IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has signed an agreement with a Palestinian bank to support smaller firms, especially those owned by women, drive economic development.
IFC will help Bank of Palestine scale up its banking operations for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian private sector accounts for 90 percent of employment and is dominated by family businesses, but only five percent have access to loans. IFC will also help the bank develop new products and services that cater to the financial needs of smaller firms, with a focus on female entrepreneurs.
“Our long-term partnership with IFC has helped us strengthen our banking operations and mitigate potential risks,” said Hashim Shawa, chairman and GM of Bank of Palestine. “We focus on supporting female entrepreneurs and further integrating women into the economy, while encouraging the rapidly growing SME sector.”
The project marks IFC’s third advisory intervention in the West Bank and Gaza aiming to facilitate access to finance, promote business sustainability and support business women.
“Although women own nearly a quarter of all businesses in the West Bank and Gaza, very few of them have access to finance from banks,” said Luke Haggarty, IFC head of advisory services in the MENA.
“A vibrant private sector that includes more women owned businesses can provide much-needed employment opportunities, attract investors, and drive economic growth.”
Bank of Palestine has the largest branch network in the West Bank and Gaza, and over 300,000 customers, accounting for almost 25 percent of the total Palestinian banking market.
In 2010, IFC acquired five percent of Bank of Palestine, supported the bank’s initiative to boost trade with a trade finance agreement, helped the bank develop the first student lending program in West Bank and Gaza, and provided risk management advice and assistance on corporate governance issues.