Published on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:04 PNN The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group , has signed an agreement with a Palestinian bank to support smaller firms, especially those owned by women, drive economic development, a press release issued by IFC said Wednesday. IFC will help Bank of Palestine scale up its banking operations for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the West Bank and Gaza . The Palestinian private sector accounts for 90 percent of employment and is dominated by family businesses, but only five percent have access to loans. IFC will also help the bank develop new products and services that cater to the financial needs of smaller firms, with a focus on female entrepreneurs. "Our long term partnership with IFC has helped us strengthen our banking operations and mitigate potential risks," said Hashim Shawa , Chairman and General Manager of Bank of Palestine . "We focus on supporting female entrepreneurs and further integrating women into the economy, while encouraging the rapidly growing SME sector." The project marks IFC's third advisory intervention in the West Bank and Gaza aiming to facilitate access to finance, promote business sustainability, and support business women. "Although women own nearly a quarter of all businesses in the West Bank and Gaza very few of them have access to finance from banks," said Luke Haggarty , IFC Head of Advisory Services in the Middle East and North Africa . "A vibrant private sector that includes more women owned businesses can provide much-needed employment opportunities, attract investors, and drive economic growth." Bank of Palestine has the largest branch network in the West Bank and Gaza , and over 300,000 customers, accounting for almost 25 percent of the total Palestinian banking market. In 2010, IFC acquired five percent of Bank of Palestine and supported the bank's initiative to boost trade with a trade finance agreement. IFC also helped the bank develop the first student lending program in West Bank and Gaza , and provided risk management advice and assistance on corporate governance issues. It's worth mentioning that IFC, a member of the World Bank Group , is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private enterprises in more than 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. In FY13, the investments climbed to an all-time high of nearly $25 billion , leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs and tackle the world's most pressing development challenges.
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