View this feature in Arabic.
This time of year, Bethlehem figures heavily on many peoples' minds around the world.
But likely not for pharmaceuticals.
MIGA Executive Vice President and CEO Keiko Honda was recently in Bethlehem visiting the MIGA-insured Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Company. MIGA issued guarantees to Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Company in July of 2014 to support the plant's expansion and addition of two new production lines: ampoules and eye drops.
Previously, there were no companies in Palestine that could produce pharmaceutical products in accordance with international standards due to the lack of technological knowledge, quality standards, and high investment costs.
Now, Beit Jala Pharmaceutical Company exports to Yemen, Jordan, Mauritania, and Eastern Europe. Thirty percent of the company's staff are women, including its CEO, Angele Zaboura.
Beit Jala was one stop in Honda's trip to Palestine, where MIGA has been administering a trust fund that allows the agency to support investment projects in the region, one of the most challenging for investment in the world.
Renewable energy, cheese production, bottling, plastic manufacturing, a date farm—these are the businesses that the West Bank and Gaza Trust Fund has supported through its provision of political risk insurance. MIGA administers the fund on behalf of its sponsors—the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Japan.
The fund was designed to facilitate small and medium size investments, with a special emphasis on projects with high employment-generating capacity.
Indeed, many of the the enterprises supported by the trust fund are keenly aware of their job-creation role in a region with crippling unemployment—and intentionally factor this into their business decisions.
The impact of MIGA-supported projects in the region is huge—not only in terms of jobs—but also in terms of technology transferred, products manufactured that service both local and export markets, and revenue generated.
On her trip, Honda also visited Jericho, where MIGA guarantees are now supporting one of the largest date farms in the West Bank and Gaza. The Nakheel farm employs 300 staff (of which 40% are women) and business is booming with exports to several countries including Turkey and the United States.
"What struck and inspired me is the resilience of the private sector amid such a high level of uncertainty and risks," said Honda. "MIGA has played a tangible role in encouraging investment and economic activity under the very hard conditions in Palestine."
She added, "This truly speaks to the heart of our MIGA's mission."