January marks the first anniversary of the protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, which set off broader uprisings that spread throughout the country and much of the Arab World. In the year since then, the Egyptian government has toppled, many of the protests throughout the region continue, and progress has been both promising and unsteady –all underscoring the challenges of achieving stability in post-conflict regions, as well as the opportunity that such events present.
With a long history of working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and a recognition that economic growth fosters political stability, OPIC was able to respond quickly to these events with financial commitments that will support investments in small business, key industries and infrastructure. Below is a summary OPIC’s response to the Arab Spring in 2011.
March – OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield travels with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Egypt and Tunisia to meet with the interim governments, revolutionary leaders, and civil society. Hillary Clinton later announces that OPIC will provide up to $2 billion in financial support including loans, guarantees and political risk insurance to catalyze private-sector investment in the Middle East and North Africa.
May – President Barack Obama announces that OPIC will provide additional financing of up to $1 billion to support infrastructure and job creation in Egypt, in key sectors including energy, health and waste-water treatment, as well as housing and small business lending.
July – OPIC approves $500 million in small business lending for Egypt and Jordan. In a cooperative effort between OPIC and the U.S. Agency for International Development, OPIC says the deal will guarantee loans by local banks to small and medium-sized enterprises, microfinance institutions, non-banking financial institutions and other approved borrowers. The announcement addresses one of the key hurdles toward economic growth and stability in the region: Studies show that while there are as many as 2.3 million small and medium-sized enterprises throughout the MENA region, most do not have access to credit.
November –OPIC approves $150 million for investment in Egypt and MENA region. Through an investment guarantee to Citibank, the deal supports a loan to the private equity firm Citadel Capital to expand its subsidiaries working in the region OPIC’s recent response the Arab Spring builds on almost four decades of investment in the region. Since 1974, OPIC has invested nearly $8 billion in 463 projects in the Middle East and North Africa, which has supported small and medium-sized enterprises, infrastructure, agriculture and humanitarian assistance.OPIC’s current portfolio in the MENA region totals nearly $2.6 billion across 50 projects , including financing for a seawater desalination plant in Algeria, low-income mortgage lending in Jordan, and assistance to help low-income children in the Palestinian territories purchase laptop computers, (pictured).