LONDON Europe's development bank announced its first investments in Morocco, Jordan and Tunisia on Tuesday and said it was preparing to invest up to 200 million euros (160.9 million pounds) by the end of the year in the region.
Set up in 1991 to aid the transition of ex-Soviet bloc countries of eastern Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) expanded its mandate to invest in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
The move followed the "Arab Spring", which saw decades-old dictatorships unseated in the latter two countries before moving on to Libya.
The EBRD said the three projects were the first in a series of planned investments for the region, which will be ramped up to 2.5 billion euros a year by 2015.
Its investments in eastern Europe have helped drive growth and structural change across a range of sectors in central European and ex-Soviet economies
The new projects include a $30 million trade finance line for Jordan's InvestBank and a 20 million-euro commitment to the Maghreb Private Equity Fund III, sponsored by a Tunisian-Moroccan private equity firm.
Another 20 million euros will be provided to Morocco's Société Générale Marocaine de Banques (SGMB). SGMB is also to received a 5 million-euro trade finance facility from the EBRD.
All the investments are aimed at helping small businesses in the countries access funding via loans or private equity investments, the EBRD said.
The EBRD soon hopes to get approval from shareholders for investments in Egypt. It said another key project on its agenda was a $100 million investment for a power plant near Jordan's capital city Amman to ease the country's energy shortages.
The bank plans to focus its investments in North Africa and Jordan in the financial sector, providing financing to small businesses; in energy efficiency projects, municipal services such as water treatment and infrastructure.
It said it had opened offices in all four countries.
(Reporting by Sujata Rao. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)