Director for the Middle East and Central Asia at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Jihad Azour, said that Arab countries can benefit from larger and more structured financial technology, especially since the region has a great number of youth and migrants.
However, he noted that the SMEs in the Middle East suffer the widest gap when it comes to financial inclusion worldwide.
He made his remarks during a seminar Tuesday at the American University in Cairo to launch a report on reinforcing financial inclusion for SMEs in the Middle East and Central Asia. The report, he said presented financial technology as a solution.
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He added that Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and UAE boast three quarters of the emerging firms in the region. The SMEs enjoy half of the labor force in the Arab region, but the available funding opportunities for them are the lowest in the world, Azour continued.
This report was published two days after a speech delivered by IMF managing director Christine Lagarde at the World Government Summit held in the UAE.
She acknowledged that the UAE, along with Egypt and Jordan, have started to implement comprehensive strategies to increase financial inclusion for SMEs.
"In the Arab region, SMEs represent 96 percent of registered companies,” Lagarde said. But they face severe financing issues and closing this financial inclusion gap will help generate 15 million new jobs by 2025, she added.
Lagarde hailed steps taken by a number of Arab states to enhance their financial framework, especially Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
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