EBRD underscores support for southern and eastern Mediterranean economies during Cairo Business Forum

By Nibal Zgheib

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti

Projects worth over €300 million sealed during one-day conference

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) underscored its support for economies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) at a regional business forum in Cairo that saw a flurry of new investment across a number of economic sectors.

It was the EBRD’s second SEMED Business Forum since the Bank started investment in the region in 2012. It provided a forum for discussion about the challenges and the opportunities in the EBRD’s Arab economies and saw project signings worth over €300 million.

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti opened the 14 November conference that attracted over 800 participants with a speech that highlighted the EBRD’s rapid expansion in the region and the fast pace of investment.

In just five years the EBRD has invested nearly €6 billion in 148 projects, helping to build the economies of these countries, he noted. He also welcomed two new partners to the SEMED family: Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza.

During the conference, Janet Heckman, the EBRD’s regional Managing Director, highlighted the importance of successful policy reform as countries in the SEMED region tackled crucial issues such as job creation. She was able to report real progress.

Speaking in Cairo, Ms Heckman cited examples in Egypt including participation in an International Monetary Fund programme, a free float for the Egyptian currency, changes in the bankruptcy laws, and support for renewable energy as well as fiscal reforms. “These all help to encourage investment both domestic and international which really will help to sustain growth,” she said.

The project signings in Cairo covered a wide range of sectors: a US$ 100 million loan to major Egyptian lender Commercial International Bank (CIB) was seen as making an important contribution to the economy.

Elsewhere a €15 million equity investment in Mediterrania Capital III LP is aimed at providing much-needed finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia while SMEs in Egypt are being helped with a US$ 75 million loan to Banque Misr.

A number of individual investments under the EBRD’s Trade Facilitation Programme provided an impetus for import and export activity in the region.

Sir Suma also signed a “Smart City” project for the capital city of Jordan that he said would “contribute to the modernisation of Amman and help develop innovative solutions which will enhance the quality of services and living of the capital’s population.”

The EBRD was able to show its commitment to the “greening” of the SEMED region at the forum, with a joint project with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance energy efficiency and renewable projects in Egypt.  

On the eve of the conference in Cairo, the EBRD President led a delegation to visit the Benban solar plant in Upper Egypt which was financed by the EBRD and is the largest solar project on the African continent.

The conference also saw the roll-out of the first project under the EBRD’s Egypt Women in Business programme: a loan of US$ 20 million to QNB ALAHLI SAE for on-lending to local small businesses run by women.

In a Memorandum of Understanding signed on the sidelines of the Forum, the Bank and the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) are combining forces to transform the capital of Jordan into a smart city and introduce solutions to address major environmental, economic and social challenges.

Sir Suma opened the forum, together with Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Cooperation and EBRD Governor of Egypt. Senior regional officials took part in the subsequent discussions, including 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.