'You can make a real contribution to development'

By EBRD  Press Office

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EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti speaks to students at Ewha Women's University, Korea

Delivered by: 

EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti


Ewha Women's University, Korea

  1. Intro

Good morning.                                                                             

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to talk to you about the bank I have the honour of serving as President, and about how you can help us change lives across three continents. 

Thank you all, and especially Professors Kim, Sohn and Lee, for the invitation to speak and the great welcome they have shown our party.

I have been very impressed by the history of your university.

And I am looking forward to having to answer some very sharp questions from you a bit later.

But, before then, we have a treat in store for you.

Earlier this year, at our Annual Meeting in Sarajevo, we premiered a new video about the excitement of working for and with the EBRD.                                                                                             

It went down very well. So well that we want to show it to you today.

To my mind, it portrays – in a very modern and accessible way – the scope and scale of what we do, both in terms of geography and sector.

So please watch it with me now and then I will go into more detail about our unique business model, our background and how you can get involved.

  1. Video: The EBRD opens doors across three continents  

Watch the video

  1. EBRD History and Korea 

Stirring stuff!

By the way, it was produced entirely in-house by our very talented Communications Department.

The young woman and the young man who appear at the beginning and the end are not actors but colleagues of mine.     

I don't make a cameo appearance in it but the rattling door through which Uyvar starts her journey is, I think, the door of my office.

That is what the EBRD looks like today.

We were actually founded almost three decades ago to help build a new post-Cold War era in Central and Eastern Europe and what was then the Soviet Union.

At that time, I was only a little bit older than the Turkish and Canadian stars of the video.  

And, right from the start, Korea has been part of the EBRD story.

It was a founding shareholder of the EBRD.

But it has since been joined by many more shareholders. We now have 71 all told and our shareholder base is still growing.

Korea has also been an extremely active and supportive shareholder and donor.

And Korea is important to the EBRD and the countries where we work for another reason.

Your country’s own development story is an inspiring one.

The history of modern Korea, its transformation from poverty to advanced economy status and democracy over a matter of decades, is one at which we can only marvel.

Put simply, if more countries, EBRD ones or others, would emulate the Korean model, the world would be a very different – and better – place.

I hope that some of you here today will play a role in further strengthening the relationship between the EBRD and Korea. 

I’ll return to that subject later but before I do, I want to tell you a bit more about the Bank.  

  1. The EBRD today

The EBRD is a multilateral development bank, like the World Bank and regional development banks for Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

We are owned by governments, 69 of them, plus the European Union and the European Investment Bank. 

But we are very different from other multilateral development banks in three ways.

First, we work only in countries committed to democracy and the market economy.                                                                                                       

No other multilateral development bank has such an explicitly political and economic mandate.

What is important here is the direction of travel.  A country has to be on the journey towards markets and democracy. 

It does not necessarily have to have reached the final destination – whatever that would be for democracy and markets – to receive our support.

Second, our constitution lays down that 60% of our lending must be to the private sector.  That figure currently stands at 79%. 

No other multilateral bank, with the exception of the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank Group, has such a deep knowledge of working in the private sector for development purposes.

And third, we are project-based, providing loans and equity to corporates for specific investments that will change people’s lives. 

Overall, we have invested more than $150 billion in nearly 5,500 projects.

And because of our projects, we know a lot about sectors and companies.

We began operating in what had been the planned economies of eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union.   

But the transformations we helped bring about there were such a success that before long other countries wanted us to work with them too. And our shareholders were strongly supportive of our doing so.

In fact, they have approved our move into new markets four times already.

So we are now investing in nearly 40 countries, among them Mongolia, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece, as well as those we began working in in the 1990s.

Over the coming months we will study whether the EBRD should expand a fifth time – selectively and gradually to some sub-Saharan African countries.

For three years in a row now we have invested around $10.5 billion in our countries of operations.

Our shareholders have asked us to deliver even more. We intend to do just that.

Hence the hashtag #EBRDmore you saw several times in the film.

Over the years we have helped shift the thinking on development and led the way in achieving high transition impact in our regions, in terms of competitiveness, good governance, green, inclusion, integration, and resilience.  

I would like to highlight green transition and gender equality in particular to illustrate the EBRD offer.

On green economy, we are now well on track to hit a relatively new target of ours: that of 40 percent of our annual business volume consisting of investments in climate finance by the end of next year.

One example of that is through our work with the Green Climate Fund, based here in Korea.

Supported by 64 million dollars of GCF concessional finance, we financed a major solar park in Egypt, which will be the largest in the world when completed.

They have supported us to the tune of $830 million so far, leveraging about $2 billion of finance from our side.

And, yes, we are focussing on inclusion and bringing more women and other generally excluded groups into the workforce.

We combine a private sector focus on financing and the delivery of gender equality goals with extensive policy dialogue with the authorities in the countries where we work.

For example, we have a dedicated programme – the Women in Business Programme - combining financing with de-risking, tailored advice and policy engagement to address underlying market barriers, to women’s participation in the economy.

I am proud that since the launch of the Women in Business Programme in 2014, nearly six hundred million dollars has been provided to women led businesses through almost 40 partner financial institutions in 18 countries.

This Programme has reached more than 60,000 women to date.

By the end of this year, the Programme will be expanded to 3 more countries in Central Asia.

We also go beyond the company level to tackle wider barriers that women may face to enter the labour market through targeted policy engagement.

Since 2016, EBRD has facilitated dialogue between the private sector and the Government of Kazakhstan to reduce the number of jobs that women are barred from performing under the labour code.

By using our private sector leverage in the engagement with the government, 100 occupations have already been removed from the list of banned jobs, and we continue to work with the Kazakh government to drop the remaining 180 over the coming years too.

All of this, pulled together, delivers huge impact on the ground, thanks to this inclusive approach.

  1. You, Korea and the EBRD

So that is a snapshot of what the EBRD actually does

And this is where you come in.

We couldn’t achieve all these amazing results without having the best and the brightest working for us – both at our headquarters in London and in the countries where we work.   

We are definitely hiring – and want more Koreans to share in the excitement of being involved in what we do.

We already have nearly 40 talented Koreans at EBRD, double the number just five years ago. 

They are part of our 2,700 workforce.

Two thirds of that workforce is based in our HQ in London.

The rest of our staff are based in our offices abroad.

Indeed one of the attractions of working for the EBRD is the chance to get to know our countries up close.

Our 54 offices in our countries of operation are based not just in national capitals but in secondary cities and far flung regions as well.   

This, by the way, is another reason why we have such a good understanding of the economies where we work and our clients as well.  

And the EBRD is a whole multicultural world in its own right, with the people working for us coming from dozens of different countries.

We are a bank, yes. But, as I hope I have made clear today, we are far more than just a bank.

Our financial results are important to us, of course.

But our real priority is investing in changing lives.

We recruit bankers, lawyers, economists and risk and other technical specialists.

But we are also on the lookout for public policy experts and people who can work with us to help the small business sector.

And many other specialists for a whole host of different roles.     

We would very much welcome more job applications from citizens of a shareholder as important to us as Korea.             

I am glad to say the number of Korean applicants is growing. But we want more Koreans to give serious thought to working for us – or elsewhere in development finance.

6. A career in development

The last 60 years have been a great period for working in development.

As a young man, I studied development economics myself and my first experience of working in the field was in sub-Saharan Africa.

And not for one moment do I regret my initial choice of specialisation.

One of the intellectual satisfactions of working in this area is the way development thought and practice shifts over the years.

We see this in today’s debates about multilateralism, globalisation and trade, debates in which some of the values that I believe in most strongly are being questioned in new ways.

It is your generation which will have to come up with the answers to some of those questions.

You can and should make a very real contribution to the development agenda yourselves.

It might be in the form of academic research that throws new light on the problems we come up against in the field.

There is, of course, the way into development via civil society, a very important partner of ours.

And you could work within government. If you do, don’t forget the state’s vital role in providing the right conditions for private businesses to thrive.

I am sure that some of you are considering another pathway, that of the private sector. 

It generates wealth, creates new opportunities for women and men, and fosters sustainable and resilient economic growth. 

But, and here I revert to my role as the EBRD President and development veteran, I do urge you all to think seriously about a career with us.

The EBRD’s achievements over the last three decades have been nothing less than inspiring.

I hope that both the video and my remarks have conveyed some of the excitement I personally feel about what we do – day in, day out – across three continents.

Thank you very much for listening and I do hope that the next time we meet some of you will be working for the EBRD.

Now I would be very happy to answer your questions.

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