RIYADH: The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, is open to investing and supporting the fintech sector in Saudi Arabia as it plans to expand its existing portfolio worth $8 billion invested in the Kingdom, a senior official said.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Hela Cheikhrouhou, IFC Regional Vice President for the Middle East, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, revealed that IFC plans to continue its collaboration with Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom makes steady progress on the path of economic transition.
Cheikhrouhou’s comments came at a time when the Saudi Cabinet approved the fintech strategy in the Kingdom. The new fintech strategy is expected to diversify the financial sector, thereby providing more opportunities for existing investors, and will also attract new funds to the sector.
“IFC has been supporting fintech for more than a decade around the world. We therefore have this core of expertise, both centralized and distributed by experts in our various hubs. And certainly we see a lot of promise here,” Cheikhrouhou told Arab News.
Speaking about the association with Saudi Arabia, Cheikhrouhou revealed that IFC has partnered with companies in the Kingdom whenever there is an opportunity for growth in the market. She also added that IFC has provided all the assistance to Saudi private sector companies that aim to diversify their business.
“We have been, over the past 15 years, a good partner for Saudi private sector companies looking to diversify and grow their business by investing in the emerging world. We support them with co-investment with our knowledge of different emerging markets,” Cheikhrouhou said.
She added: “We want to support going forward, where we can add value to enable this important transition.”
She also noted that IFC had invested $8 billion in 46 Saudi companies over the past 15 years and partnered whenever there was an opportunity for growth in the market.
The financial institution has been collaborating for several years with Saudi Home Loans, ACWA Power and Almarai.
“We act wherever there is an identified need for growth in the market. IFC was one of the first partners to introduce mortgage financing through Saudi home loans,” she said.
In fact, IFC has worked with ACWA Power for over 17 years and continues to be a partner in its growth story.
Speaking about IFC’s interest in the Saudi energy industry, particularly in the development of hydrogen-based energy, she said the institution can intervene in three ways.
First, it can provide transaction advice by bringing its technical expertise to advise and mobilize private investors to finance innovations or growth in new areas. Second, it could make demonstration investments. And finally, it could partner with Saudi investors to roll out the energy opportunity in other developing countries.
She also revealed that the IFC is currently reviewing its strategy for the Gulf Cooperation Council and plans to focus on growing underdeveloped segments.
“We are currently updating our GCC strategy. Historically, we have worked with upper-middle-income countries like Saudi Arabia, particularly in underserved segments of the economy. If there is a particular gap or market failure, we can step in and do a demonstration project or an investment,” she added.