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Head of IFC to Attend Conference: “Investing In Azerbaijan – Gateway to the Newly Independent States”, Baku, May 7- 9, 2003


Corrie Shanahan
Phone: +(202) 473 2258

Phone: +(202) 974 4384

cshanahan@ifc.org
                                               
Christian Hofer        

Phone: + (4131) 324 0910        

E-mail :
christian.hofer@seco.admin.ch


Washington D.C., April 11, 2003 --  The Executive Vice President of IFC and Managing Director of the World Bank Group, Peter Woicke, will open  and attend a conference today on “Investing in Azerbaijan-Gateway to Newly Independent States” which will be held from May 7 to 9, 2003 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Mr. Woicke will be accompanied by Mr. Khosrow Zamani, IFC Director of Southern Europe and Central Asia.

In addition to focusing on oil products and services -- which account for the largest part of Azerbaijan’s economy -- the conference will promote investments in non-oil sectors such as textile, agribusiness, financial services, infrastructure. This broader focus is to encourage and support diversification in Azerbaijan’s economy, so that the country is not solely dependent on oil.


The Ministry of Economic Development of Azerbaijan, the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group, and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland are sponsoring the event. The Swiss Organization for Facilitating Investments (SOFI) is the organizer of the Conference on behalf of the sponsors.


Mr. Woicke will be joined by private sector business people, senior government officials, and international conference participants to discuss the country’s economic reforms over the past decade, the effects of the reforms on the climate for business in Azerbaijan, and investment experiences and opportunities in the non-oil sectors of the economy. High-level government officials, key representatives of leading international financing institutions (such as IBRD, EBRD and OPIC), local business people, and international entrepreneurs will discuss their experiences and share their insight.


The conference comes amid efforts by the government of Azerbaijan to open up the economy and establish more favorable laws and regulations for foreign investors.  The international development community believes that these reform efforts must be accelerated to ensure an equitable distribution throughout Azeri society of expected oil revenues and to prepare a solid foundation for the country’s balanced economic development in all sectors, including banking, transportation, oil services, infrastructure, construction, and manufacturing.  Azerbaijan presents interesting opportunities for companies wishing to invest in the sectors under discussion at the conference.  


“Azerbaijan has a unique opportunity to leverage foreign investment gains made in the oil sector and attract more investment to non-oil sectors as well.  This will support longer-term economic sustainability and will benefit the people of Azerbaijan.  With more favorable laws and a reformed private sector business environment,  Azerbaijan should be able to achieve its development goals,” said Mr. Woicke, “I am looking forward to my first visit to Azerbaijan and to the opportunity to meet business and government leaders at the conference in May”.


During his visit to Azerbaijan, Mr. Woicke is expected to hold discussions with non-government organizations and civil society to discuss IFC’s possible involvement in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli oil field and the Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project.  In addition, Mr. Woicke will assess and review the small and medium enterprises linkage program being designed and developed by IFC to help small businesses in Azerbaijan.  Mr. Woicke’s program in Baku may also include a visit to Azerbaijan’s first microfinance bank, which IFC helped establish in 2002.


For detailed information about the conference and to register, please visit the conference website:
www.invest-in-azerbaijan.com. For more information about Mr. Peter Woicke and IFC please visit:  http://www.ifc.org/about/structure/executivevp/executivevp.html

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. IFC’s mission is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives.  IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.


The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) is the Swiss government agency responsible for economic and labor questions.  seco offers its services in a variety of areas including world trade, economic integration in the European Market, development cooperation with developing countries and economies in transition, promotion activities to strengthen Switzerland's international competitiveness as an economic center.  It is also responsible for Switzerland's economic relations with various countries and regions.