The drive for jobs and growth in the Mediterranean region should be led by the private sector. This was the call today, as the European Investment Bank (EIB) held an international conference in Cairo dedicated to ‘Boosting investments in the Mediterranean region’, in partnership with the Ministry of International Cooperation and Investment, the EU Delegation to Egypt and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
The conference discussed regional challenges and opportunities in the context of the Bank’s recent efforts to mobilise finance to build economic resilience in the Mediterranean countries and offer new opportunities, particularly for young people and women under its new Economic Resilience Initiative.
The EU bank provided finance of €1,070.6 million in 2016 to support private sector development in the southern Mediterranean region. The finance targeted micro, small, medium-sized and large enterprises.
Government officials, investors, bankers, and researchers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia discussed the current economic context and potential drivers of economic growth in the region, ways to help SMEs and micro entrepreneurs to access finance, and the critical investment needs to promote innovation and the international competitiveness of local firms.
“We believe the role that the private sector plays in boosting economic activity and creating jobs for the unemployed and new entrants to the labour market is absolutely key. This is why the EIB is stepping up its support to the private sector under its Economic Resilience Initiative. We recently approved €600 million for SME finance in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco under the new initiative. Now we are looking at more good projects to support,” said Dario Scannapieco, Vice-President of the EIB.
Ambassador Ivan Surkoš, Head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt said, "Economic development is a critically important challenge, and to bring benefits it has to be sustainable, inclusive and guarantee decent job opportunities for all, especially young people and women."
"In this process, the private sector plays a crucial role. Supporting SMEs and the private sector in Egypt and the Mediterranean region will continue to be at the heart of the EU’s cooperation," he added.
Surkoš said the EU was expected to mobilise more than €1.2 billion in new financing for MSMEs in the region through the ‘EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion’ during the period 2016-2020.
Furthermore, the Head of the EU Delegation announced a new initiative called the European External Investment Plan (EIP), which will cover the MENA region, aimed at leveraging public and private funds from the EU and its Member States. The initiative will also reinforce the efforts to improve the business and investment climate. About €44 billion is expected to be mobilised from 2017 until 2020.
In 2016, the EIB provided €1.6 billion in the Mediterranean region, of which 60% went to private sector finance.