After the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, 29 countries in the former Eastern bloc began the transition process from centrally-planned to market-based economies. Realizing that these new states lacked the financial sector capacity necessary to support this historic transition, the United States Congress authorized nearly $1.2 billion for the US Agency for International Development to establish ten new investment funds, collectively known as the “Enterprise Funds,” covering 19 countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.
For each fund, USAID identified and the White House designated an independent Board of Directors to serve on a pro bono basis and guide the Fund’s strategy and provide supervisory oversight. Although many challenges were encountered, including slow starts and organizational difficulties, after 20 years of operations throughout Europe and Eurasia, collectively these ten Enterprise Funds have been successful both in accomplishing their original economic development objectives and achieving substantial financial returns, although there has been significant variation in the performance of individual funds.
Until recently, the Enterprise Fund model has not been replicated within USAID as an economic development tool. However, in early 2011, the events characterized as the “Arab Spring” led to a renewed interest in the potential use of this model in the Middle East as well as in other countries undergoing economic and political transitions.
In May 2011, Former President Barak Obama announced that he would seek authority to create an Enterprise Fund to promote the development of the Egyptian private sector and catalyze investment in Egypt’s promising SMEs. Upon authorization and following the Enterprise Fund model, in 2013 the United States launched the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund (EAEF), a private corporation seeded with US government funds to promote the development of the Egyptian private sector.
The United States’ efforts to promote a stronger business climate in Egypt are best achieved in cooperation with strong partners. Just as prior Enterprise Funds successfully created parallel private investment funds to co-invest in investment opportunities, the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund will create similar funds to attract sovereign and private investment. Sovereign governments can play a critical role in facilitating co-investment by offering to match US government funds and making introductions to local private investment pools that may also be interested in co-investment opportunities.
Enterprise Funds are one of few development programs to achieve sustainable economic development impacts while leveraging additional investment resources, generating significant program income to endow long-term host country Legacy Foundations, and ultimately returning a significant portion of their original grant funds to the US Treasury.
The following is a summary of the substantial economic and development impacts provided by the Funds as of September 30, 2012: