Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, visited Tunisia on 3-4 December for talks with senior officials that set the stage for an acceleration of investments by the EBRD into the north African country.
The EBRD President signed an agreement with the Tunisian authorities that allows the Bank to set up a permanent representation in Tunisia. “The signing of a Host Country Agreement, on Tuesday, marks an important moment. It will enable us to open our office, put staff in on the ground, and speed up our investments in Tunisia,” Sir Suma said.
The EBRD began investing in Tunisia in September this year, responding to calls from the international community that saw the development bank extend its remit to four countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.
This was the first visit to Tunisia by President Chakrabarti since he assumed office in July 2012. The EBRD is now also investing to support economies in Egypt, Morocco and Jordan.
During the visit Sir Suma held meetings with President Moncef Marzouki as well as with Mr. Slim Besbes, the Minister of Finance; Mr. Riad Bettaieb, the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation; Mr. Rafik Ben Abdessalem, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Chedly Ayarym, the Governor of the Tunisian Central Bank.
He also met Mr. Wided Buchamaoui, the President of UTICA, as well as Mr. Tarek Cherif, President of the Tunisian business association, CONNECT.
In his discussions, the President underlined the EBRD’s long term-engagement in Tunisia and its support for the economic development and reform process in the country.
The meetings were also focussed on helping the Tunisian economy reduce foreign exchange risks by opening up opportunities for the EBRD to lend to Tunisian companies in the local currency. Sir Suma said: “We made good progress in discussions on local currency lending. We need to be able to lend to small and medium-sized companies in Tunisian Dinars, rather than in foreign currency. The Central Bank has agreed to work with the EBRD on these issues”.
In October 2012, in its first investment in Tunisia, the EBRD committed €20 million to the Maghreb Private Equity Fund (MPEF III) and has been active in Tunisia through technical assistance projects.
The EBRD expects to be investing up to €2.5 billion by 2015 across the four countries in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.