USAID Announces New Investment for Entrepreneurs in Iraq and Lebanon

For Immediate Release

Thursday, November 20, 2014
USAID Press Office
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAIDPress

MARRAKECH, Morocco - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today new partnerships with Shell Foundation and Berytech designed to drive inclusive growth and sustainable job creation in Iraq and Lebanon.

The partnerships are part of USAID's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Investment Initiative, and were announced at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Morocco. They represent a new model for development for USAID, blending funding with philanthropic foundations and private investors to spur sustainable economic growth in emerging markets.

The MENA region is currently experiencing the highest regional unemployment in the world, with the World Bank estimating that Arab countries must create 80 million new jobs by 2020 to ensure sustainable social development and economic growth.

"Our agency believes that a focus on innovation, local leadership and public-private partnerships can accelerate sustainable development," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. "The MENA Investment Initiative programs for Iraq and Lebanon build on a proven model, and can help us reach our broader development goals faster."

Shell Foundation, an independent UK-registered charity established by the Shell Group in 2000, has been working to catalyse the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector in Africa for 14 years. USAID funding will enable the charity and GroFin, a specialist development financier co-founded by the Foundation in 2004, to scale an innovative model to deliver critical business support and patient capital to SMEs in Iraq.

"Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa typically lack access to the key ingredients they need to grow their businesses - growth finance, business skills and market connections - due to a lack of collateral, track record and experience. As a result MENA misses out on a major engine of job creation and sustainable growth," said Chris West, Director of Shell Foundation. "In partnership with GroFin, we've developed an integrated solution to this problem that has now created over 17,000 jobs across Africa. Collaborating with USAID and others will allow us to expand our dedicated regional SME initiative, Nomou, to support entrepreneurs in Iraq, based on the viability of their businesses and not the availability of collateral."

In Lebanon, USAID's partner is Berytech Foundation, part of the Berytech group of business innovation centers and venture capital funds for local startup companies. The program builds on private-sector expertise to provide matching equity capital for early stage investors and businesses, as well as an equity guarantee to mitigate the risk of investing in early-stage businesses. "This equity guarantee scheme is an innovation in this space, to incentivize private sector investment capital into the early-stage business ecosystem," said Berytech Executive Director Nicolas Rouhana. "We are very happy that MENA II will help facilitate early-stage fundraising." The program will also help provide mentoring, business networks and other support as companies grow and create even more jobs and economic activity.

About Shell Foundation

Shell Foundation is an independent UK-registered charity, established by Shell Group in 2000, that catalyses enterprise-based solutions to global poverty and environmental challenges. By applying business thinking, models and disciplines Shell Foundation has co-created several strategic partners to address global challenges such as sustainable job creation through small enterprise, urban mobility and access to affordable energy that are now delivering large-scale impact across Africa, Asia and Latin America. www.shellfoundation.org

About GroFin

GroFin is a pioneering SME development financier that drives job creation and socio-economic empowerment by assisting entrepreneurs and enterprises achieve success through access to appropriate finance, tailored business support, as well as market linkages. Established in 2004, GroFin operates in 12 countries across Africa and the Middle East, with US$ 320 million in committed funds and funds under management from leading international investors, development partners, corporate foundations and family foundations. www.grofin.com

In 2013, Shell Foundation and GroFin set up a regional SME initiative in MENA, "Nomou" (Arabic for growth) to provide integrated business skills and risk capital (US$100,000 to US$2 million) to viable start-up and growing local enterprises in Oman, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Extensive pre- and post- investment business support is given to all entrepreneurs by local GroFin experts. Nomou Iraq aims to deploy a targeted US$30 million in growth finance to 75 start-ups and locally-owned SMEs - with the aim to create 2,000 sustainable jobs over the next 10 years.

About Berytech

Berytech was created in Lebanon to provide a conducive environment for the creation and development of startups, through incubation, business support, counseling, funding, networking and company hosting, hence taking part in the economic revival of the country, participating in wealth and job creation, and retaining graduates and high-level skills in Lebanon. Since 2001, Berytech has built a dynamic and growing eco-system to foster innovation and entrepreneurship through adapted infrastructure, support programs, funds and pioneer initiatives, becoming a national reference of the support of SMEs and startups. For more information, http://www.berytech.org or nrouhana@berytech.org 

Last updated: November 20, 2014

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