Bringing EBRD expertise to North Africa and the Middle East

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Delivered by: 

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, EBRD President

Venue: 

London, UK

Event: 

Deauville Partnership Investment Conference

'We are engaged for the long-term' says EBRD President

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Investment Conference comes at a crucial time for the countries supported by the Deauville Partnership.

When the EBRD was first asked to become part of the international response to the political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, we were under no illusions about the challenges that lay ahead.

Twenty years of supporting transition in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have demonstrated just how complex this process can be. We have learned many important lessons in our work there, which we now bring to our engagement in North Africa and the Middle East.

These two parts of the world – representing the EBRD’s traditional and new regions – are very different in terms of culture and history.

But there are also similarities in their economic development requirements.

Progress in the former communist bloc, where we have been active since 1991, has not been linear.

Periods of rapid economic reform have often been followed by reversals or inertia.

Eastern Europe has also seen periods of social and political instability and at times open conflict.

Throughout what have often been tumultuous years, the EBRD has remained a strong, reliable partner. We have worked consistently to help support successful development, especially of the private sectors of economies in transition.

We have been active across the entire spectrum of economic activity, promoting the stability of financial sectors, the expansion of small and medium sized enterprises, developing manufacturing, supporting sustainable agriculture, and ensuring food and energy security.

We have been pioneering in our work on energy efficiency, making economies more competitive, while at the same time combatting climate change.

We found that the model that we had used in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union also worked in Turkey, when we began investing in that country in 2008.

Our very successful track record in Turkey showed that we could work outside of our “traditional” region. It gave the EBRD’s management and shareholders confidence that we could also use our expertise to make a positive difference in the countries of the “Arab spring”.

So it was that the EBRD responded decisively and swiftly to calls to extend the mandate to what we call the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, or SEMED – represented by Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

We have built up a presence in all four SEMED countries.

Investments have been flowing to the region since the fall of 2012.

We are supporting economic growth in different sectors. For example, we initiated our infrastructure projects in the region by providing US$ 100 million to Al Manakher power plant in Jordan.

And along with our support to SMEs, we have also invested in banks and equity funds, while investing directly in retail and manufacturing, such as our investment in a white goods factory and in a retail and entertainment centre.

Our work in the SEMED region has been a joint effort. The EBRD and its fellow international financial institutions have been working together in response to calls for economic change in this region.

We all agreed, from the very beginning, that we would not be competitors but partners – each bringing our own special skills, and each complementing the efforts of the others.

In our case, that meant concentrating particularly on the private sector, working to develop small and medium sized enterprises that have the greatest capacity to create employment. But it also involves a focus on improving infrastructure, strengthening the agricultural base of economies, and ensuring energy security and efficiency.

The economic and the political environment remains challenging across much of this new region for the EBRD.

But we are engaged for the long-term, as we have been right from the beginning in our earliest work in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

We are committed to helping the people of this new EBRD region, as they work towards meeting their aspirations for change and a more stable economic future. We should be in no doubt about the size of this task,though. Part of the motivation for change in the region was that desire of younger people for a better economic future. The needs are huge.Although the international community has committed a great deal,it will need to scale up its help if transition is to be successful.Private sector investment will only come if  economic stability and the infrastructure which the public sector can provide is in place. Private sector investors must also feel that they have access to European markets, requiring agreements with the EU.

There is plenty to talk about,today and in the months ahead.

In that spirit, the EBRD looks forward to playing its part in making this conference a real success.

Thank you very much.

 

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