liwwa was cofounded by Ahmed Moor and Samer Atiani. Both cofounders have had diverse careers in Journalism, Political Activism, Banking, and Software Development in the US and abroad. Job creation is a challenge everywhere - particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region - and it's a problem Ahmed and Samer aimed to work on through the mechanism of small business financing.
Emerging economies exhibit a great deficit in access to finance, a necessary component for growth, which in turn drives job creation. The MENA region has one of the largest financing gaps for small businesses in the world - estimated at $250 billion a year by the World Bank. That's a problem because small businesses are engines of economic growth and job creation. Their lack of access to growth capital directly impacts the overall economic and social situation. Typically, traditional financial institutions in emerging markets are ineffective at addressing this problem because of the high costs of conducting credit assessments on small businesses with no formal financial records. liwwa seeks to address the market gap by lending to small businesses and we're innovating in our credit assessment techniques as well as the manner in which we manage distribution.
Today, we have a software development and data science office in New York and an operations office in Jordan. We also recently extended our service to the UAE and are hiring for that market.
In the last two years we've successfully underwritten $7 million in loans to around 210 small businesses (SMEs) in Jordan. Our online lending marketplace allows investors from all across the region to participate in lending and investment gains from a diversified portfolio of small business loans.
We have done this through automation and optimization of many of the traditional elements of credit assessment, and have been able to reach this underwriting volume with a team of two credit officers. Traditional financial institutions, by comparison, require a team of 15+ underwriters to achieve similar figures in the SME financing market. We take pride in our exceptional and rapid customer service and providing a qualitatively different experience for both our borrowers and investors.
We have also developed an in-house system that utilizes OpenCV, statistical clustering functions, and other OCR tools to process images of bank statements and financial statements and turn them into CSV files. This will allow us to optimize a major bottleneck in our credit assessment process and circumvent the lack of easily accessible Bank APIs in the MENA region.
Lowering the costs of credit assessment is a critical step in resolving the SME funding gap in emerging markets, and we've been using technology to do just that. There is still a lot to be done.
We are hiring more Software Engineers and Data Scientists to build on our technology achievements so far. We're looking for talented technologists who find our mission compelling. We are a for-profit company, but our team's passionate commitment to our mission and goal is indispensable to our success.
We want to reduce the amount of time taken to process each application by further optimizing our OCR models for bank statements. We want to use machine learning systems to identify and minimize operational bottlenecks. We want to make using our website a pleasant experience for both borrowers and investors and add as much transparency as we can to both.
Please contact Samer Atiani directly if you have any questions.