, Siliana, Tozeur, Tataouine, and Zaghouan).
Initially the program worked with 121 entrepreneurs in four governorates and created 1,261 jobs; based on this successful track record, the new phase is expected to create an additional 6,000 jobs.
One of the beneficiaries of this program, Zaineb Ben Belgacem from Gafsa. In early 2017, at only 24 years old, Zaineb launched her first company in Gafsa. “Carbotech” is an ambitious business specialized in coal design and manufacturing, which already provides employment to ten people, including qualified employees for the administration and workers trained in coal production machinery.
Located in the industrial zone of Laguila, the company produces four types of coal from raw materials available in the region of Gafsa, such as coal for heating households, “powdered coal” raw material for green waste processors, “coal briquettes” for hammams and barbecues, and “activated charcoal” for the manufacture of filters and medicines.
It is particularly in the niche of activated carbon that Zaineb wishes to develop rapidly, knowing that it is still not widely used in Tunisia. Activated charcoal is in fact used extensively by chemical companies for the manufacture of digestive medicine and the extraction of toxins. It is also used for the manufacture of make-up.
Zaineb began the development of her project in 2014 and has been supported since 2016 by the Mashrou3i program implemented by UNIDO with the support of its partners, USAID, the Italian Development Cooperation and the HP Foundation. During this time, she prepared a solid business plan and received business coaching from UNIDO experts for the preparation of the launch of her business.
To ensure that she was ready to run a business of this size and to start in the best conditions, Zaineb also decided to take part in a HP LIFE face-to-face workshop, to not only improve her management skills, but to also gain marketing and communications skills to help her achieve her goals.
“I did the HP LIFE face-to-face training session on financial studies, marketing research, and product marketing techniques that will help me a lot in the beginning,” said Zaineb, “In addition to the entrepreneurship training I hope to receive in-depth marketing assistance from Mashrou3i, especially in digital and product marketing, because my true objective is to expand my business by accessing the international market.”