17AM in Jordan: Setting groundwork for the SDG Jordan Growth Fund

During the first week of July 2019, several members of our team travelled to Amman, Jordan in order to lay the groundwork for the official launch of the SDG Jordan Growth Fund. Our CEO, John Morris; Jordan Country Head, Mary Nazzal-Batayneh; and Head of Asset Management, Jamil Wyne, forged key partnerships and engaged with potential investors and pipeline companies for the Fund. They were joined by Gary Dodge, Managing Director at SEAF, a private equity and VC firm that 17 Asset Management (17AM) has partnered with for the SDG Jordan Growth Fund. The Fund is the world’s first private equity fund fully focused on the SDGs in MENA, and concentrates efforts in Jordan as a dynamic, emerging hub of innovation in the region.

One of the major highlights of the trip was the solidification of the fund management team in Jordan, comprised of five Jordanian investment leaders who collectively bring over 100 years of deal experience, industry knowledge, and local expertise to the table, as well as strong regional networks. We are excited to officially announce the newest members of the team in the coming few weeks as we approach the launch of the fund.

The team and partners attend the Digital Mashreq Forum, where panelists discussed the unique opportunities that digital transformation can provide to sustainable economic growth and inclusive economies in the Mashreq region. From left to right: John Morris, CEO, 17AM; Layla Al-Qasim, Head of Strategic Engagement and Sustainability Projects, Landmark Hotels Company; Nowar Shahrouri, CFO at Innovation Startups and SMEs Fund; Jamil Wyne, Head of Asset Management, 17AM; Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Jordan Country Head, 17AM.

The team and partners attend the Digital Mashreq Forum, where panelists discussed the unique opportunities that digital transformation can provide to sustainable economic growth and inclusive economies in the Mashreq region. From left to right: John Morris, CEO, 17AM; Layla Al-Qasim, Head of Strategic Engagement and Sustainability Projects, Landmark Hotels Company; Nowar Shahrouri, CFO at Innovation Startups and SMEs Fund; Jamil Wyne, Head of Asset Management, 17AM; Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Jordan Country Head, 17AM.

In the first two days of the trip, the team attended the Digital Mashreq Forum, a high-level regional conference on digital economy and entrepreneurship development organized by the government of Jordan and the World Bank Group. The team engaged with policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups, and investors, to discuss digital transformation in the Mashreq region. Leaders such as His Excellency Dr. Omar Razzaz, Prime Minister of Jordan, and His Excellency Mr. Mothanna Gharaibeh, Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, discussed the importance of transforming Jordan into a digital economy in order to make it more attractive for foreign investments and partnerships. Dr. Razzaz particularly highlighted the importance of bridging the digital gap between populations as a key factor to ensuring inclusive growth.

Other panelists at the Forum discussed the social and economic challenges faced by businesses operating in the Mashreq region, exploring how digital connectivity, digital skills and education, and government support can help local businesses tap into regional opportunities. A large number of credit-constrained SMEs currently exist in Jordan. By filling the funding gap, private and public actors, including 17AM, can assist these enterprises in generating financial returns while providing employment opportunities and other products and services that are important to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

New partnerships were announced at the Forum, including a $1 billion financing commitment from the World Bank to Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq to boost investment initiatives in the region. Such large-scale financial support to Jordan has increased in the past years, with OECD countries and dozens of foreign governments and corporations directing foreign aid and direct investment to the country to ensure its stability and future success. The Forum proceedings reinforced 17AM’s confidence in the opportunities that Jordan presents for investments aligned with the SDGs, specifically SDG 5, Gender Equality, and SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Throughout the trip, the team met with an array of local banks, business associations, investors and entrepreneurs who are working towards advancing the SDGs. Jamil Wyne spoke at a workshop hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), discussing ongoing efforts for governorates and rural areas in Amman to share data on local investment opportunities. Such conversations are essential as 17AM begins to build strong inroads to SMEs throughout Jordan in the coming months.

Although Jordan has been facing a range of economic and fiscal challenges over the past few years, conversations with stakeholders during the visit confirmed the relevance of 17AM’s mission to the country. By leveraging private sector investments to complement efforts of the government and other partners, the SDG Jordan Growth Fund will contribute to expanding growth opportunities that will secure more sustainable economic and developmental outcomes for the country.

Grace Stone