IFC to boost investments in Yemen, Iraq, N. Africa

* IFC has invested over $2.2 billion in MENA this year

* Favours energy and financial sectors in Yemen

* Plans to invest nearly $100 million in Iraq in 2013

By Mirna Sleiman

DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The World Bank's financial armInternational Finance Corp (IFC) plans to increase itsinvestments in Yemen, Iraq and North Africa next year to helpsupport development and job creation, a senior IFC executivesaid.

"MENA needs to create 50-70 million jobs in the nextdecade. Recent events in the MENA region have created theurgency to address the fundamental conditions required to revivegrowth and support human development," Dimitris Tsitsiragos, theIFC's vice president for Europe, Middle East and North Africa,said in an interview on Monday.

The IFC, which invests in developing the private sector inemerging economies with a special focus on small to medium-sizedenterprises (SMEs), sees opportunities in infrastructure,energy, education and healthcare in the Middle East and NorthAfrica (MENA).

"MENA is a strategic priority for the IFC. Obviously a lotdepends on market conditions but our objective is to keep ourprogramme at the same level and hopefully growit,�������"������� Tsitsiragos said.

"We are prepared to take the risk and support projects inYemen."

The poorest Arab country, Yemen was driven to the brink ofbankruptcy by a year-long uprising that in February pushedlong-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power and allowed alQaeda to build its presence in lawless tribal regions.

"It's a small country but deals have a bigger impact. If wesucceed, our deals will boost investment sentiment and providecomfort for investors," Tsitsiragos said.

The IFC would be interested in Yemen's energy sector, SMEs,microfinance and the financial sector.

It has invested $2.2 billion in the Middle East and NorthAfrica so far this year, Tsitsiragos said, as economies in theregion try to recover from the impact of the Arab Springuprisings. It hopes to top that amount next year.

It plans to invest close to $100 million next year in OPECmember Iraq, which sits on the world's fourth-largest oilreserves.

"We have so far done a total $400 million in Iraq and planto do more next year," Tsitsiragos said. "We likeinfrastructure, manufacturing and the financial sector."

Last year the IFC provided a $400 million, seven-year debtfacility for Zain-Iraq, a mobile phone company and subsidiary ofKuwait's Zain Group . It also invested in Ahli UnitedBank , Iraq's largest lender by market value, and hasput close to $75 million into the United Arab Emirates'Gulftainer Co to help it develop ports and logistics activitiesin Iraq.

Since early last year, the IFC has arranged $450 million offinancing for Egypt's Orascom Construction, $137 million in debtfinancing for Jordan's Hikma pharmaceuticals to helpimprove access to high-quality generic medicines in the MENAregion, and a $50 million loan to French cement maker Lafarge

to help the company expand its operations in Iraq.

The IFC was the lead advisor for a public-privatepartnership project to build a new airport in Medina, SaudiArabia and another to construct two teaching hospitals innorthern Egypt.

(Editing by Susan Fenton)


Keywords: IFC MENA/