Complex Made Simple

EIBMED 2019: Conference reveals the two greatest obstacles holding back the Arab economy

The European Investment Bank’s (EIB) EIBMED 2019 conference wrapped up this week on September 30th, concluding a day-long event covering some of the most important issues plaguing the region’s economy.

Two recurring obstacles played into conversations throughout the day Another issue discussed was the existing "implementation deficit" There is “a gap between those who have the funds, and those who need the funds,” Marion Hoenicke, the Head of Banks Division at EIB, said

The European Investment Bank’s (EIB) EIBMED 2019 conference wrapped up this week on September 30th, concluding a day-long event covering some of the most important issues plaguing the region’s economy. 

The overall event fell under the theme of “Investing in a resilient and inclusive future,” discussing multiple issues from sustainable infrastructure and its effect on the economy, to entrepreneurship and more. 

With AMEinfo present at the event, two recurring phrases that played into conversations throughout the day were “political stability” and “corporate governance,” bringing to light the two greatest obstacles holding back the region’s economy. 

In fact, when Omar Christidis, a moderator at the event and the founder of Arabnet, conducted an informal poll of hand voting with the audience, political stability and governance where the two issues that received the most votes from the international audience attending. 

Political stability addresses the fact that the region has been suffering from issues of political nature, both externally and internally, that have destabilized many economies, or adversely affected them. 

Image: EIB

Corporate governance mostly addressed the corruption quotients in countries like Lebanon, where annually high corruption indices have warned of the effect on the economy. The country is currently facing a US dollar crisis, according to reports. Causes behind this differ per account, but some allude to corrupt practices that have funneled dollars out of the country.  

During the panel Bringing resilience to the region: the key challenges, Debora Revoltella, Director of the Economic Department at EIB, explained that the EIB had conducted multiple studies in the past surveying around 10,000 regional firms in the Middle East. During their 2013 study, they found that “the main constraint to the private sector development in the region was still political instability.” 

“I think the Arab World shares a failed developmental model that has failed a lot,” Youssef El Khalil, Executive of the Central Bank of Lebanon, said during the same panel, when discussing development of the region’s private sector. “A part of the Arab population as a whole has been neglected.” 

Ultimately, that particular panel also identified an “implementation deficit” as one of the challenges facing the region’s economy, addressing the fact that perhaps there needs to be a radical change to education and individuals/parties with funding to ensure the efficient development of enterprise in the long run. 

“It sounds like what we need to fix this implementation deficit is more plans at the local level, [and] more knowledge at the individual level,” Christidis said. 

There is “a gap between those who have the funds, and those who need the funds,” Marion Hoenicke, the Head of Banks Division at EIB, explained during the panel Financing in innovative companies to foster growth and employment.

 The conference also included a pitching session by promising Arab startup entrepreneurs, followed by an audience voting session. 

In closing, awards were given to the top 3 startups with the most votes. 

Buildink, a Lebanese startup specializing in the 3D printing of cement, won in first place, followed by Tunisian startup Cure in 2nd place, and Egyptian health tech startup VRapeutic in 3rd