EBRD President Thomas Mirow visited Tunisia, the cradle of the “Arab Uprising”, this week and said he expected EBRD funds to start flowing to the country in September this year.
Tunisia was the country that triggered a wave of political change across countries of the Middle East and North Africa over the last year and a half.
In response to calls from the international community, the EBRD is extending its mandate to the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region to support much-needed economic reforms in the region.
Along with Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan are all seeking to benefit from EBRD funding.
During his visit to Tunisia, his first official trip to the SEMED region, President Mirow held discussions with senior Tunisian officials, including Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rafik Abdessalem; Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Riadh Bettaieb; and the Governor of the Central Bank, Mustapha Kamal Nabli.
He also met Donald Kaberuka, the President of the African Development Bank, to discuss the coordination between the two financial institutions.
During his discussions, the President underscored the EBRD’s commitment to supporting economic development across the SEMED region, applying to these new countries its 20 years of experience in supporting transition in eastern and central Europe.
Speaking at a news conference in Tunis on Friday, President Mirow said, “By the beginning of September we expect to begin investments in Tunisia in a number of projects.”
He also drew parallels with central and eastern Europe, which the EBRD has been supporting since its creation shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“The EBRD was created 20 years ago in similar circumstances. We are aware of the needs of countries in transition and we can offer our expertise and our "Know How" to Tunisia,” President Mirow said.
The Bank’s operations will focus on strengthening the financial sector and developing the private sector in Tunisia and the SEMED countries. The Bank’s emphasis will be to encourage the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises – fertile ground for job creation, in a region where, in particular, youth unemployment is a major problem.
The EBRD is extending the remit of its activities in a three-stage process that has already seen the first flow of technical assistance funded by grants from donors.
At the EBRD’s Annual Meeting in London this month, shareholders will be asked to approve the creation of a €1 billion special fund to kick-start investments ahead of full ratification of an extension of the Bank’s remit.
The EBRD has the capacity to invest, in the medium term, up to €2.5 billion a year across the SEMED region. Any decision by shareholders to begin full-scale investments will take into account political and economic reforms undertaken in the relevant countries.