COOP Champions

Youssef Fennira Chief Technical Advisor, Responsible for Enterprises/SSE Cluster and Youth focal point, ILO Tunisia

COOP Champions features ILO colleagues from around the world working on cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy enterprises. It highlights their contributions, and shares highlights of their experiences, current work, and future aspirations.

Article | 14 February 2023

Could you tell us about yourself? How did you get interested and involved in your work at the ILO?

I have an M.A. degree in International Economics from La Sorbonne and an MBA in International Business Engineering from the Ecole Supérieure de Gestion de Paris. I returned to Tunisia in 2011 to contribute to the growth of a new economic model. I worked on career change in to face the digital, ecological and societal challenges Tunisian youth face. A project with German cooperation (CORP Tunisia) has created more than 3,000 jobs in two years.

In 2019, I became the Director General of the National Agency for Employment and Independent Work, a public sector entity with 1,500 employees working on implementing employment and entrepreneurship policies in Tunisia. We have developed a vision, ANETI 2030, to ensure comprehensive, inclusive action, managing to raise around 20 million euros in funding.

During this period, we were involved in, with the support of the ILO, and successfully achieved the adoption of the law on the Social and Solidarity Economy, strengthening entrepreneurship and employment in Tunisia.

Currently, as Chief Technical Advisor and Head of the Enterprises/SSE Cluster of the ILO office in Tunis, I dedicate time to the implementation of projects related to social entrepreneurship and the social and solidarity economy for vulnerable youth.

Could you share some highlights of your work on cooperatives and other SSE enterprises at ILO Office for Tunisia?

Tunisia is the first country where the ILO started implementing Social and Solidarity Economy programmes. These programmes, supported by donors such as the European Union, and the governments of Canada and Netherlands aim to create the conditions for a conducive environment on the SSE.

JEUN’ESS and FORTER’ESS are the two ILO projects working on the SSE in Tunisia. They focus on optimizing the "solidarity chain" for greater added value of the Tunisian product. They support SSE entities, such as cooperatives, to strengthen their production, transform and diversify their products and access markets through better marketing and labelling strategies.

These projects focused on the creation of first generation of SSE entities in Tunisia after the adoption of the law. A Social Innovation Fund has thus been created with the aim of selecting more than 100 projects that are currently being incubated for a period of six months, which will result in legal creation, technical and financial support for the beneficiaries. In less than two years, 64 SSE entities have already benefited from technical and financial support to develop their activities.

At the strategic level, ILO Tunisia is the main partner of the Ministry of Economy and Planning on the SSE portfolio. It has supported the establishment of a commission and provided the experts who developed the SSE vision 2035 within the framework of the 2023-2025 Development Plan for Tunisia. The Ministry also benefits from support for the mapping of social entrepreneurship initiatives in Tunisia, their evaluation for capitalization and expansion as needed.

The Community Fund provides support to local communities and social partners for the development of SSE projects. In 2023, 1.4 million will be allocated to implementing initiatives in seven municipalities. An SSE guide for local communities will be developed to document these experiences.

The LIMITL'ESS Clubs are another initiative under these projects. There are 20 SSE Clubs in Tunisia with another 15 are expected to be formed by end of 2023. They are present in youth structures such as universities, vocational training centers, youth homes (maisons de jeunes) andcultural centers. They aim to raise awareness among young people about SSE values, principles and opportunities.

The ILO Tunisia staff are well-versed in delivering on ILO’s SSE tools such as My.Coop, Think.Coop and Start.Coop, and Generate your social enterprises ideas for youth. These tools will benefit many partners in the field to be able to multiply the ILO's know-how in the field. These initiatives are delivered in cooperation with and daily support from the ILO’s COOP unit in Geneva.

How do you see the future of cooperatives and the wider SSE? What do you think is needed for them to play a more prominent role in Tunisia?

A central concern for our project, as all development cooperation projects, is moving to sustainability. That is why the JEUN'ESS project relies on sustainable and recognized implementation partners in Tunisia across the different stages of implementation. For example, the Social Innovation Fund works with five social incubators, and seven local associations. The Tunisian Bank of Solidarity, a public financial organization, also benefits from the training of its staff to better support and manage Social and Solidarity Economy projects.

Creation of a link with SSE start-ups can bring the necessary technological innovation for cooperatives bringing them out of their local isolation. Commercialization through digital platforms, physical sales points in major cities, the establishment of logistics to better transport products, support for alternative financing models for the SSE are among the mechanisms needed the leverage the SSE for those who need it the most.