European bank injecting $262m cash into Arab Spring economies

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People carry Arab flags during the Arab Spring protests. Photo – Vahid Salemi/AP

Europe’s development bank announced on Wednesday it was preparing to invest up to €200m ($262m) by the end of the year in the Middle East and North Africa region especially in its first investments in Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was set up in 1991 to aid the transition of ex-Soviet bloc countries of eastern Europe and has expanded its mandate in recent years to invest in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

The EBRD said the three projects were the first in a series of planned investments for the region, which will be ramped up to €2.5bn ($3.37bn) a year by 2015. Its investments in eastern Europe have helped drive growth and structural change across a range of sectors in central European and ex-Soviet economies

The new projects include a $30m trade finance line for Jordan’s InvestBank and a $26.13m commitment to the Maghreb Private Equity Fund III, sponsored by a Tunisian-Moroccan private equity firm.

Morocco’s Société Générale Marocaine de Banques (SGMB) will receive another $26.13m grant along with a $6.53m trade finance facility from the EBRD. The bank insists that all the investments are aimed at helping small businesses in the countries access funding via loans or private equity investments.

The EBRD said another key project on its agenda was a $100m investment for a power plant near Jordan’s capital city Amman to ease the country’s energy shortages. The statement added that it had opened offices in all four countries.

The bank plans to focus its investments in Middle East and North Africa in the financial sector, providing financing to small businesses; in energy efficiency projects, municipal services such as water treatment and infrastructure.

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