By Shahd Alhamdan
THE International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group, signed several agreements with Tunisia, Mali and Gambia on Thursday on the sidelines of the Islamic Development (IDB) Group 42nd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in Hilton Jeddah.
ITFC signed two Murabaha agreements between the Republic of Tunisia represented by the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company to contribute to financing resourcing of natural gas for an amount of $160 million and the Tunisian Company of the Refining Industries to contribute to financing resourcing of crude oil and petroleum products for an amount of $150 million. Another agreement was signed with the Republic of Suriname for the support of the medical, agricultural, energy and industrial sectors.
ITFC signed a $35 million agreement between ITFC and the Republic of Mali for the purchase of petroleum products and electricity, and ITFC also signed framework agreement with the government of Gambia amounting to $210 million over a period of 3 years.
The General Manager of Trade and Business Development department in ITFC Nasser Al-Thekair told Saudi Gazette that the two agreements with Tunisia and these other agreements would have positive impact on the country.
When he was asked about the outlook of the economy of the Islamic nation, he answered, “We all know that the past few years has been challenging, especially with the reduction of the commodity prices and the forecast expectation of the IMF of global growth. However, we have seen recently, based on the latest IMF report, that things are picking up and things are actually improving, specifically with the increase of the prices of some of the commodities. Specifically, our Muslim member countries are the main producers of commodities, like coffee, and cotton. There has been a slight increase in the prices which is positively affecting the economy.”
Speaking about the future development projects in the Middle East, Al-Thekair, mentioned that ITFC currently is focusing on new approach and new strategy of blending development assistance with financing.
“Because of the new model now in the international development is that financing alone is not sufficient. So that’s why we will blend our financing with technical support. One of the things that ITFC is doing in the Middle East specifically is ‘The Aid for trade initiative for Arabs States’. ITFC is leading this initiative with the support of major donors, including, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, IDB, the support of Arab League, and several of United Nation Development Organizations. ITFC is leading the effort to enhance and promote trade within the Arab countries,” he said.
On issues of youth and unemployment and what are the future plans to reduce this, Al-Thekair said that ITFC impresses on the SME sector because SMEs are the major creators of jobs in all of our economies.”
He added, “Gone are the times were we have to depend on the government for everything. We need to support and promote the SMEs to be able to create jobs. In some countries you find that three out of four jobs are created by SMEs that is why SMEs are core focus in the ITFC strategies. Take the example of Saudi Arabia, ITFC now is in alignment with the Saudi Vision 2030 and is working with the SME Authority and with Ministry of Commerce and Investment to develop an SME development program for the Kingdom, which would serve two objectives under the Vision 2030. One is to focus on SME and help to diversify the economy and the other is to reduce the dependency on oil.”