The Business Resilience Assistance for Value-Adding Enterprises (BRAVE) has been designed to enhance the resilience of private enterprises in fragile contexts as potential engines for innovation, employment, and improved quality of life. BRAVE provides specialized business training and grant-matching support to help businesses maintain, continue operating and create new employment opportunities.
BRAVE was conceived in 2015 by the IsDB/ICD at the onset of the conflict in Yemen as a Private Sector Development Initiative to support the country’s struggling MSME sector. The initiative, which at the time was funded by the MENA Transition Fund and implemented by the IsDB/ICD from 2016 until 2020, proved itself to be a successful model of MSME support for a fragile and conflicted area. Its success thus spurred a replication of the initiative with a focus on women entrepreneurs in 2018 namely “BRAVE Women Program” in the countries of Yemen, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, under a funding program provided by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). This program is still ongoing in those three countries.
The traditional response to supporting businesses affected by conflict is usually to intervene during the aftermath rather than in the immediate. Furthermore, the majority of post-conflict reconstruction programs tend to be purely humanitarian in nature and neglect the private sector. International programs such as these may distribute direct cash, medical supplies, and so on.
BRAVE, conversely, found a new way of supporting the private sector during episodes of conflict (rather than after it) where fighting has paralyzed economic activity and put MSMEs at risk. BRAVE has been designed to enhance the resilience of MSMEs, value chain lead firms, and business associations/cooperatives in fragile contexts, with the potential for scaling up and replication. It aims to address the economic problems induced by the ongoing conflict and fragility context, ensuring the resilience of the private sector as the engine of sustainable growth. The project is supporting firms via the provision of grant-matching assistance coupled with specialized business trainings to help businesses maintain and survive through difficult times.
BRAVE is a multi-component and multi-country program, with potential for scaling up and replication.
It combines training and grant matching aimed at supporting MSMEs’ investments for resilience and growth. The program is packaged around several components that are structured to serve 2 main objectives: 1) collecting a large sample of firms (MSMEs, Lead firms, Business Associations/Cooperatives) who to provide training to 2) further categorizing those firms based on size and importance in the economic sectors of the different countries to allow the grant and its matching counterpart to respond to the firms’ specific needs. Sectors and number of beneficiaries are expected to have some variation from country to country to address the specific needs of those firms within the general approach adopted at the program level.
In parallel to those components, BRAVE invests in the local Project Management Units (PMUs) and IT system to provide the local implementation agencies with additional human, operational, and technology capabilities towards that objective. Moreover, lessons learned and applied methods provide donors with additional experience with possible applicability in similar conflict-affected environments.
The design of the BRAVE is based on the following theory of change: providing specialized business training and grant-matching assistance will help businesses maintain and continue operating in a fragile context. Ultimately, it will improve the operational and financial performance of MSMEs, create new employment opportunities, improve the quality of existing jobs, increase their access to finance, and improve the quality of life for the local communities.
The following figure illustrates BRAVE’s Theory of Change:
There are 5 components of BRAVE set up to deliver its objective:
BRAVE inspired confidence to expand
“BRAVE came like a light of hope to us, to say that we are not alone ... and encouraged us to open a new branch,” said Elham Jameel, Executive Director of healthcare firm BioMove. “Our vision in the BioMove center is to reach every home that has a person with special needs in Yemen,” Elham said the private sector had been neglected – no one supported it. “We were surprised that BRAVE supported the private sector.” BioMove transforms people’s lives through prosthetics and physical therapy: “There was a lot of pressure on us, as many cases came from cities outside Sana’a, searching first for a place to stay to get treated.”
A stitch in time for clothing companies
Al-Ameer Tailoring Factory was established in Sana’a in 1984 and won support from BRAVE that enabled the firm to continue operating “in all circumstances” despite the challenges, said facility owner Mohammed Aldubai. “BRAVE allowed us to expand the number of our customers because of the high-quality product we offer.” The support also enabled staff expansion, from 60 to 100 workers, with further plans for growth, including for more female staff, Mohammed said. Retailers said the quality of the product could now match that available outside Yemen – yet at local costs. “We weren’t the only ones who benefited,” Mohammed said, “everyone benefited”.
BRAVE Women is different from other programs for women
Azah Shoukri, owner of Sabia for cloth: “We already got in the past different support programs from several local or international organizations but, with BRAVE Women project it’s completely different. This unique project starts first with professional training to enhance our capabilities to prepare our business continuity plan and then we can get access to the matching grant support. In addition, local banks are supporting us as well to get loans. In the last 5 years, all the financial institutions in Yemen stopped giving loans to women entrepreneurs but now we are so excited to get back those services. This restores the trust relationship between women entrepreneurs and the banks which have been completely lost during the war”.
Providing affordable education services in a war zone
Mrs. Elham Haider is the principal of Alnabras school in Taiz which is one of the most affected areas in Yemen: “Due to the current situation in Taiz, most of the public services were partially stopped including education. 80% of the education facilities are not functioning with most of them destroyed because of the ongoing conflict. In some areas, schools have been taking over by militaries and are regularly targeted by airstrikes. Lately, with life conditions getting worse, I decided with my team to make our services affordable so many students will have a chance to go back to the education system. In the last 3 years, we succeeded to cover our operational costs and allowed internally displaced students to come back to school as well.
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