Ramallah, February 12, 2008—Lars
Thunell, Executive Vice President and CEO of IFC, a member of the World
Bank Group, today signed agreements with Al Rafah Microfinance Bank and
the Capital Markets Authority to address access to finance for entrepreneurs
and small companies in the West Bank and Gaza.The agreements, which Thunell
signed on his first official visit to the West Bank and Gaza, underscore
IFC’s commitment to help developing a leasing market and supporting the
By signing the trade finance agreement, which will facilitate foreign transactions
by Palestinian companies, Al Rafah Microfinance Bank became the first bank
in the West Bank and Gaza to join the IFC Global Trade Finance Program
as an issuing bank. The program promotes trade with emerging markets worldwide
by supporting flows of goods and services to and from developing countries.
IFC provides guarantee coverage of bank risk in emerging markets, allowing
local banks like Bank Al-Rafah to expand their access to trade finance
within an extensive network of countries and banks.
Al Rafah Microfinance Bank is an existing partner for IFC. Through its
advisory services activity in the region, IFC also helped the bank strengthen
its operational strategy and business plan.
“We are pleased to be a part of IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program. Our
association with the program will allow us to provide greater services
to our clients and expand our trade activities,” noted Mr. Talal Nasserudin,
Chairman of Al-Rafah Microfinance Bank.
During this first official visit to the West Bank, Thunell also signed
a cooperation agreement to partner with the Capital Markets Authority on
developing a leasing market. IFC Advisory Services in the Middle East and
North Africa – PEP-MENA – will work with the private sector to promote
leasing through a combination of legislative reform, awareness-raising
events, capacity-building activities, and investments in the leasing sector.
IFC’s assistance will be implemented through its existing leasing program,
which has similar activities underway in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Yemen.
“Leasing is an alternative to traditional bank credit that is often more
suitable for entrepreneurs and small companies seeking to finance fixed
assets. It is particularly advantageous in countries where enforcement
of collateral rights is not well developed. An active leasing market in
the West Bank and Gaza will increase access to finance for SMEs, helping
stimulate economic growth and create jobs. “, said Mr. Maher Masri, Chairman
of the Capital Markets Authority.
“We believe that by having a programmatic engagement to support Palestinian
private sector, IFC can act as a catalyst to bolster confidence and encourage
the private sector’s active participation in the economy,” said Dr. Samir
Abdullah, Minister of Planning.
“The strong entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people is a tremendous
asset. Small businesses are the backbone of any economy. They create
opportunities and employ more people than any other sector. Supporting
them is particularly important given the high unemployment rates in the
West Bank and Gaza,” Thunell said.
IFC has been active in the West Bank and Gaza since 1996, investing in
companies and providing advisory services to the private sector to support
entrepreneurs and small companies. For example, IFC recently supported
olive oil growers to build their technical abilities for tapping export
markets and improving supply chains.
Despite constraints on investment climate in West Bank and Gaza, IFC is
evaluating investment opportunities and advisory services in support of
such sectors as leasing, trade, and housing finance.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, fosters sustainable economic growth
in developing countries by financing private sector investment, mobilizing
private capital in local and international financial markets, and providing
advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC’s
vision is that poor people have the opportunity to escape poverty and improve
their lives. In FY07, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized an additional
$3.9 billion through syndications and structured finance for 299 investments
in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory services in 97 countries.
For more information, visit www.ifc.org.