New UK Boost for Arab Businesses

Businesses across the Middle East and North Africa will get a £4.5 million boost from the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron announced at the World Islamic Economic Forum on Tuesday.

The UK’s funding to the Nomou business fund will be matched by the Shell Foundation to support ‘missing middle’ businesses - those too large for microfinance but too small for traditional bank loans.

The fund will provide business support to more than 600 medium sized businesses and create more than 15,000 jobs, focusing on Jordan and Egypt where unemployment remains a huge problem.

Thousands of women across the Middle East and North Africa will also get help in growing their businesses and finding employment under a separate joint initiative from the UK and the Islamic Development Bank.

The UK will provide £6 million in new funding on top of an existing £4 million commitment to the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund, which will be matched by the Islamic Development Bank.

Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan said:

"Jobs and growth are critical to the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. We are pleased to be working with the Shell Foundation to create thousands of jobs that will contribute towards the stable economic environment needed for growth and prosperity in the region.

"Women are the engine of growth and it is not possible for a country to develop without investing in women. We are delighted to be working with the Islamic Development Bank to design and implement exciting projects that will strengthen women’s economic contribution to the Middle East and North Africa."

The new support for the Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund is aimed at improving the competitiveness of women entrepreneurs in the Arab world, which currently has the lowest rates of female participation in the global labour force.

The initiative focuses on poor and vulnerable women in Jordan, Egypt and Libya, where current crises are particularly affecting their incomes. It will also aim to reach women and girls in difficult to access rural areas right across the region.

(Source: UK FCO)

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