The microfinance industry in Jordan is well developed, highly competitive and profitable, and at four per cent of the market, UNRWA is one of the smaller operators. Nonetheless, we play an important role in lending to support education, housing and larger-scale businesses. We began lending in Jordan in 2003, and we believe that market outreach can grow much larger than it is now, particularly in these areas.
Our microfinance programme saw the most dramatic growth over the past five years. In 2015, our total outreach grew by 18 percent, and the Agency disbursed 13,293 loans worth US $14.24 million in Jordan. The country is home to the largest single population of Palestine refugees – 41 per cent – and they made up 53 per cent of our clients in 2015. We have also increased our outreach to the youngest clients, between 18 and 30 years old, who received 30 per cent of our loans.
As we do in other areas, UNRWA offers a variety of loans to customers in Jordan, enabling them to choose from various options based on their needs. Our lending to the smallest businesses improved in 2012, as did the outreach of other loans. One product, a small loan intended to help women develop home-based enterprises, which was introduced in Jordan in 2010, financed 4,875 loans valued at US $2.87 million in 2015. Overall, 46 per cent of our clients in the country are women.
In the future, it will be important for us to increase the level of our financing in Jordan, but this is constrained by very limited capital as UNRWA has never received any donor support for the programme in Jordan. UNRWA is in a unique position to contribute to substantial growth by helping clients in Jordan develop new businesses and opportunities.