EBRD and EU boost economic support for Tunisia and region

By Nibal Zgheib

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Joint financing programmes to foster private sector competitiveness and financial inclusion in southern and eastern Mediterranean

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced today the launch of two new landmark programmes at the International Donor Conference in Tunisia. Both projects are supported by European Union (EU) funding.

The Trade and Competitiveness programme aims to strengthen the private sector in Morocco and Tunisia by linking local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to experienced larger companies for more sustainable and export-oriented value chains. This will provide a much-needed boost to traditional sectors such as agricultural, manufacturing and services and ICT (information and communication technologies), with the aim to enhance competitiveness and trade.

The EU supports this innovative project with €25.6 million in funding to help businesses improve production processes and add value to their products and services.

The EU contribution is expected to leverage up to €140 million in EBRD financing to support several hundred businesses in Morocco and Tunisia and prepare them to upgrade standards and increase trade with the European Union, the world’s largest market.  

Furthermore, the EBRD will provide €100 million in credit lines to financial partner institutions, which will serve to support local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). This Financial Inclusion programme aims to foster access to finance in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, as this remains one of the main obstacles for business growth and development across the region.

MSMEs are widely recognised as a key engine for sustainable economic growth. They account for approximately 90 per cent of private enterprises in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region and create significant employment opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers.

The EU funding, amounting to €27.6 million, will contribute to improving the local partner institutions’ knowledge of this vital market segment to serve these businesses better in the future. It will also support policy dialogue on regulatory reform to create an environment that is conducive to business and investments.

"We are determined to take our cooperation with Tunisia one step further in order to encourage socio-economic development in all the Tunisian regions. Through our joint work with EBRD we are investing in the human capital and the economic fabric of this country and the broader Mediterranean region, in order to promote prosperity and stability "said Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

“We are delighted to announce these two programmes, which will support sustainable economic growth in Tunisia and more widely in the southern and eastern Mediterranean,” says Alain Pilloux, EBRD’s Vice President, Banking. “They tackle several major challenges in the region: they help businesses to become more competitive and trade with foreign markets, while at the same time spurring inclusive growth that benefits the whole population.”

Marie-Alexandra Veilleux-Laborie, the Head of the EBRD’s Tunisia office, adds: “This conference is an important opportunity to step up joint efforts of all partners and support economic prosperity for Tunisia and regionally. The EU’s support is key to support the launch of these new innovative programmes.”

The EBRD has invested almost €2 billion in Egypt, €700 million in Jordan, over €1 billion in Morocco and €350 million in Tunisia since the start of its operations in the region in 2011.

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