The effects of COVID-19 on business are still presenting the world with challenges. The pandemic forever changed the shape of the world, in particular through our economies and societies.

But since the beginning of the outbreak, digital transformation accelerated fast, foot to the floor, most obviously with the increased use of online shopping and services, and the huge, still growing, number of online users and consumers.

Technology companies realized quickly that this was the silver lining in the cloud of the pandemic; any opportunity must be firmly grasped and acted on, globally and throughout our interconnected economies.

Successful acceleration of digital transformation and the subsequent creation of much-needed jobs in the technological industry starts with investment.

Enter the European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has confirmed the backing of a $150 million Middle East venture capital initiative, to the tune of $27 million, through EIB Global.

This massive anchor investment — the largest in the region to date — will go on to create 8,000 new jobs in the technology industry in addition to the enhancement of economic resilience and strengthening of existing skills. The areas that will directly benefit are four geographic markets:

● Egypt
● Lebanon
● Jordan
● Pakistan

About the Middle East Venture Fund IV

The Middle East Venture Fund IV (MEVP IV) is a closed-end venture capital fund focusing on startups — those with high-growth potential. The MEVP IV supports and encourages the region’s transition to a digital economy. It backs startups that are active in the digital and technology sectors, and that are based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Today it continues to build on 12 years of successful and high-impact investments in the tech sector. MEVP IV aims to raise $150 million for equity deals that are intended to fuel digital enterprise activity spurred specifically by the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the European Investment Bank and EIB Global

The EIB is the bank — and importantly, the lending arm — of the European Union (EU). The bank ensures that entrepreneurs and growth companies access finance where and when it’s required, and has the unique global experience in performing this.

EIB Global is the EIB Group’s specialized arm dedicated to increasing the impact of international partnerships and development finance. EIB Global brings the bank closer to the ones that matter, local people, companies and institutions on the ground, and is dedicated to innovative development finance, such as this latest investment.

I took the time to ask EIB some questions about this latest investment:

Q: The $27 million European Investment Bank backing for the $150 million Middle East Venture Fund IV represents the largest ever venture capital engagement by the EIB in the Middle East. Why was this area chosen for such investment?

EIB: The European Investment Bank works with partners around the world to enhance access to business finance and accelerate high-impact private sector investment. We work closely with banks, financial institutions, and microfinance partners across the Middle East.

The new support for venture capital investment in the region will create jobs, enhance economic resilience and enable companies that have identified new business opportunities during the pandemic to grow.

Q: How will the new equity investment backed by the fund be used to help local companies to grow?

EIB: EIB support for the new Middle East Venture Fund IV will enhance both early and growth-stage funding for local start-up companies seeking to expand. The companies will also benefit from experience shared by Middle East Venture Partners and learn from peers.

Q: Obviously, the region will benefit from the creation of jobs; what areas of technology-driven industry will specifically benefit?

EIB: Based on the recent engagement of Middle East Venture Partners, we would expect that companies in the consumer, health, education and fintech sectors would be amongst those benefiting.

Q: How important is it to strengthen regional economic resilience and harness digital business opportunities through digital transformation, following the effects of the recent pandemic?

EIB: Enabling business to access finance, expand and engage in new cutting edge activities is even more important given the recent challenges unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recent energy and inflation shocks.

Q: We are aware that Middle East Venture Partners has successfully backed more than 60 technology start-up companies across the Middle East in the past 12 years. As the first anchor investor in the Middle East Venture Fund IV, will the move encourage other investors to follow suit?

EIB: The EIB examines the track record and expertise of all financial partners and we expect other investors to support the Middle East Venture Fund IV in the coming months.