World Bank Pledges $70 million to Boost Jordan's Entrepreneurs

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Entrepreneurship in Jordan is now getting international support. Yesterday, The World Bank launched a new project to foster job creation and ease access to finance for entrepreneurs in the Hashemite Kingdom, especially those outside the capital. 

The $70 million Micro, Small and Medium Entreprise (MSME) Development for Inclusive Growth Project, approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors, will focus on governorates outside Amman to promote growth in underserved districts and encourages banks to have special offers for women.

"This loan will support the creation of much needed employment opportunities for Jordan's growing population of young people," Ferid Blhaj, World Bank Director for the Mashreq Department, stated in the press release.

"The Central Bank of Jordan has taken a number of key measures to improve MSME access to finance. These measures have contributed to some expansion, and helped shape a more positive enabling environment," says Sahar Nasr, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project.

The loan couldn't come at a better time. In 2011, even before the Syrian strife injected over 250,000 refugees into the country, 14.2% of Jordan's population was living below the poverty line, the official unemployment rate was 12.3% in 2011, and the unofficial rate was approximately published as 30%. As of 2009, unemployment is high, and rising, at 22.6% for males between 15-24 and 45.9% for women.

Despite all of the challenges it faces, Jordan's economy is expected to expand, from an estimated 3% increase in GDP in 2012 to a 3.5% in 2013, potentially reaching 4.5% growth by 2017, according to the IMF.

Small and medium businesses in the ICT sector in particular will be a large driver of that growth, as it currently contributes 14% to the Jordanian economy, and has created 84,000 Jobs, according to the Information and Communications Technology Association of Jordan (INT@J). 

Jordan stands to accelerate this growth; its success stories have already proven that small businesses are steadily scaling.  In the tech sector, Jeeran, a popular user review platform, received investment from Silicon Valley-based seed fund and accelerator 500Startups. Media company Kharabeesh boasts the largest YouTube Multi Channels Network in the Middle East. Despite a few startup closures recently, Jordan's gaming sector is also leading the Arab market, thanks to support from the Jordan Gaming Task Force supported by King Abdullah and global players like Sony, which is opening a studio in the country this year.

Jordan also plays host to Oasis500, the region's largest tech accelerator, which has produced 55 startups thus far. 

The World Bank's loan will undoubtedly continue to support similar tech startups, as well as those outside the technology sector that can help boost the Jordanian economy. 

Image credit: Argenberg

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