March 20, 2023

Building business resilience and creating hundreds of jobs in Libya: Tadamon

As the Tadamon programme in Libya comes to a close, we reflect on the importance of building business resilience among entrepreneurs affected by COVID-19, conflict and crisis. Through mentoring and training programmes, SPARK and our partners, Deraz and BINA Business Incubator, have created 232 direct and indirect jobs for youth and women.

Within the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health crisis had spiralled into an economic crisis as well, with mass layoffs and closures occurring worldwide. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in fragile and conflict-affected states faced a particularly challenging situation, with pre-existing vulnerabilities and constraints that threatened their survival. As SMEs are known to contribute to local employment and the overall gross domestic product (GDP), initiatives that strengthen entrepreneurial resilience to COVID-19 were very much needed.

As such, the Tadamon programme was introduced in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Somalia/Somaliland and Libya to respond to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in the health sector. Financed by the Islamic Development Bank and Islamic Fund for Solidarity, the programme has been instrumental in creating awareness about the best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, ensuring SMEs in the health sector have the opportunity to scale and grow, safeguarding jobs and creating new ones, and building the resilience of businesses to future economic shocks.

Libya, in particular, has been plagued by conflicts and instability, with far-reaching consequences for its economy, particularly the SME sector. The high unemployment rates, disrupted health infrastructure, and COVID-19 pandemic have further compounded the economic challenges faced by the country. In an effort to create a more conducive environment for startups and support SMEs that have been affected by the conflicts and the pandemic, the Tadamon program was introduced. Tadamon in Libya pays particular attention to businesses led by women, youth and other vulnerable populations.

Building SMEs’ business resilience
In Libya, the challenges for entrepreneurship were already numerous before the pandemic. SPARK partnered with two leading entrepreneurship supporting organisations in Libya, BINA Business Incubator and Deraz, to support 15 businesses and safeguard the jobs of their employees throughout the pandemic, which resulted in the creation of 67 new jobs and 165 indirect jobs.

BINA Business Incubator and Deraz, initially identified the issues encountered by SMEs as a result of the pandemic, which included reduced demand, supply chain disruptions, and financial constraints of customers. Deraz then developed tailored training for Libyan SMEs to help them counter the common issues, which included training in financial management, digital skills, and supply chain management.

By supporting businesses to financially forecast and budget, the SMEs are better able to manage their cash flow. With training in e-commerce, digital marketing, social media management, and website design, businesses were also able to adapt to the shift towards remote work and online sales. The supply chain management module equipped SMEs with the skills and knowledge to manage their supply chain more effectively, including supply chain risk management, inventory management, and vendor management.

For instance, Engraveha is a Libyan startup that specialises in laser engraving on solid materials, such as cups, medals, and souvenirs. As part of the Tadamon program, the company was able to leverage its participation to create an online store and tailor its messaging to better reach its target audience. Through improved marketing strategies and effective risk management, Engraveha was able to attract and retain customers, resulting in a notable increase in sales and an expansion of its customer base.

“Our partnership with SPARK and Deraz not only enabled us to achieve the goals of our programme, but also empowered us to support local entrepreneurs,” said Ghada Rhuma, Programme Coordinator at BINA Business Incubator.

“We believe that even amidst a pandemic, it’s important to equip entrepreneurs with the resilience techniques needed to rise from the ashes, like the Phoenix. This way, they can continue their work with renewed strength and determination.”

Supporting women entrepreneurs
In Libya, only 35% of women of working age are employed. Throughout the programme, 50 women and young business-owners received incubation and entrepreneurship training, providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to grow in their ventures.

One such entrepreneur, Zahra Mohamed, a talented fashion designer from Libya, honed her skills in project management, risk assessments and financial literacy during the programme. Equipped with new knowledge, she was able to take her business to the next level, opening her own workshop and creating employment opportunities for fifteen women.

In addition, 25 freelancers that completed a two-day freelancers bootcamp received extensive guidance on a range of topics, from applying for projects to finding employment prospects, equipping them with the tools they need to take the next steps in their careers.

The graduation ceremony of the first group of incubated entrepreneurs in the BINA Business Incubator in Libya © 2023, SPARK

Safa Ramadan is a medical student and the CEO and founder of ‘YourHealth’ app. At just 22-years-old, she recognised the difficulties that Libyans face in accessing healthcare services, including a shortage of medical personnel, equipment and medicines. Before joining the Tadamon programme, ‘YourHealth’ was a simple app that showed the nearest pharmacy or doctor. However, through the training Safa was able to expand the app’s services, making it possible for users to book appointments with doctors or even consult online – an essential service during physical lockdowns.

Improving working conditions across Libya
Deraz ran an awareness campaign focused on improving working conditions – especially those related to COVID-19 – that often hinder employees from giving their best effort at work. Using the Libyan dialect and eye-catching illustrations, the campaign struck a chord with the Libyan people and generated a positive impression both online and offline, reaching over 2,000 people online. By raising awareness of the importance of good working conditions, they have helped to create a more supportive and productive work environment for many individuals and businesses.

The Tadamon programme is part of SPARK’s mission to create more and better jobs for young people. The training sessions helped businesses become more resilient and adaptable, better equipped to handle unexpected challenges and changes in the market. The project has also created job opportunities for mentors, freelancers, and the owners of SMEs. Supporting the livelihoods of hundreds of people in Libya, Tadamon has provided much-needed economic stability and created a ripple effect of positive change.