Damascus, Syria, 17 March 2003 - The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has launched its first microcredit facilities under agreements signed with the Syrian Ministry of Health and the Governorates of Aleppo, Hama and Tartous. Innovative multi-year programmes, these facilities are aimed at stimulating income-generation in low-income areas and promoting small-scale agricultural and industrial enterprises. In Aleppo and Hama provinces, microcredit facilities will help finance housing improvement in areas where the rehabilitation of historic spaces is underway, with a view to enhance potential for the tourism and leisure industry. In Lattakia province, the microcredit facility will begin with a focus on eight villages in Hafeh District in consonance with the Syrian Government's Healthy Village Programme. A microcredit facility will also be established in five districts of the Tartous province.
"AKDN's initiative in launching these microcredit facilities furthers our own development objectives," said Mr. Iyad Al-Chatty, Syria's Minister of Health. "We look forward to benefiting from the Network's experience in microfinance for development purposes and greatly appreciate their early contributions to health and education in this country."
"Our aim, is to put in place credit facilities that will be sustainable for the longer term," said Jacques Toureille, Manager of the AKDN's Microfinance Unit. "Surpluses generated from fees charged to administer and service these programmes will be reinvested in the microcredit programme so that, over time, more people can benefit from more credit."
The microcredit facilities will encompass the provision of loans or guarantees for acquiring machinery, land and agricultural inputs or to create or expand small-scale businesses or industries, as well as to finance cottage industry, handicraft and tourism facilities. They will also entail technical assistance, training and other forms of support to encourage private enterprise. Other services to promote savings products and facilitate payments may also be established as deemed necessary.
"These programmes are about enabling people in low-income areas to access resources that they cannot otherwise obtain," said Mr. Namaan Adra, Microcredit Programme Coordinator. "We want to enable people to improve their quality of life, become more self-reliant and at the same time, contribute to a regeneration of the local economy in each district in which we will operate."
The AKDN's microcredit programmes are one amongst several initiatives being undertaken by the Network pursuant to a Framework Development Agreement signed in November 2001 between the Network and the Syrian Government. In addition to historic restoration and urban development work in Aleppo, Latakkia and Hama provinces, the Network has launched programmes for improving the quality of service delivery in the education and health sectors, introducing information technology into secondary schools, upgrading healthcare facilities and piloting a community-based water management scheme.
The AKDN is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities. Active in over 20 countries, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Aleem Walji
Aga Khan Development Network
Tel: +963.11.334 3610
Fax: +963.11.334 3613
The Information Department