The EBRD and Jordan: moving forward together

By Heike Harmgart

As the EBRD opens its resident office in Jordan, I am excited by the challenges ahead and the interesting role that the EBRD can play in both the country and the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region. Jordan is a role model for social and economic reform in the region, and I am confident that Jordan can become a leader in terms of innovation and economic transition as well.

Over 98% of businesses in Jordan are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the EBRD can help these enterprises to safe energy and even utilise renewable energy sources. Having invested €11 billion in renewable energy since 2006 through EBRD’s Sustainable Energy Initiative, we can help increase Jordanian businesses’ use of renewable energy. There is enormous potential for both solar and wind energy. Jordan can be a model for how a country with no conventional energy resources can begin to generate its own.

Jordan is completely dependent on gas from Egypt, and considering the increased electricity tariffs, Jordanians will have to work, produce and live energy efficiency. Jordan can lead the region in renewable energy, but we must move quickly. Along with the European Investment Bank and KfW, the German development bank, we will establish the Jordan Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (JoSEFF) to provide local banks with credit to improve their clients’ energy efficiency and help them to invest in renewable energy projects.

Despite being surrounded by conflict zones, Jordan – a country of 6.3 million people – took in over 500,000 refugees from the Syrian crisis. This places enormous pressures on public services, particularly in the north, but this regional conflict provides both challenges and opportunities for the EBRD to help.

Due to increased pressure on the public water supply many Jordanians must buy additional water on the private market (something I had to do myself), and there are areas in the country, again in the north, where people get water just every fortnight. Jordan wastes valuable energy pumping water from one location to another, but by embracing solar energy to do so, there is huge potential for savings.

I am very excited about the office in Amman and the team that is forming. There will be 13 of us in the resident office by the end of the year, and over half of our bankers are women. Women want to work for international institutions, and it was so exciting to see these amazing applicants. Women entrepreneurs in Jordan are still a minority, but we hope to sign credit lines to micro-finance institutions to support female entrepreneurs grow the best business ideas into small enterprises.

On a personal level, I am so excited by the prospect of returning to the Levant, a region I love dearly. I previously studied Arabic in Damascus and had the opportunity to travel extensively through Jordan and the Levant. Jordanians love horses, and I hope to rekindle my childhood passion for horseback riding. I love Amman’s aesthetics – this city built on seven hills has beautiful views and everything is made of limestone.

Jordanians are warm and welcoming. The guards from the embassy adjacent to my house are always willing to look out for my house as well. It is so easy to meet your neighbours, even if they are not friendly embassy guards, and it is very easy to make friends even if you do not speak fluent Arabic.

I am thrilled by the opportunities presented by the opening of this office, and I know that our relationship with Jordan will be long and successful.