Alexandria team will have major focus on development of small enterprises
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has stepped up its support for the economic development of Egypt, with the opening of an office in Alexandria today which will have a major focus on the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The EBRD has been investing in Egypt since 2012, helping modernise the private sector and working to improve standards of living by raising the quality of public services.
From its office in Cairo, the EBRD has also placed a strong focus on sustainable energy and has unveiled a major programme of investment in renewable energy sources. In total the Bank has financed over 50 projects worth more than €2.6 billion.
The office in Alexandria underscores the EBRD’s commitment to reaching out to Egypt’s regions. The EBRD is the first international financial institution in Egypt to establish a presence outside of the national capital.
The Alexandria team will be working primarily on support for small businesses, building on the success of the EBRD’s European Union (EU)-funded Advice for Small Business Programme, which has already delivered over 600 advisory projects for Egyptian firms.
SMEs are a priority for the EBRD in Egypt as they are a major source of job creation. Access to finance for SMEs remains a major challenge. In addition to the SME work, the EBRD will also seek opportunities to help modernise public utilities in Alexandria from its new office.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Janet Heckman, EBRD Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean and Director for Egypt, described Alexandria as a vibrant, entrepreneurial city.
“This a perfect base from which to launch the next phase of our work to support those small and medium-sized enterprises that are so crucial to the vitality of the whole economy,” she said. She expressed her gratitude to the EU for its support in the EBRD’s work to promote SMEs.
EBRD Vice President Betsy Nelson told the inaugural ceremony she expected to see real benefits from the EBRD’s local presence in Alexandria: “With our new office in Alexandria we are moving to a new area, precisely with the aim of reaching out to and engaging with more sectors of society in Egypt.”
Ambassador Ivan Surkoš, Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt, said the EU’s successful partnership with the EBRD had delivered a high-quality portfolio of investments in Egypt of around €1.3 billion, including €150 million in EU grants.
He described SMEs as the backbone of the Egyptian economy with great potential for strengthening economic resilience. They were a priority for the EU and EBRD alike.
"We are therefore particularly pleased to make an important contribution to the EBRD’s Advice for Small Business Programme in Egypt, as part of the substantial package of EU support in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region for the growth and competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises," he said.
At the opening ceremony, guests were able to discuss examples of the EBRD’s work to promote small firms and there was a panel discussion on how best to support SMEs in “An Era of Reform”.
Claudio Viezzoli, EBRD Managing Director for SME Finance and Development said: “This step will help the EBRD scale up its delivery of expertise, knowledge and funding that is so vital to Egyptian businesses. With our unique combination of finance and business advice, we are helping transform the performance of small businesses across Egypt.”