Following recent progress on extending the EBRD’s region of operations to include countries in the Middle East and North Africa, an official Bank delegation visited Egypt for the first time from 5 to 9 June to assess potential future areas of activity.
A team of EBRD bankers and an economist headed by Josué Tanaka, Managing Director, Operational Strategy and Planning, visited government officials, banks, equity funds and businesses during their stay in Cairo.
“Egypt faces daunting economic challenges in the short-term, particularly as regards its high levels of unemployment,” said Mr Tanaka. “But there is a general sense of optimism about the country’s medium-term future and we were very warmly welcomed by the authorities, including Egypt’s Governor for the EBRD, Mrs Fayza Aboulnaga, as well as by private sector companies and by other International Financial Institutions.”
A key aim of the visit was to get a better understanding of the financing needs of small and medium enterprises in Egypt and how EBRD investments could best be used to support the sector.
“I was reminded of my visits to eastern and central Europe during the early 1990s,” said Mr Tanaka, who has worked at the EBRD since it began operating 20 years ago. “There was a similar feeling of the boundaries of possibilities opening up and the same sense of enhanced freedom of thought and expression.”
In May, the EBRD’s Board of Governors asked the Board of Directors to come up with decisions and recommendations by 31 July on an extension of the Bank’s geographic mandate to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Any full-scale change in the Bank’s area of operations would subsequently have to be endorsed by all 63 shareholders.
EBRD President Thomas Mirow has indicated that the Bank would have the capacity, eventually, to invest as much as €1 billion a year in Egypt and as much as €2.5 billion a year in the region, without compromising the scope and impact of the Bank’s operations in its existing countries of operations.