When a business is put out of commission by war, it can take only a small investment—done rapidly in a post-conflict environment—to put it back on its feet, creating employment and making sales.
The 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict had a disastrous impact on Gaza. Scores of businesses, schools, hospitals, and homes were damaged or destroyed, as were infrastructure and farmland, leaving thousands of people without adequate shelter or a way to make a living. More than 900 factories covering 10 industrial sectors were damaged, according to estimates by the Palestinian Federation of Industries (PFI).
Alert to this crisis, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) and European Union’s Palestinian Market Development Programme (PMDP), led by DAI, opened the Gaza Back to Business matching grants window in November 2014—only weeks after the conflict had ended. The response was tremendous: Through July 2015, more than 700 businesspeople had applied for grants, with 129 agreements signed by enterprises meeting the project’s strict criteria. Most awards have been for less than £10,000 (US$15,740), but their impact—combined with recipients’ matching contributions—has been significant. Businesses and farms that might have folded irrevocably are selling again, and more than 1,000 people have returned to their jobs.
Though Gaza remains isolated, the 360-square-kilometer territory still has potential for further recovery and for economic growth in areas such as agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, and construction, according to Halim Halabi, PMDP’s Economic Advisor and Gaza Manager.
“[The] Gaza [business community] is suffering from three components: we have restrictions on movement, restrictions on importing materials and equipment, and also restrictions for exporting,” said Halabi, who has worked on DAI-led projects since 1994. “But after years of living in Gaza, I am optimistic still. There is a bright future...