LONDON: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) plans to invest at least €2.1 billion ($2.47bn) in the Middle East and North Africa this year, mostly in the renewables and technology sectors, an executive of the London-based bank said.
The lender already has investments in a number of countries in the region, including Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank and Gaza, report agencies.“Last year, we’ve done €2.1bn in the Mena region and this would roughly be similar to what we will do this year but we are a demand-driven institution and we have appetite to grow,” Heike Harmgart, managing director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean region at EBRD told The National in an interview.
The EBRD’s investment “will be around green technology through renewables, green financing through banks, green investment in cities and the other focus will be financial inclusion”, Ms Harmgart said.
“We will also look opportunistically at digitalisation wherever we can.”
Countries in the Mena region are investing greater sums in renewables in an effort to diversify their energy mix. The UAE is currently developing the world’s largest solar plant at Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi with a total capacity of 2 gigawatts, while Egypt recently completed construction of Benban – Africa’s largest solar park with a capacity of 1.5 gigawatts.
Other countries including Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia also have substantial renewable energy programmes.
“We played a huge role in the initial phase of solar and wind energy generation in the Mena region. We financed over half of Benban in Egypt, we financed most of the solar and renewable projects together with our partners in Jordan.”The EBRD is a major multilateral lender set up in 1991, initially to help fund the recovery of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The bank, which had total assets of €68.2bn by the end of 2019, later widened its remit to include investments in Mena and Central Asia.
It is owned by 69 countries from five continents, as well as the EU and the European Investment Bank. The UAE recently became one of its newest members, with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, announcing it had joined both the EBRD and the Shanghai-based New Development Bank last month.
The UAE joining the EBRD will “support its businesses to be more active and have additional partners in neighbouring countries in the Mena region but also globally in Eastern Europe, Central Asia where we are active,” Ms Harmgart said.
The EBRD is also planning to invest in Algeria this year after the North African nation’s membership was approved by the bank’s shareholders last year.
“Algeria could start this year as a new country where we can look at investment opportunities particularly in the private sector as well as in the green area.”
The lender is developing a series of climate action plans with cities where it is identifying potential investments which will provide it with a return at the same time as contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.