At Cairo conference, EBRD reinforces its support for Arab economies

By Nibal Zgheib

At Cairo conference, EBRD reinforces its support for Arab economies

Read Sir Suma Chakrabarti's speech

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) held its second Business Forum for the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region on Tuesday, at a conference in Cairo that underscored its support for the economies of the region.

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti opened the Forum with a report on the rapidly rising pace of investment and the EBRD’s expanding presence in the SEMED economies, and welcomed two new partners.

Since its first investments in the wake of the 2011 uprising, the EBRD has financed around 150 projects worth almost €6 billion in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

Egypt is now one of the EBRD’s largest countries of operations by investment volume.

In September, Lebanon became an EBRD recipient country and the Bank has also agreed to start investment in the West Bank and Gaza.

In addition to its main offices in the SEMED countries, regional bases have been established in Sfax in Tunisia, Tangier in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt, allowing the EBRD to reach out to more sections of society. The EBRD is the only multilateral development bank that is represented outside of the largest cities.

The EBRD President said the Bank was very actively engaged in the SEMED region as it delivered investments aimed at strengthening these economies.

He also outlined challenges facing the region and said: “We all need to do much more if we are to achieve the results required.”

Sir Suma said a more developed and vibrant private sector was absolutely central to the region’s efforts to generate growth and create jobs.  Growth could only be sustainable if it was inclusive, he said.

The President also highlighted the work the EBRD was doing to promote small and medium-sized enterprises and to improve infrastructure, partly in response to the presence of many refugees in the region, and to improve the lives of host communities and refugees alike.

Another area which had seen significant levels of EBRD investment was the green economy, especially the development of renewable energy sources such as solar.

President Suma opened the Forum, together with Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Cooperation and EBRD Governor of Egypt.

His opening speech was followed by a discussion with senior representatives from the SEMED region: Imad Najib Fakhoury, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation of Jordan; Zied Ladhari, Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation of Tunisia; Alain Bifani, Director General, Ministry of Finance of Lebanon; Ahmed Tazi, Ambassador of Morocco; and Azzam Shawwa, Governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority.

The one-day event brought together key policy-makers, government officials, investors and prominent business people to discuss the business outlook in the region, and to consider the obstacles to an increase in foreign investment.