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Middle East and North Africa

Agricultural FDI: Risky Business?

Khalid Alsuhaibani's picture

Al-Arabiya reported a few weeks ago that the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia is threatening the availability of food in Egypt and Jordan. Food prices becoming hostage to political crises is certainly not a new phenomenon: food plays an important role in the stability of societies through its availability, affordability, and quality. We learned this lesson from the 1789 French Revolution and more recently, many commentators link soaring food prices in 2010 with the events leading up to the ‘Arab Spring.’ The latter is not surprising when Arab countries import 56% of their cereal consumption, and some Arab countries import 100% of their wheat consumption. These recent market dynamics have led many countries to revisit their food security strategies with an eye to securing food supply.

There is a vigorous debate over the reasons pertaining to the food price increases in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Many highlight the effects of seasonal, short and medium term factors such as weather changes and biofuel-related crop conversions as well as long term factors such as population growth, income growth, and climate change. These price increases in food have enormous effects on people, for example, the 2008 food crisis pushed 105 million people into poverty.
 

Let the lights shine, hopefully for 24 hours a day (as needed)

Antoine Jaoude's picture

Growing up in war-torn Beirut, I experienced the Lebanese Civil War from a childlike perspective. I was in middle school at the time when a power outage lingered for months on end. Reviewing textbooks and doing homework at night was no easy task. The flickers of candlelight reflecting on the glossy pages of my textbook made reading very laborious—not to mention how it compromised my safety and shrank my attention span. I was 12 years old at the time. Today, I am 34. It has been 23 years since the war ended and power shortage in Lebanon remains.  
 
In the aftermath of the civil war, there was a national consensus to privatize and decentralize the power sector in Lebanon. Decentralization would shift control from the ministerial level to distinct municipalities across the country. Privatization in particular would help the power grid expand to meet the growing demands of population increase. Both moves would involve inflows of foreign direct investment, and open up competition, and create more jobs. However, political disagreements erupted around the intricacies of privatization policies and decrees and any further attempt to privatize or decentralize has floundered.
 
Today, Electricite du Liban (EDL), a state-owned enterprise run by the Ministry of Energy and Water controls 90 percent of power generators, transmission, and distribution services in the country. A surge of demand after the civil war has pushed EDL to further expand the power grid.
 

The Palestinian Private Sector: Resilience in the Face of Harsh Conditions

Layali H. Abdeen's picture

I recall the first time I visited Nakheel Palestine for Agricultural Investments Company fields at Jericho two years ago, when MIGA was still at the early stages of underwriting the project constituting planting date trees. packing dates for Nakheel Palestine for Agriculture Development The land was empty and, at the first glance, the first thought that came to mind was “how can this be developed into arable land?” When MIGA’s Executive Vice President Izumi Kobayashi visited the site for the first time a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in fields filled with baby date trees that have beautified the land with their green leaves. And in a tour in the packing facility of the project, we saw how young female workers were sorting and packing the dates, realizing that each of these workers is supporting a household of minimum five members in a very impoverished area.

MIGA in Libya: Boldly Going Where No Political Risk Insurer Has Gone Before

Hoda Atia Moustafa's picture

The New Libyan FlagLast month, MIGA signed its very first contract of guarantee for a project in Libya. The guarantee covers an investment by Jafara Company to expand a beverage and harissa plant outside of Tripoli. (Harissa, if you have never had it, is sometimes known as the "ketchup of North Africa" — a hot chili sauce used to spice up North African foods.) The €7 million contract, underwritten through MIGA's Small Investment Program, provides cover against losses due to expropriation, war and civil disturbance, and transfer restriction. The project came to MIGA through a private equity fund out of Tunisia, AfricInvest, which is indirectly investing in Jafara through a partial acquisition from its previous owner, the MIMS Group of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Investing to Build a State

Layali H. Abdeen's picture

A few weeks ago, I attended the launch ceremony of theGaza. City. Photo: © Natalia Cieslik / World Bank new Palestine Capital Growth Fund, a subsidiary of the multibillion-dollar, Dubai-based private equity fund Abraaj. I found that many people questioned why   Abraaj would operate in the Palestinian Territories. Some would even describe such a move as a pure act of  social responsibility. But it is not.

Managing Risk and Keeping Focused in Turbulent Times

Mallory Saleson's picture

It’s been almost a year since Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, sparking a wave of protests in his country and ensuing events that led to what we now refer to as the “Arab Spring”. Today, these events were remembered, and the future of the region debated, during a seminar MIGA co-hosted with the Financial Times in London on Managing Global Political Risk: Old Risks, New Moment.

Tunisia’s Minister of Finance Jalloul Ayed spoke passionately, eloquently, and with tremendous insight about the challenges and opportunities facing his country, noting many look to Tunisia as setting the pace and showing the way. “So far so good”, he noted, adding “democracy is now hopefully part of our political tradition.” But there is a daunting road ahead, dealing with the priorities, creating jobs for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed youth, encouraging much-needed investment. His biggest concern? “We cannot lose focus; we have to reform and get the job done.”

The Nitty Gritty of Supporting Islamic Finance, from MIGA

Hoda Atia Moustafa's picture

MIGA recently closed its second transaction supporting a project with an Islamic financing structure—the first was for a port project in Djibouti back in 2007. For this new project, MIGA provided political risk insurance to two financial institutions, Deutsche Bank Luxembourg and Saudi British Bank, for their $450 million financing to the Indonesia telecoms company PT Natrindon Telepon Selular, or NTS.

How Risky, Really, Is the Arab World for Investors? Take Two.

Paul Barbour's picture

In June 2010 I posted a blog on political risks for investors in the Arab worldThe blog (and associated Perspectives note) argued that it was probably a mistake to lump all Arab countries together, and that risks were idiosyncratic among nations. Overall, the note reflected the view at the time that most investors were fairly sanguine about the risks in the Arab world.

In retrospect of course, we have all been found out following the events that started in Tunisia in January and spread across the region. This week MIGA hosted a panel discussion on ‘Investment Opportunities in the Wake of the Arab Spring’ to try and take stock of these events and consider their implications for investors. 

The Arab Spring, History, and Political Economy

James Bond's picture

People in Maghreb and Mashreq countries, long used to being muzzled by their authoritarian regimes, are rising up to make their voices heard. This movement — if one can call it that — started first in Tunisia with the self-immolation of an unemployed street vendor. This desperate act by Mohamed Bouazizi, a poor 26 year-old university graduate without a steady job to support his family, brought out into the open the seething resentment of ordinary Tunisians at the 23 year rule of President Ben Ali.

You Say You Want a Revolution...

Hoda Atia Moustafa's picture

As I return from a week-long mission to Lebanon and Jordan, where I took part in a workshop to teach government agencies about MIGA's mission and products and met potential clients to discuss prospective collaboration, I am struck at how much unchartered territory there is for us in this ever-changing and turbulent region. 

During the 18 days of the Egyptian revolution that began on January 25, I was glued to the news media -- and to Facebook, which proved to be a vital source of information quicker than any news agency -- to try to get news of what was happening and ensure that my family and friends back in Egypt stayed safe.

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