Our History

"Alfanar is a risk worth taking"

That’s what our founder, Tarek Ben Halim, said about Alfanar. Tarek gave up a successful banking career in order to put his vision of strengthening civil society in the Arab world into practice. Instead of hand outs, Tarek wanted to invest in good ideas and bright leaders so that communities in the poorest areas of the region could rely on themselves to solve their biggest challenges. In 2004, he started Alfanar.

Though he knew that Alfanar’s strategy of offering financial grants and management expertise to small organisations was slightly unusual at the time – and sometimes took a bit of time to explain to people who were more familiar with traditional philanthropic giving – Tarek held the conviction that, over time, Alfanar’s investment in grassroots organisations would have a long-term impact of strengthening civil societies in the Arab world, one organisation a time.

Alfanar made its first investments in Egypt in 2005, partnering with an environmental science centre for children, a recycled paper production unit and an association protecting child quarry workers. Five years on, Alfanar had invested in eight grassroots organisations in Egypt, positively impacting the lives of more than 4,000 Egyptians.

Sadly, it was also just as Alfanar was flourishing, that Tarek died of a brain tumour on 11 December 2009. Determined that his vision would continue on, Alfanar’s board members and staff have worked over the past four years to advance the organisation’s efforts and fulfil Tarek’s vision. In 2013, Alfanar expanded to Libya and Lebanon and the organisation made a strategic decision to invest in organisations that economically empower women and improve children’s education.

Through our investments to date, the lives of more than 22,000 people in the Arab world have been improved and 18 social purpose organisations strengthened.