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Sharing Southern Russia’s Experience with North Africa and the Middle East

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Center-invest Bank, Dr. Vasily Vysokov, attended the conference “Small Business is Big Business” held in Beirut on 23-24 January 2012 by International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Central Bank of Lebanon (Banque Du Liban) and the Development Bank of Austria. Addressing bankers from the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Vysokov presented a paper on Center-invest Bank’s experience of financing energy efficiency projects.

To date, Center-invest Bank has financed more than 750 energy efficiency projects with loans totalling over RUB3.6bn. The implementation of these projects has reduced annual CO2 emissions by 88,000 tonnes, equivalent to saving 4.4 million trees.

The secret of our success in financing energy efficiency projects lies in our cooperation with international financial institutions, which not only provide long-term financial resources, but also give us access to international best practice. Indeed, Center-invest Bank’s work in this area has been so successful that it is now seen as an example of international best practice itself. Energy efficiency projects in Russia have to contend with relatively low energy prices (compared to world prices), a tariff system that does not encourage reduced consumption, and opaque payment systems. To finance these projects, Center-invest Bank developed an integrated product, combining technical, financial and social engineering.

Together with IFC, Center-invest Bank has set up an Energy Efficiency Centre to train bankers in energy efficiency lending. The Centre has already trained bankers from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Dr. Vysokov’s involvement in the conference in Beirut was part of the Centre’s programme for 2012.

“For me personally, it was very interesting and useful to hear about the work of colleagues from the Middle East and North Africa,” said Dr. Vysokov. “It is a very promising and rapidly developing market. We would be happy to see the MENA region benefitting from our experience of energy efficiency lending. At the same time, there was a very constructive dialogue about Islamic and sustainable banking models, which are becoming increasingly popular as alternatives to speculative banking.”

Established in 1992 by southern Russia’s first privatized enterprises, Center-invest Bank has become known as a “reform laboratory” in the region and it has established successful partnerships with international financial institutions. It is southern Russia’s leading bank and the only one with a Ba3 rating from Moody’s.