CAIRO, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) — International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) on Monday opened a regional office in the Egyptian capital Cairo, which helps the North African country realize its goals to become a regional center for managing agricultural development.
The opening ceremony was attended by IFAD’s President Gilbert F. Houngbo, the Egyptian Minister of Investments and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, IFAD’s Regional Director for the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s Regional Office Director Dina Saleh and other IFAD staff.
IFAD’s new regional office will cover Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Djibouti.
The Egyptian investment minister expressed her delight at the opening of IFAD’s regional office in Cairo, after years of continuous work between her ministry and the UN Fund to improve the lives of citizens, especially the rural population.
The Egyptian minister said that IFAD’s office will contribute to increasing cooperation between Egypt and the Fund during the next phase, according to Egypt’s official MENA news agency.
Nasr added that the office will also will lead to rapid IFAD response to the priorities of integrated agricultural development in her country, especially in the most needy governorates, adding it support small investors and start-up companies in the field of agriculture.
Agriculture is a vital sector of Egypt’s economy, providing livelihoods for 55 percent of the population and directly employing 29 percent of the labour force. Farming is also a vibrant source of exports and foreign exchange.
Meanwhile, IFAD’s president said the new office is the region’s first regional office, stressing that it is a strategic center for rural development that aims to reduce poverty, empower women and youth and create jobs in the region.
Houngbo added that the regional office will also provide technical support to farmers in the Arab region, especially in countries that have experienced conflicts such as Syria.
For her part, Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s regional director for the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Europe Division, said the opening of the regional office in Cairo is a key milestone for long-term cooperation between Egypt and IFAD.
She added that IFAD and Egypt have funded 14 projects over four decades of strategic partnership totaling 1.11 billion U.S. dollars, benefiting more than seven million people in rural areas.
IFAD-funded programs and projects implemented in Egypt are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Egypt’s agricultural and rural development strategies, promote the empowerment of rural women, increase employment opportunities for rural youth and improve national food security, the IFAD official said.
Dina Saleh said the opening of the office will further strengthen IFAD’s investment portfolio across the region and reinforce its fruitful partnerships with the governments of Egypt, Djibouti, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Jordan.
"Cairo is our strategic choice to establish a successful partnership with Egypt," she said, adding that IFAD is proud that Egypt is the largest beneficiary of the fund’s financial assistance in the Middle East and North Africa.
Saleh stressed that the opening of the new office would enable IFAD to serve its investment portfolio in the region and establish a corridor for South-South cooperation to exchange experiences.
She noted that the regional office in Cairo managed an investment portfolio of 18 ongoing projects, benefiting millions of rural people.
Also on Monday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met in Cairo with IFAD’s President Houngbo, where both tackled mutual cooperation.
During the meeting, President Sisi said Egypt is looking forward to working with IFAD to transform Egypt into a regional center for agricultural development and management.
He also welcomed the opening of IFAD’s regional office in Cairo, expressing appreciation for the fund’s support for development projects in Egypt.
IFAD, an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency based in Rome, invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.
Since 1978, IFAD has provided 21.5 billion U.S. dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 491 million people.