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Fostering development by supporting migrants’ entrepreneurial skills: The Rétale microcredit programme

Catalonia
Spain

 

Rétale is a programme that, between 2004 and 2009, was coordinated and funded by the Foundation Un Sol Món (Only One World) of Caixa Catalunya (Saving Banks Catalonia), a bank of the Province of Barcelona. The programme is currently coordinated and being redefined by another foundation, Servei Solidari (Solidarity Service), which operates in the field of development. The programme aims to support Ecuadorian and Colombian migrants in Spain as much as co-development in these migrants’ countries of origin relying mainly on microcredit and the stimulation of the migrants’ entrepreneurial skills (in line with requests for business start-up funds from the migrants). The programme provides small funds of up to € 15,000 for a maximum of 24 months to Ecuadorians at a first stage and then (starting 2008) also to Colombians. Funds are to support the establishment or development of an economic activity in migrants’ countries of origin. Migrants can lead the activity going back to their country or while remaining in Spain in collaboration with an economic partner in the country of origin.

While the coordination of the programme has always been located in Catalonia, partners in the Community of Madrid and the Valencian Community (where the most numerous communities of Ecuadorians are concentrated) as well as in Ecuador and Colombia have contributed in the realisation of the programme. Several information sessions with migrants have organised. Once the entrepreneurial skills of the applicant and the merit of her or his project are assessed, a three-step process starts which includes counselling on and definition of the plan, funding of the plan, and start-up and monitoring of the planned activity (which could be an extension and development of a business already existing).

Over the years, Rétale has produced interesting results. It has reached out to a number of migrants, including a majority of women, interested in starting or developing an economic activity in their own country. Projects funded under Rétale proved to be successful in both Ecuador and Colombia. By November 2009, a total of 128 projects (including 7 related to business activities previously funded by Rètale) had been put in place by either Ecuadorians or Colombians, with survival rates of approximately 90%. Activities created or expanded under Rétale are of different natures, comprising activities in the field of agriculture and livestock, trade, artisanal activities, the production of textile and shoes, and activities related to services such as hairdressing and restoration. Rétale has contributed also to the creation of new employment and more than 300 jobs related to the economic activities funded by the programme.

At the same time, Rétale is facing some crucial challenges, some of which are related to the increasing scarcity of funds available for development programmes due to the economic crisis that has hit Spain in the last years If more funds for the programme became available, more activities and jobs could be created. More communities could also be included in the programme (starting with the Moroccan community, which was identified as the next target group for the programme). Another set of limits and challenges are related to the need to diversify the scope of the funds provided by Rétale. Funds could be used more flexibly and support different types of expenses needed by migrants.

Any public authorities (regional, provincial, or even municipal) that would like to implement this programme should consider the availability of the adequate funds and financial infrastructure (including, eventually a bank and a foundation). They should then be aware of existing theories and possibilities related to co-development and microcredit initiatives, which should nevertheless be adapted in the light of the ‘local’ conditions of migrants, their entrepreneurial skills, and the possibility of putting in place functional partnerships to implement the programme (in the host country and in migrants’ countries of origin).