Large enterprise of the year: Al-Amal Microfinance Bank

"Amid the ongoing war in Yemen since 2015, many young people lost their businesses. They also lost the opportunity to get small grants for establishing a small enterprise as financial institutions stopped lending amid increasing risk and complicated loan guarantee" said Mohammed Al-Lai, CEO of the Al-Amal Microfinance Bank.

In an attempt to overcome this issue, the bank – which calls itself the 'Bank of the Unbanked' – launched its Project to Support Youth Entrepreneurship and Financial Inclusion (PSYEFI), for which it has won the Large Enterprise of the Year award.

Funded by the EU and Qatari development NGO Silatech, this helped provide youth-owned enterprises with grants to launch or recover their businesses with no fees or financial guarantees required. The programme provided the beneficiaries with management training as well as a supply network of vendors their businesses could tap into. When the pandemic meant the programme was automated, the entrepreneurs were also taught how online financial services could benefit their businesses.

With 40% of the beneficiaries being women, the programme has also helped to encourage female entrepreneurship in the country.

Since its inception in 2018, PSYEFI has provided finance for around 12,000 businesses and supported the development of more than 42,000 jobs in a country which has seen job opportunity diminished from war.

AMB explained that many of Yemen's youth were likely to join armed groups due to "poverty, destitution, and a lack of income" but the programme has offered an alternative for the country's young people.

Al-Lai told Environmental Finance that in the next phase AMB and its partners intend to extend the project "and continue contributing to the stabilisation of the country. In its second phase, the project will expand to include three more governorates of Yemen and reach up to 16,000 young entrepreneurs".