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Tunisia secures $175 million (in loans) from World Bank to invest in startups and digitization of social security and education systems

Tunisia has secured $175 million from the World Bank to support digital transformation in the country, the World Bank Group announced last month in a statement. The funding, according to different media reports, comes in the form of two loans.

The two projects, per statement, will help Tunisia to build a new economy that encourages entrepreneurs and generates more opportunities, and will make the government more responsive to needs of citizens through digital transformation of key public services.

$75 million for startups and SMEs

The first project with a $75 million loan from The World Bank will expand access to financing to promote growth of innovative startups and small and medium-sized businesses.

The project labeled ‘Tunisia Innovative Startups and SMEs Project‘ will provide equity and quasi-equity (loans offered on flexible repayment terms without any collateral – more here) to approximately 280 ‘innovative startups’ and SMEs through Anava Funds of Funds an InnovaTech Fund. According to documents (PDF) available on The World Bank’s website, both the funds will be managed by an entity named Smart Capital.

The project will also provide grants to startups and ecosystem intermediaries to build a high-quality deal flow and strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem, “The project will help entrepreneurship ecosystem players, such as incubators and accelerators, to enhance and expand the outreach of their programs; including to women-led startups and SMEs and those in the interior regions.”

Anouar Maarouf, Tunisia’s Minister of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy, commenting on the project said that it represents concrete support for a new generation of entrepreneurs in post-revolution Tunisia, “This project is a promise from the Tunisian Government towards its young and innovative entrepreneurs to develop a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem in which their ideas and businesses can thrive and grow.”

The project will be implemented by the Caisse de Dépôts et Consignations (CDC) and will be coordinated closely with the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation.

$100 million for digital transformation of Social Protection & Education System

The second project (PDF), which is a $100 million loan, will be used for digital transformation of social security and education system following a GovTech approach. It aims to improve service quality of these systems and ensure that they are reaching the people that need them the most.

“The aim is to ensure vulnerable populations, such as low-income groups, women in rural areas, illiterates and the disabled have access to these key services, and that systems enable greater citizen feedback to hold these services accountable,” said The World Bank in a statement.

The project according to the statement will focus on improvements in (i) social assistance programs, such as cash and benefit transfers, to improve access to social assistance for vulnerable groups; (ii) social protection, to improve pension and health insurance coverage; (iii) digital education management services, to improve enrolment, student/school monitoring and drop-out detection; and (iv) a digital learning management system to improve learning.

invest in the digitization of social security and education systems to improve service quality and ensure they are reaching the people that need them most.

Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “Like most countries across the region, Tunisia has an immense, untapped potential in its large number of educated and talented young people and women. With these two projects, Tunisia is making strides towards a new digital economy, where the youth find the space for their energy and creativity to drive growth, create jobs and build a new relationship between citizens and the state. These two projects reflect the long-standing strategic and forward-looking engagement of the World Bank in Tunisia’s development.”

Tunisia’s Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Digital Economy will oversee the implementation of both projects.

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