AMMAN –– The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will extend a $4 million loan to Microfund for Women (MfW) on Tuesday, a move intended to expand small enterprises in the Kingdom, according to Heike Harmgart, head of the EBRD office in Jordan . The loan agreement will be one of a series of investments the bank seeks to carry out in the medium term to boost the microfinance industry in Jordan to attract more entrepreneurs, particularly women, Harmgart told The Jordan Times in a phone interview. "This is the first step, as we want to work with microfinance organisations and banks to help them become more efficient... in order to reach more clients and make financing more accessible," she added. According to the EBRD head, the loan will allow MfW to extend the remit of its lending to include loans for the growing number of microfinance clients until they are eligible for full access to the commercial banking system. The EBRD loan will also be partly used to finance the MfW's existing clients. In addition to promoting access to finance, the loan will enable MfW to play an important role in supporting women entrepreneurs in Jordan . A significant portion of the larger enterprises that will receive this finance through MfW are owned and run by women. The loan facility will be supported by a technical cooperation project with MfW, which will help the organisation develop its lending to a larger number of clients. The technical cooperation will be funded from the EBRD's southern and eastern Mediterranean Multi-Donor Account (supported by Australia , Finland , France , Germany , Italy , the Netherlands , Norway , Sweden and the UK ), according to an EBRD statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times . MfW, a privately-owned, nonprofit organisation, is the largest microfinance institution in the country as measured by the number of clients (30 per cent of market share) and the second largest by gross loan portfolio (13 per cent of market share), with total assets of $47.3 million , EBRD statement said, adding that the fund reached 100,000 clients in 2013. Commenting on the high interest rates charged by the majority of microfinance institutions in Jordan , Harmgart said EBRD does not interfere in this regard but noted that further investments in the sector could result in a drop in interest rates. "The more we invest in the sector the more compatible the industry will be and this could lead to lower interest rates." Asked if the London -based bank is interested in large energy projects in the Kingdom, she indicated that the EBRD is contact with several firms that are projected to implement solar power schemes.
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