Rabat – Al Karama is a non-benefit association founded in 1999 which specializes in microcredit. Made under Morocco’s national microcredit law (18/97), it is focused on supporting the dynamic development of microenterprise by providing budgetary and specialized help to its customers. The association is supported by interns from the US and the UK.As of March 2012, Al Karama’s Gross Loan Portfolio was MAD 35,4 million (USD 4.2 million) and it served 16,200 customers through 46 branches and satellite workplaces in three areas of Morocco. Al Karama is centered around a need-based clientele, loaning mainly to women (62% of customers) and social advancement projects. Al Karama’s presence in provincial regions is critical (30% of portfolio).Al Karama headquarters are located in Rabat Morocco. The initial goal of this program is to provide small manageable loans to help kickstart businesses from small as fruit stands to as large as a bakery. The type of clients they aid are people with no credit or people who are illiterate, and therefore do not have access to the traditional banking system. This makes it extremely hard for people in this situation to gain any start-up capital with a traditional loan. Read also: Moroccan Government to Form ‘Vigilance Committee’ to Monitor the Labor MarketThe process of being approved for a loanThe process begins, with the help of Al Karma agents, by presenting the business plan and declaring any collateral the entrepreneurs have, if any. The agents then go out into the communities and meet with the clients’ peers to carry out a proper analysis of the client’s ability to pay off the loan and measure the shape of their current business, if relevant. Once this process has been completed, the agents are then able to create a profile of the client’s ability to pay off a loan with interest and they are either approved or denied the loan.These microloans are an asset to the locals trying to build a business who would otherwise be turned down if they went to a traditional bank. To compensate the amount of trust needed to provide these loans, the interest rates are higher than a traditional loan given in a bank.The most common businesses that the firm works with are bakeries who usually need early capital to fund the ingredients required to make their products, as well as utensils, and appliances to boost production.The interns provided through the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies come from the U.S. and other countries like the U.K. and are able to work alongside this program. They help guide their clients through the process of running a business as well as well as acquiring funds.Read also: Belgium Pledges €3 Million to Support Youth Employment in MoroccoInterns Christopher.L and Alex.B who worked in the Marketing group explained to Morocco World News their experience while working with Al Karma, stating: “There is a lot this overall experience has taught and we are glad to able to support the main goal of Al Karma which is to expand services to the neglected Eastern region of the country and provide financial literacy to multiple residents.”In 2010, Al Karama was rated ” β ” by MicroRate. The rating scale is set from A to D and utilizes a Plus or minus system. The highest rating being, α making Al Karma’s rating extremely competitive.Grameen-Jameel, the Middle Eastern and North African social business, has been supporting Al Karama since 2005. The work was started with Morocco’s first meeting for microfinance associations and strategy producers to talk about the significance of growing administrations to the disregarded Eastern district of the nation. Al Karama has become a partner to Grameen-Jameel in 2006. Grameen-Jameel has given financing and specialized to support Al Karama.
A DEADLY CHILL still has much of the United States and Canada in its wintry grip, as the record-breaking cold snap brings temperatures lower than on the surface of Mars.Authorities have opened shelters for the homeless and anyone else who needed a warm place, and have reported at least 21 cold-related deaths across the country since Sunday, including seven in Illinois, and six in Indiana.At least five people died after collapsing while shoveling snow, while several victims were identified as homeless people who either refused shelter or didn’t make it to a warm haven soon enough to save themselves from the bitter temperatures.In Missouri on Monday, a 1-year-old boy was killed when the car he was riding in struck a snow plough, and a 20-year-old woman was killed in a separate crash after her car slid on ice and into the path of a tractor-trailer.Polar bearIt was so cold in Chicago that the polar bear at the Lincoln Park zoo was brought inside to warm up, and she had not built up the winter fat stores of her wild cousins.In Kentucky, an escaped inmate begged to be let back into prison so he could warm up after spending the night shivering in an abandoned house.All of Canada and all the US states bar tropical Hawaii recorded temperatures below freezing on Tuesday, even usually sunny and warm Florida and California.But the most dangerous cold, that can cause frostbite in a minute and death in a matter of hours, hit the Midwest as the ‘polar vortex’ brought frigid air from the Arctic.A homeless man who wanted to be identified as John, tries to stay warm on a steam grate in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Schools, businesses and government offices were closed. Water mains and household pipes froze. Airplanes were grounded, trains were halted and roads and sidewalks became ice rinks.The town of Embarrass, Minnesota, recorded the lowest temperature in the United States yesterday at a frigid -37 Celsius.Factoring into wind chill, temperatures dipped as low as -52 Celsius in Montana and was in the -40 to -50 Celsius range in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.That’s cold enough to toss a cup of boiling water into the air and watch it turn into snow before it hits the ground.Colder than MarsThe Mars Rover has been sending back daily temperature readings from its tour of the Red Planet ranging from -25 to -31 degrees Celsius.“To be fair, though, Mars is still way colder,” the Smithsonian Institute wrote in a blog post. But then again, Mars is 78 million miles further away from the Sun.For a more Earthly comparison, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station recorded a temperature of -23 Celsius and a wind chill factor of -35 Celsius on Tuesday.Brutal chillThe brutal chill came as people in the Great Lakes region were still digging out from two massive snow storms which dumped more than two feet of snow.More than 500 people spent Monday night stuck on a train that was stranded by snowdrifts on the line between Detroit and Chicago, while nearly 2,500 flights were cancelled in the United States on Tuesday and 3,400 were delayed.That brought the total of flights cancelled since the latest snowstorm hit on Thursday to more than 18,000.Toronto’s Pearson Airport temporarily halted ground operations early Tuesday because of “equipment freezing” and out of concern for the safety of airport personnel, it said on its Twitter account.Police reinforcements were called in to the airport to deal with rising tension among stranded travellers.The governor of Illinois declared a state of emergency Monday and called up the National Guard to help rescue stranded motorists as high winds whipped up blinding snow.Guardsmen were also deployed in Indiana and New York, a Pentagon spokesman told AFP.Even hardy Canadians were complaining of the cold amid widespread power outages.Meteorologists predict the cold snap will ease of Wednesday. The Curiosity rover is driving around in a crater at, roughly, the equivalent latitude of Venezuela.