Investors are committed to exploring new opportunities within the Middle East and North Africa, where governments are showing willingness to foster cross-border investment and reduce red tape.
This view was expressed by a top World Bank Group official at the recent opening session of the Broader Mena Investment Summit at Dubai International Financial Centre.
Yukiko Omura, executive vice-president of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga), who has completed a tour of the region covering Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, told delegates: “I was struck by the commitment of investors to explore new opportunities and of lenders to find innovative financing solutions for those investments. In the Gulf states, investors and banks are increasingly looking beyond the immediate Gulf region for investment opportunities – either to seek higher returns or because they are becoming global players.
“On my trip through the region, I have met with many Saudi and Kuwait investors who are keen to invest in Africa and Asia, for example. Within this globalising trend, Islamic financial institutions are playing a rapidly growing role as are private equity and venture capital funds.”
Miga was co-organiser of the two-day summit with the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC), a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group, in association with Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
Omura said the event coincides with an important economic moment in the development of the broader Middle East, pointing out that many countries such as Jordan and Egypt are liberalising their domestic markets and opening doors to foreign investment, at a time of greater liquidity in the region.
She stressed Miga’s strong commitment to the economic development of the region, saying internal investment flows – and externally to Africa and Asia – remained highly concentrated in a few sectors and countries, saying: “We believe we can play a critical catalysing role in increasing and diversifying these investment flows. At the heart of this proposition is our ability to mitigate risks that many investors – especially lenders – still see, particularly in certain countries and sectors. We believe that investors and lenders from the broader Mena region can greatly benefit from our services, just as investors and banks from North America, Europe, and Japan routinely use these risk management techniques to manage their cross-border exposure.
“Miga-supported investors have reaped a number of benefits from our guarantees for their foreign investments. These include improved access to finance, an expanded horizon of potential projects in which to invest and the strong mediating presence of the World Bank when problems with covered investments do occur. This is especially true in private investment in infrastructure.”
About 250 delegates comprising top-level business executives and financiers from the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, Sudan, and Pakistan attended the two-day summit.
The event was held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai, minister of finance and industry of the United Arab Emirates, and was opened by HE Mohamed Khalfan bin Khirbash, the UAE minister of state for finance and industry.
Speakers included Yukiko Omura, executive vice-president of the Miga/World Bank Group; Abdel-Rahman Taha, general manager of the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC); Etisalat chairman HE Mohammad Hasan Omran, HE Sheikh Mohammad Ali Reza, chairman of the Xenel Group, and Hussain al Qemzi, DIFX member.