14 December 2012

Morocco: Nation Banks On Microcredit to Create Jobs

Rabat — "Thanks to this small sum, my life has changed," entrepreneur Fouad Lahdef said of his microloan.

The Moroccan government plans to use microcredits to create two million permanent jobs over the next ten years instead of the one million currently forecasted.

Lending by microcredit associations has been exempt from value-added tax (VAT) since 2006, but the policy was due to end on December 31st, 2012.

To help the microfinance sector expand and encourage micro-entrepreneurs to develop activities, the VAT exemption period should be extended to December 31st 2016, Budget Minister Idriss Azami told parliament on Monday (December 10th).

Microfinance is creating real job opportunities in Morocco. The sector has a special place within the Moroccan financial system and acts as a powerful driving force through the role it plays in financial inclusion, poverty reduction and the integration of economically weak members of society through the creation of jobs and income-generating activities, Azami said.

According to the Mohammed VI Centre for Support for Social Microfinance, at the end of 2011 the sector helped create about one million permanent jobs and 6,000 direct jobs within microcredit associations.

National Federation of Microcredit Associations president Tarik Sijilmassi said the government and the judiciary must protect the interests of the sector, which is showing potential and creates 1.2 jobs per loan. The aim, he added, is to increase the number of permanent jobs created over the next 10 years from 1 million to 2 million, with a total of 3.2 million beneficiaries.

Economist Mohamed Cherghouni underlined that support for micro-entrepreneurs in terms of training and awareness-raising was essential for them to develop their micro-projects.

Moroccan authorities seem committed to the idea of expanding the sector. In a message to a Skhirat conference on the sector held October 11th, King Mohammed VI encouraged the promotion of microfinance.

"The sector must stay true to its original aim, which is to support, finance and assist entrepreneurs engaging in income-generating activities within the most deprived communities. Furthermore, it is always important to take the human dimension into account when assessing financial needs in order to expand the opportunities and choices available to Moroccan women and men," the monarch said.

According to the budget minister, plans are in place to cover the country more fully, with priority given to rural areas where poverty is rife. The aim is to change people's daily lives.

Fouad Lahdef, 35, received a microloan of 5,000 dirhams five years ago. He opened a small workshop and purchased a small second-hand sewing machine. With his electrician's degree, he repairs electrical domestic appliances. His wife mends customers' clothes.

"Thanks to this small sum, my life has changed," he told Magharebia. "I now have a steady job and after working for two years, I have become self-sufficient. I am now renting a house, whereas before, I lived with my parents," Lahdef said.

"It's not easy at the beginning. You have to dare to take that first step. With my savings, I intend to grow my business," he added.

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