The French Development Agency is playing a central role in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing Jordan.
By Elisa Oddone
Financing projects in Jordan worth a total of JD540 million, the state-backed French Development Agency (AFD) has been active in the Kingdom since 2006, focusing its investments in the water and energy sectors, as well as community growth. AFD’s representative to Jordan Serge Snrech told Venture Jordan should draw lessons from its past to improve its outlook and, despite the progress made in the country, there’s still a lot of work ahead.
What are Jordan’s greatest development challenges?
Water resources are being depleted, while energy costs currently amount to a highly unsustainable deficit of 5 percent of Jordan’s GDP a year. The country needs to look into new solutions and projects as water and energy related problems will still pose the greatest concerns in years to come. Although progress has been made, there is still much to do. Following the disruption of imports of cheap oil from Iraq and gas from Egypt, Jordan is learning from its past and seeing the necessity to diversify its energy sources to be less dependent on energy imports. The other key challenge is the promotion of local development and job creation.
What projects are you backing in the water sector?
Jordan is one of the poorest countries on earth in terms of water availability. AFD’s projects in the sector have totaled JD155 million over the past 10 years. This sum includes contributions to the financing of the Disi aquifer conveyor in southern Jordan to bring over 100 million cubic meters of fresh water to Amman and the northern provinces yearly. We also helped finance the feasibility study of the Red Sea-Dead Sea conveyor, which includes water desalinization and the discharge of brines in the Dead Sea, a solution of salt which would help stabilize the retreat of Dead Sea’s shoreline. We expect that tendering for the project would start within a year.
What about AFD’s role in developing Jordan’s energy sector?
AFD supported the construction of Al Qatrana gas power plant, about 100 kilometers south of Amman and discussions are underway with the government for the financing of several photovoltaic farms scattered across the country. The Green Corridor project, a web of high-voltage line which will be used to bring renewable energy produced in the south to Amman and northern provinces, is under discussion with the National Electric Power Company. We are also supporting energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental performance with credit facilities available at Capital Bank and Cairo Amman Bank to support projects from retail with up to JD3,5 million.
What are AFD’s plans to support community development?
In collaboration with the World Bank, we are supporting local authorities in Jordan, providing them with small investments for infrastructures, improvements of infrastructure and public services like residential garbage pickups. We are currently working with the Greater Amman Municipality to continue the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit, a JD120 million project which was approved and started a few years ago but then suspended for technical reasons. The decision to resume work came at the end of last year and we just reached an agreement with GAM on the conditions to re-launch the project, which is most likely due to restart in the coming months.