The FINANCIAL — The EBRD continued to deliver strong support for economies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region in 2017, with investments in 60 projects worth more than €2.1 billion. Investments were made in the energy and renewable energy sectors, as well as in infrastructure, agribusiness and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Total EBRD investment made in the four SEMED countries of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia since 2012, when the Bank started operations in the region, has now reached over €6.5 billion in 169 projects. Seventy-two per cent of this financing has been in the private sector.
2017 was a record year for Tunisia, and for Egypt, which is now the second-largest EBRD country of operations by investment volume, with total projects to date worth over €3.4 billion.
The region also benefits from strong donor support, including from the European Union, the EBRD SEMED Multi Donor Account*, the Green Climate Fund, Global Concessional Financing Facility and the MENA Transition Fund.
Janet Heckman, EBRD Managing Director for the SEMED region, said: “In line with the Bank’s Green Economy Transition approach, 2017 was marked by our significant role in developing the renewable energy programme in Egypt and our projects under the refugee crisis response in Jordan. Targeting key sectors of the economy, the Bank’s investments were accompanied by technical assistance and support for policy reform to improve the business environment and attract more private sector investors to the region.”
Highlights of EBRD activity in the SEMED region included expansion into new economies in 2017, with Lebanon becoming a recipient country and the Bank agreeing to start investing in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, the EBRD deepened its outreach in the region by opening offices in Alexandria in Egypt, and Tangier in Morocco.
The Bank organised its second Business Forum for the SEMED region which was held in Cairo and underscored its support for the economies of the region, according to the EBRD.
In Egypt, the Bank financed 16 large-scale, renewable-energy private sector projects with a total capacity of more than 750 MW, as part of the Benban solar energy park, the largest in Africa.
These investments helped to bolster energy security in the region and promote renewable sources of energy, which are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 900,000 tonnes a year.
Supporting the Egyptian National Railways in its fleet expansion and upgrade of services, the EBRD financed the acquisition of up to 100 new diesel locomotives. The Bank also launched public-private partnerships for the 6th of October Dry Port project.
To ease the pressure caused by the Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East, the EBRD provided a €53 million investment enabling the Water Authority of Jordan to upgrade its wastewater network. Over 100,000 residents in 15 towns in the western part of Jordan’s Irbid governorate, of whom 18 per cent are Syrians, will have sanitation services for the first time. In Morocco, the Bank helped SMEs gain access to finance, providing local currency loans worth the equivalent of €20 million.
In Tunisia, a €160 million loan to the national rail network helped provide additional capacity and address the problem of overcrowded trains while also improving the reliability and quality of railway services.
Supporting small businesses in the SEMED region, the Bank provided €910 million to 26 financial institutions across the region for on-lending to SMEs and MSMEs. of this total amount, €33.4 million is dedicated to women in business.
For the EBRD region as a whole, 2017 was another year of rising investment and delivery – the fourth since 2014. Total annual EBRD financing across all economic sectors rose to a new record of €9.7 billion in 2017, from €9.4 billion in 2016. The number of individual EBRD projects in 2017 rose to a new high of 412, from 378 in 2016.
Throughout 2017, the EBRD continued to be guided by the six “transition qualities” that best equip its economies to meet the challenges of the 21st century, making them more competitive, better governed, greener, more inclusive, more resilient and more integrated.
*The donors of the SEMED MDA are: Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taipei China and the United Kingdom.