Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Searching for Social Entrepreneurship in the Middle East

"Fewer than 10 percent of Muslims in the West Bank have checking accounts." That's a pullquote from a new article in the World Policy Journal (pdf) on microfinance and the Muslim world. The article focuses, in part, on the efforts of Reef Finance ("rural" in Arabic), a microfinance organization based in Ramallah, Palestine. There are few good examples of entrepreneurship, let alone social entrepreneurship in the Middle East, so this is a bigger story than it might look at first glance. (The interested reader should also see the profile of Sekem in Innovations).

Check it out. The summary:
These efforts described here are still quite new, but so far, they seem to be working for both financiers and rural Palestinians. So, while the amount of funds being loaned may be relatively small, the goals are anything but. Building a sustainable economic foundation in the rural West Bank is a powerful inducement to keep young men off the streets, and a big step forward in the march to a lasting peace in the Middle East. If international aid efforts are to be focused on this particular goal, a dramatic expansion in shariah-based microfinance is likely to bear enormous dividends, far beyond any immediate economic impact.

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