17AM and SEAF host Conference on Jordan Investment Opportunity

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On March 1st, the day following the London Initiative, 17 Asset Management and SEAF held a symposium in London which gathered government officials and ambassadors, finance experts, and investors to discuss the Jordan landscape and innovative approaches to investing in Jordan. The symposium built upon the previous days’ discussions, and expounded on the investment case for Jordan, innovation in the country, and the tools of blended finance and the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce risk and maximize long-term growth.

Major industry initiatives that were highlighted at the London Initiative, including the ITS industry, high-end services, tourism and hospitality, and film and media, align closely with the investment focuses of a new fund in the region managed by 17 Asset Management and SEAF. The Fund targets growth industries, and especially those industries that can be gateways to lowering unemployment and increasing women’s economic empowerment.

After CEO John Morris and Founding Partner Mary Nazzal-Batayneh gave remarks opening the symposium, HE Muhannad Shehadeh, Jordanian Minister of State for Investment Affairs provided the keynote address, in which he talked about promoting innovative ways to de-risk and invest in Jordan.

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In the first panel of the day, Ms. Nazzal-Batayneh moderated a session with HM Ambassador Edward Oakden, British Ambassador to Jordan; Ali AbuKumail, Senior Private Sector Specialist, World Bank; HE Mothanna Gharaibeh, Jordanian Minister of Information and Communications Technology, and Anders Pedersen, UN Resident Coordinator, Jordan, who discussed public sector commitment to bolstering economic growth in Jordan. As Ambassador Oakden said, it is very encouraging to see people from all sectors coming together for Jordan, but “it is down to the businesses everyday, the government everyday, the community everyday… relentlessly driving forward what we’ve said, getting the detail right, and pushing forward” in order to make the potential of investment in Jordan a reality.

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In the second panel, Reem Goussous, Managing Director of Endeavor Jordan moderated a discussion between Dr. Fawaz Al Zubi, Founder and CEO of Silicon Badia and Chairman of the Crown Prince Foundation; Ennis Rimawi, Managing Director of the Catalyst MENA Clean Energy Fund; and Jalil Allabadi, Founder and CEO of Altibbi. The panel discussed keeping the momentum going from the previous day’s conference, and bolstering  growth industries in Jordan. Mr. Rimawi offered an optimistic note for the future of energy in Jordan, saying “let’s leapfrog” current development trajectories. He cited that “today Hawaii has 100% renewable strategy, California has 100% renewable strategy… We can have 80% renewables and continue to be a leader. But this time, proactively, we have the brains to do it.”

The third and final panel of the day was introduced by Niclas Kjellström-Matseke, Founding Partner of 17 Asset Management. Mr. Kjellström-Matseke gave an introduction to the power of the Sustainable Development Goals to shift development trajectories and unite actors globally around a shared agenda, including private sector institutional investors, entrepreneurs, and development agencies. During the panel discussion, Gavin Buchan, Minister Counsellor Middle East Development Programming for the Embassy of Canada; Sara Ferrer Olivella, Resident Representative, UNDP Jordan; Jennifer Buckley, Senior Managing Partner, SEAF; and Reem Khouri, Founder and CEO of Whyise spoke about their work supporting entrepreneurs and SMEs to create social impact. Mainly, panelists spoke to using blended finance and public capital to de-risk investment opportunities, how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be an investment framework for financial return with purpose, and recognizing the power of women, youth and refugees as an alpha generator.

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At the end of the symposium, 17 Asset Management announced its partnership with SEAF, the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, to launch the MENA region’s first SDG fund, with Jordan as its cornerstone of growth in the region. The fund focuses on growth opportunities in Jordan with an emphasis on SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).  The fund will use a unique blended finance approach to catalyze private capital in Jordan using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an investment framework, and focuses on applying an SDG lens to the growth industries the London Initiative conference highlighted, such as tourism, healthcare, and back office services, in order to help guide businesses in these industries towards sustainable, equitable growth.

Following the symposium, many attendees were excited to hear more about the fund, which is launching imminently. Following the events in London, team members from 17 Asset Management visited Stockholm, to speak with institutional investors well versed in impact and emerging markets. They received good feedback on the approach and purpose of the Jordan fund and will soon be returning to Europe and the Middle East with finalized terms.

As 17 Asset Management learns from the process of deploying a fund that combines human-centered design, blended finance, the SDGs, and growth sectors for both financial and social returns, it will apply these lessons to other markets that the firm is currently exploring, in East Africa, Mexico, Colombia, U.S. cities, and others.

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Grace Stone