The Frankfurt School Middle East and North Africa Regional Office (FS MENA) is the regional representation of the International Advisory Services (IAS) department in the region. Established in Amman, Jordan in 2015, the Regional Office underscores the strategic importance Frankfurt School and its partners in the European and international development industry at large have placed in the MENA region.
At the FS MENA, we are committed to being a change facilitator and catalyst in the region while contributing to the economic development and welfare improvement in the Middle East and North Africa. We are highly versatile and manage Technical Assistance (TA) programs at international, regional and local levels. This has made FS MENA one of the preferred implementation partners of leading European and international development partners in the region.
FS MENA places a special focus on financial sector development to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in the region. Here, we partner with local banks and financial institutions (FIs) to create, enhance or expand their outreach to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) market, which constitutes a major part of the labour market and has the most direct impact in creating livelihoods for citizens as well as foreign-born residents. Other important target groups of our engagement in the MENA region include the most disadvantaged populations such as women, youth and, especially in Jordan and Lebanon, refugees.
Currently, FS MENA is implementing TA projects for banks and partner FIs through participation in frameworks managed by international donors such as EBRD, EIB, but also in projects contracted directly by individual FIs. The key technical areas in these projects include strategy development in highly competitive environments amidst digitalisation of the financial industry and the appearance of non-traditional competitors and business models; customer and market research and corresponding product development, as well as the set-up of related marketing and sales strategies and tactics.
Another core area of engagement concerns the diverse field of risk management for all types of FIs, which includes the development of risk management frameworks, the analysis and improvement of underwriting policies and processes, loan portfolio monitoring and collections policy, as well as the underpinning MIS/IT infrastructure. Our experts also advise on HR policies & procedures, and provide training and coaching to the staff and management of FIs. Other areas in our portfolio include the promotion of affordable and clean energy through climate financing mechanisms.
Despite being a major part of the economy in Jordan, the access of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to financial services remains limited. In 2014, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched a framework of up to USD 150 million in senior loans and loan guarantees to PFIs to help MSMEs drive economic growth in Jordan. This project was complemented by Technical Assistance (TA) carried out by FS MENA. The TA is also intended to enable Partner Financial Institutions (PFIs) to better serve clients such as female entrepreneurs, MSMEs located outside Amman and start-ups; industries or projects such as energy-efficiency or small-scale green energy; and business models such as supply chain finance. Five PFIs have participated in the framework and two of them have already completed the TA phase. The framework is expected to conclude by the end of 2021.
Our experts have worked with dedicated project teams at PFIs to improve product development, lending policy and procedures, risk management procedures and MIS/IT infrastructure. They have also trained and coached staff and management across a broad range of technical and non-technical skills in efforts to build internal capacity for PFIs to become self-sufficient in lending to the MSME segment.
Leading a Consortium with the GIZ and Spark, Frankfurt School was awarded the Technical Assistance (TA) Programme to EIB’s Southern Neighbourhood Microfinance Facility. This programme supports the financial inclusion of vulnerable persons in the Southern Neighbourhood (SN) of the EU, a flagship EIB initiative to foster economic development in the MENA region and an impactful measure to increase the financial inclusion of the most vulnerable persons located in the region.
Aimed at youth, unemployed individuals, migrants and refugees, the TA programme complements EIB’s EUR 71.25 million Southern Neighbourhood Microfinance Facility (SNMF) that supports small microfinance investments in the MENA region. It will help to further sharpen the impact of the Facility in achieving its overall goals of sustaining job creation, socio-economic growth and contributing to poverty alleviation.
As lead partner in the Consortium, FS MENA continues to support financial intermediaries as well as small businesses with fewer than ten employees as final beneficiaries. Financial intermediaries interested in serving more vulnerable persons, in particular migrants and refugees, are assisted through market feasibility assessments, the design and launch of appropriate products and the improvement or fine-tuning of their products. PFIs can also benefit from lessons learned by other financial intermediaries with experience in the sector. In this regard, our experts are working on capacity building at partner institutions to improve their product offers, processes and procedures; deliver training and coaching to their staff; and to improve their MIS/IT infrastructure. Final beneficiaries will further benefit from vocational training to be delivered by the Consortium partner, addressing financial literacy, managerial capacity and entrepreneurial skills, such as business and financial planning.
Access to bank finance is limited for the private sector in the West Bank and Gaza. Lending to MSMEs is particularly limited due to the traditional focus on consumer lending and collateral-backed loans to sectors such as construction and real estate. The European Bank of Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) launched this five-year Framework in 2017 to support improvements in the legal and regulatory framework and enable MSMEs to access finance. FS MENA will carry out Technical Cooperation activities which are also intended to enable Partner Financial Institutions (PFIs) to better serve female entrepreneurs, start-ups, energy efficiency or small-scale green energy projects, supply chain finance schemes and new regions. The Framework has been extended to two PFIs in 2019.
Frankfurt School (FS) experts will work with dedicated project teams at Partner FIs to ensure self-sufficiency in maintaining MSME lending. In this regard, FS experts aim to improve existing MSME lending department if there is one, or design and establish one otherwise. FS experts should also develop and implement tailored MSME lending strategies, market appropriate MSME products and marketing approaches for new segments emphasised under the Framework. Our experts will also provide advice on marketing, sales and risk management procedures. With respect to institutional building, FS Experts will develop staff and middle management through classroom seminars and on-the-job training.
Jordan is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It has relied on imported fossil fuels for nearly all its energy needs and has been facing water scarcity challenges for decades. Despite these historical disadvantages, the availability of high levels of solar potential as a mitigation strategy to limit extensive water losses allow for targeted investments to enhance Jordan’s resilience to climate change.
The GEFF Jordan Framework was launched by the EBRD in 2019 as a four-year programme to contribute to the emergence of a self-sustaining, demand-driven market for investments in technologies and services supporting a green economy. The Framework aims to transfer strategic expertise and raise awareness about modern energy performance standards and will provide up to USD 60 million for Green Economy Transition Approach (GET) investments, including USD 20 million to support green capex investments of SMEs operating in specific value chains.
As lead partner in the Consortium, FS MENA has been tasked with preparing marketing plans, raising awareness and assisting Partner Financial Institutions (PFIs) to understand and adopt Facility objectives and EBRD policies, standards and criteria into their implementation of appropriate procedures, information and process workflows for the Facility. Experts will organise marketing activities and assist PFIs in developing tailored loan product and action plans for capacity building for successful implementation. To ensure the sustainability of PFIs’ lending activities in the segment, experts will also provide advice on incentive schemes, deliver training and train trainers. Experts will carry out sub-project assessments in line with the GEFF eligibility criteria.