Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

When Remah Salah Shihab finished university, she began looking for a job—a challenging proposition in a country like Jordan, where recent graduates find an extremely competitive job market and few opportunities to gain job experience. A friend told Remah about the NetCorps project and she sent in her resume.

Muna Hamdan needs an endless supply of jars and plastic bags for her home-based business producing jams and pickles. She spent valuable time searching for suppliers until she heard about the Business-to-Business (B2B) service at the Jordan Micro Credit Company, a USAID-supported institution that seeks to help entrepreneurs through small loans and support services.

Ten years ago, Amira owned a beauty salon, drove her own car, and helped her husband pay the household bills.

Her life, however, changed in an instant when she was hit by a car. While she was left disabled and was learning to walk again, her husband divorced her. Penniless, she worried how she would support her two young children. Divorced women in Jordanian society are particularly vulnerable, and Amira was desperate to find a means to feed her children.

Although its natural resources are limited, Jordan's population growth is accelerating, posing a real challenge to health, education, and social service development. Jordan's population of 5.29 million people is growing at the fast rate of 2.59 percent. Without a joint effort from local communities and national institutions, the country's standard of living will deteriorate and poverty and socio-economic inequities will grow dramatically.

With 5.3 million people and a largely arid environment, Jordan suffers from a major water scarcity problem that presents great problems for its development. Jordan is one of the ten most water-deprived countries in the world, and its rural communities, which are dependent on agriculture, suffer the most because of a lack of water and energy infrastructure. East Shigera, a village of 129,000 people in southern Jordan, is one of many rural communities where residents live below the poverty line due to large family size, unemployment and their arid location. But the community also has a vibrant, dynamic civil society committed to improving the lives of its people.

Jordan's Central Bank is the focal point of the finance industry, responsible for monitoring operations of all of the Kingdom's banks. But the bank's technology was out of date, its network and other systems were inadequate for a modern bank regulator. Its wide area network (WAN) only linked some of its locations and didn't connect the Central Bank with Jordan's commercial banks. Moreover, the Central Bank's outdated infrastructure couldn't support the software needed to adhere to international best practices.

USAID has worked with Jordan's microfinance institutions since 1998 to increase availability of credit to low-income borrowers to boost the national economy. Initially, when loan portfolios were small, lending institutions kept administrative records on a simple spreadsheet. But the success of the small-loan program meant that the institutions rapidly outgrew their simple systems. For microfinance institutions to continue their rapid growth, they needed to standardize recordkeeping and reporting in a way that would make it easier for them to benchmark performance against each other and institutions in other countries.

Registering or renewing a business license in Jordan was once an arduous task. The registration system required lengthy procedures for both local governments and businesses. The time required for a new business license to be processed and issued could add up to 96 days, while a license renewal ranged from 17 to 40 days. It was also expensive — the cost of registering or renewing a license could add up to $420 dollars annually. In addition, the logistics were complicated; in order obtain the necessary signatures, an applicant had to make between six and 14 visits to various offices and authorities.

Small and medium-sized companies represent close to 98 percent of Jordan’s businesses and contribute to the country’s economic growth by creating jobs and through investments and exports. Yet they have little access to investment capital, and this has been a serious impediment to their continued growth. Until recently, Jordan’s commercial banking industry was reluctant to extend capital to small and medium-sized companies due to their perception of the risk involved. Lenders imposed requirements that small companies could not satisfy, such as high collateral, multiple guarantors, and a well-established credit history.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015