Nabil al Jabari and his family have run a small grocery store in downtown Cairo for the last six decades. And while the shop has a cadre of devoted customers, al Jabari, a father of four, is always looking for ways to bring in new business.
So three years ago he installed an electronic payment system developed by Fawry, a pioneering Egyptian technology company and an IFC investment client.
The system lets customers use credit cards and pay their cell phone bills, among a host of other things. That suite of services has lured dozens of new customers to his store and al Jabari says revenues are up 15 percent.
"It has really helped," says Jabari.
Stories like that are why IFC invested $6 million in Fawry earlier this year, an agreement designed to help the company expand its network of 20,000 payment terminals. The investment was part of IFC's wider efforts to spur economic development in Egypt.
Over the past two years, IFC has invested $723 million in the country to help restore investor confidence, create jobs, and raise education standards. It has also been providing advisory services to strengthen business regulations, increase access to finance, support the development of smaller enterprises, and assist in the creation of public-private partnerships in infrastructure.
EVP and CEO Jin-Yong Cai saw that work first-hand during his first official visit to the Middle East. He stopped in Cairo where he met government leaders and IFC clients, including small business owners. He said the key to spurring growth was unleashing the power of private enterprise.
"It is no secret that many Middle Eastern countries, like Egypt, have struggled during the last two years," Cai said. "One of the keys to restoring the region’s economic luster is supporting the private sector, which has the potential to drive growth and create the jobs people here so desperately need."
The investment in Fawry is designed to support that. It will help extend modern financial services to scores of everyday Egyptians. That is crucial in a country where almost everyone relies on cash for transactions, a relatively inefficient way of doing business.