Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Tunisia : “We are prioritising innovation in energy and the environment”

Special edition no.15 : FEMIP

Written by Francis Mateo, BARCELONA on Monday, October 26th 2015 à 09:43 | Read 591 times

Mustapha Kchir, SME sector manager at the Bank of Tunisia, takes stock of the difficulties and challenges in providing proper support to innovative SMEs, including vital technical assistance to ensure good access to finance.

Mustapha Kchir, SME sector manager at the Bank of Tunisia. Photo DR
Mustapha Kchir, SME sector manager at the Bank of Tunisia. Photo DR What are the main difficulties for innovative SMEs in accessing finance?
Mustapha Kchir: Among the main difficulties for innovative SMEs to access finance, we can mention the lack of private-sector incubators with funding resources and networks to take on a venture from the launch of an idea, then supervise and support it in the start-up phase. In addition, innovative project promoters generally do not have the management expertise needed to defend their applications and business plans in front of funding providers.  

Another difficulty lies in the lack of a genuine guarantee provided by project promoters. Obviously, there are national guarantee mechanisms such as the Tunisian Guarantee Company (SOTUGAR), although its ability to take on projects remains partial and conditional. Finally, it should be noted that for these innovative projects, promoters generally do not have enough of their own funding to finance their investments. This also constitutes an obstacle to accessing finance.
Are there priority sectors?
M.K.: In principle, we do not exclude any business activity, but we follow national and international trends and give priority to innovations in specific sectors like energy and the environment. In these two fields, the challenges concern, in particular, managing energy and energy efficiency, clean energy, decontamination and water protection, etc.
The digital economy sector is also a more promising area for funding innovative SMEs to develop, for example, mobile applications and databases. This is similar to the financial sector with applications that can involve developing “robo-advisor” decision-making support software.
What are the challenges for employment?
The issue is more about quality than quantity. It is clear that encouraging innovative SMEs fosters the creation of jobs, but not on a massive scale. We are seeing that this job creation mainly concerns qualified labour with a higher supervision ratio. 

Special issue : Developing and Funding Innovation in Southern Mediterranean Countries

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