Magharebia (Washington DC)

13 August 2014

Mauritania Looks to Microfinance

Nouakchott — The Mauritanian capital played host to a training workshop on micro-projects and financial resources Sunday (August 10th).

Those attending, from both the private and public sectors, were able to hear talks given by Mauritanian and international experts on the role played by micro-projects in supporting economic and social development efforts.

They also discussed Islamic finance tools and their micro-project applications, as well as the role played by Islamic banks in the field.

"This training session allows participants to find out about resources and micro-projects, to exchange information and to improve their knowledge of the area," explained Mohamed Lemine Ould Dhehby, the director general of investment programmes and projects at the economy ministry.

Ould Dhehby's office organised the micro-project event together with the Islamic Institute for Research and Learning.

"This kind of finance has transformed over the years, and has proved to be effective in re-launching economic development. From instruments for simple financial aid or loans, they have developed into real, sustainable local institutions, serving the poor," he said.

The director went on to cite the experiences of Bangladesh and Brazil, judged to be conclusive proof that the approach works.

"The agencies that Mauritania created with the aim of encouraging micro- and medium enterprises, particularly the Agency for the Promotion of Savings and Credit Co-operative Unions, and the National Agency for the Promotion of Youth Employment, highlight the role played by the department in this field," Ould Dhehby continued.

Researcher Saad Bouh Sidati Rekad, a lecturer at the Nouakchott Faculty of Economic Science, said: "The way that micro-projects are managed differs from major projects. SMEs involve the so-called 'working poor' in society. These are people who are capable of producing, but who lack the resources; this is in contrast to the 'poor poor' who have a hand-out mentality."

Meanwhile, Zeidane Ould Moulaye Zein, economics professor and director of an African Development Bank micro-projects programme, said: "Small and medium enterprises have been a problem in Mauritania where, since 1998, billions of Ouguiyas have been invested in this area, but nearly 90% of the projects have fizzled out. In other words, they've failed."

The professor added: "We need to adapt our ideas and theories in this field to the real situation on the ground. Practical recommendations need to be put to the government to enable it to capitalise most effectively on all this investment."

"The failure of micro-projects can be explained in part by the meagreness of the financial resources made available, but also a lack of alertness among the officials responsible for managing them," according to Mohamed Salem Ould Abdallahi, a clerk at the Central Bank of Mauritania (CBM).

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