Jordan has witnessed a significant refugee influx over the last seven years. This has placed a huge strain on economic infrastructure, service delivery and employment avenues alike.
Representing a population of nearly 1.3 million, the vast majority of Syrians who fled to Jordan since war broke out in their country in 2011 live outside official refugee camps. Four out of five refugees live below the poverty line, many in dire conditions. And, as of 2017, there were approximately 297,000 Syrian men and women of working age in Jordan, out of over 660,000 refugees registered with the UN refugee agency.¹
For Syrian refugees relocating to Jordan, formal employment is the first and foremost means of ensuring a decent livelihood and eventual economic integration. In 2015, the international community worked with the government of Jordan to create the Jordan Compact. Under this compact, the government of Jordan committed to issue 200,000 work permits to Syrian refugees over a three-year period in exchange for preferential access to the European market as well as access to conditional financing from the World Bank.²
However, more than two years on, the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan remain staggering. Despite positive policy changes such as the cancellation of the work permit costs and other legal amendments, formalisation of work is not increasing as fast as anticipated, and new job opportunities are slow to arise. Indeed, the Department of Statistics reported that unemployment in Jordan reached an all-time high of 18.30% in 2017.
The only lasting solution lies in promoting the growth of micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs), as the public sector simply cannot create enough jobs to accommodate the swelling ranks of the unemployed, citizens and refugees alike. These small and growing businesses already supply 60% of all formal jobs outside the government, and represent 98.5% of all private sector firms in terms of establishment count.³
Supporting small and growing businesses, with their high job creation potential, is also expected to ease the burden of Syrian refugees in Jordan. Not only would they be able to gain employment within SMEs that are encouraged to grow with the right finance and support, but a concerted boost to SME growth would also support Syrian refugees to become employers of labour by setting up their own businesses. In this context, market research studies by the International Labour Organisation have shown that many Syrian refugees in Jordan have strong entrepreneurial skills but lack a conducive environment to realise their dreams.
It is here that specialist SME financiers like GroFin are the need of the hour. Since 2014, the Nomou Jordan Fund managed by GroFin has worked ceaselessly to promote the growth of SMEs in Jordan through a proven combination of appropriate finance and value-adding business support.
As at the end of 2017, Nomou Jordan had disbursed capital totalling US$ 20.1 million, supported 422 entrepreneurs, invested in 35 small and growing businesses, sustained over 2,130 jobs and impacted 10,665 livelihoods.
Since inception, Nomou Jordan has been focussing on SMEs that are locally owned and managed, as well as governorate-based, women-owned, employment-intensive, and export-oriented businesses. Most recently, with a view to reach out to the most vulnerable sections of the working population, the Nomou Jordan Fund is prioritising businesses owned by Syrian entrepreneurs, as well as those employing Syrian refugees, with three of the businesses supported by the Fund owned by immigrant entrepreneurs and our investee businesses supporting employment for 77 refugees as well as sustaining 385 livelihoods from the refugee community.
Manufacturing concern Arabella for Aluminium is a case in point, where GroFin supported the labour-intensive business not once but twice, first as a start-up in 2015 and most recently in 2017 when it needed additional working capital to grow its operations. The factory, situated in Al Mafraq city, is already making a significant contribution to the community. Located in one of Jordan’s poorer governorates, it lies close to refugee shelters such as the Zaatari camp. Today, almost a third of those employed in the business are drawn from the Syrian refugee population, helping integrate such refugees into the local economy.
If you are an entrepreneur or investor interested in supporting refugee populations, GroFin would be happy to partner with you. Let us join forces to ensure that economic growth in Jordan is inclusive and reaches out to the most vulnerable sections of the population.