Mauritania - African Development Bank Boosts Private Sector

11 September 2018
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

Spotlight on a few beneficiaries in Mauritania who are flourishing with private sector support.

In April 2017, the African Development Bank opened a five-year US$7 million credit line to the Banque Populaire de Mauritanie (BPM), following an earlier line in July 2008, which had been repaid in full. These loans form part of the Bank's measures to promote the private sector in Mauritania.

Thirty five small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) covering eight business sectors have benefited from these credit facilities, some of which have been remarkably successful.

Below are three success stories of some of the beneficiaries.

From garbage collector to CEO

Lehbib Mohamed El Kory's story seems nothing short of a real-life fairy tale.

El Kory was one of the earliest applicants in 2007. This former refuse collector and casual cleaner was granted a US$700 loan. Today, he is the young CEO of a nationally-known company: Agence des Travaux Divers (ATD), or in English, Multi-Services Agency, an SME that employs 110 people.

"It hasn't been a ride in the park, but I've got there," said Lehbib, recalling the time when his family used to ironically call him 'the garbage man'. "My experience had nothing to do with luck or chance," he added.

He owes his success to work and to the support he received from BPM which, he says, believed in him, showed confidence in him and helped him make the most of his potential by providing him with successive micro-loans, without which he could not have built his business.

Brimming with energy and a sharp mind, Lehbib considers work to be a supreme value.

"I always thought that if you worked hard enough you could achieve anything. It is the moral dimension that drives me far more than profit," he explained. But he fully recognizes that without this loan he would never have been able to achieve such success.. "I go at my own pace, according to my capacity. But I take care never to let go of any serious opportunity that could consolidate and expand my business."

Although Lehbib's company is not making significant profits yet, it is operational, financially balanced and has paid its loans off almost entirely. His assets include lorries, tools and equipment and the CEO's pride and joy - a van for transporting workers.

"Much remains to be done, particularly the acquisition of tools to improve my employees" safety at work," Lehbib said.

"Work has given me back my dignity"

Lehbib's company employs 110 people, 48 of them of whon are women that the company has helped out of unemployment and poverty.

Fatimatou's story is a shining example of this. And she is not alone in having been able to make something good from an otherwise difficult life, thanks to having steady work guaranteed by ATD.

This forty-something mother of four, has been working for ATD since her husband died, nearly five years ago.

"Work has given me back my dignity," she said quietly ."More than just a livelihood, work has meant I could bring my daughters up, send them to school and protect them from the scourge of marginalization."

Fatimatou lets her deep gratitude to Lehbib show; he supported her and even helped her acquire a small piece of land. This was a previously unattainable dream for this woman, who had lost both parents and had no chance of family support. She had been able to build a house on the land which, no matter how modest, meant that she and her family were able to avoid being thrown onto the street when her husband died.

Exports are just the ticket

CEO, Hamdi Ould Wadady of Les Moulins de l'Atlas, (Atlas Mills), has another succes journey to share.

Based in the working-class district of El Mina, on the outskirts of Nouakchott, this company also benefited from the Bank's private sector support programme.

Wadady started the bakery from two neighbourhood bakeries he inherited from his father in 2001, and has since turned it into one of the most promising private companies in Mauritania. Wadady runs the businesses with an iron fist and now can boast of 21 bakeries/confectioners, a fish processing plant (fresh and frozen, for export to Europe), and a mill that not only produces flour but animal feed.

This young CEO, in his fifties, is one of the new generation of entrepreneurs that has made its mark in the private sector. A key factor of this spectacular development is access to credit. This has enabled him not only to modernize his production equipment but also to support his diversification into other business sectors.

A company truck, loaded with flour, leaves the Atlas Mills factory in a Nouakchott neighborhood

In 2007, Hamdi decided to move into milling, to supply his own shops. His firm now aims to supply the subregion including the Malian and Senegalese markets with flour and animal feed.

The company employs some 170 workers, leading its CEO to say that he is "one of the agents of change working on a national scale" and that the prosperity of his business contributes to the social and economic development of Mauritania.

"We work a lot, an enormous lot for us, but also for the growth of our country," he likes to repeat.

Currently Les Moulins de l'Atlas has loans with the leasing arm of BPM of between US$ 415,000 to US$553,000 with one or two year payback terms.

Trust is at the heart of the relationship between the company and the bank. And, very astute in his approach, the young CEO never ceases to be very prudent when it comes to finance.

"We refuse to take a lot of risks and we only take out credit in cases of extreme need," he said. Except at the launch of his company, he clarified, which was heavily dependent on bank loans, granted under the policy of private sector support

Thank you African Development Bank.

A partnership that benefits the country

Hamoud Mogueya, risk manager at BPM, does not hide his satisfaction at his bank's results in terms of support to the Mauritanian private sector. Through the credit lines granted by the African Development Bank, BPM's objectives have been fully achieved.

"With the Bank's financial contribution, we were able to support young Mauritanian entrepreneurs to set up viable and successful SMEs," he said.

Mogueya said, in this respect, the granting of credit was in line with predefined criteria, particularly emphasising creditworthiness of the beneficiaries, and their commitment to honour deadlines. Potential applicants are identified through advertising (billboards, etc.) designed to reach the largest number of candidates, after which they are screened.

BPM's products include the financing of movable assets for all types of professional use (production equipment, office or computer equipment, transport, etc.). Candidates must be able to fund 30% of the credit amount and the maximum loan term is 36 months. They also provide financing for the acquisition or construction of business premises, offices, factories or company headquarters.

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