The Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII) was created in 2005 in response to the growing economic challenges in the region. MEII was developed through efforts of the Aspen Institute Middle East Strategy Group, under the leadership of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Hagel, in which principals from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) participated.
MEII's inaugural project, a $160 million loan guarantee facility for small and medium sized Palestinian businesses, was incubated between 2005 and 2007. President George W. Bush endorsed U.S. support for the MEII loan guarantee concept in a July 16, 2007 speech when he authorized OPIC's partnership in the facility and stated, "The world can do more to build the conditions for peace."
As MEII worked to create the loan guarantee facility, Palestinian banking officials and local businesses expressed interest in insurance tools to mitigate risks related to trade disruption and political violence in order to encourage investment, business growth, and job creation. On this track, MEII's efforts were carried out as part of a steering committee of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) where the idea was first announced by President William J. Clinton at a CGI annual meeting. President Bush later encouraged OPIC to join MEII on this effort, and in May 2008 an agreement was signed to create a new political risk insurance product covering trade risks.
Soon thereafter MEII helped to increase affordable housing opportunities throughout the region. MEII assisted the development of a $250 million mortgage financing program in Jordan. The project helped the country works towards King Abdullah’s National Housing Initiative, which aimed to construct 20,000 new low-income residences annually over five years. In addition, MEII participated in the creation of groundbreaking $500 million Palestinian mortgage finance facility. The Affordable Mortgage and Loan Corporation (AMAL), in which MEII is a 15% shareholder, was established to oversee and administer the provision of mortgage financing. AMAL offers prospective Palestinian homebuyers fixed-rate and variable-rate mortgage loans with tenors of up to 25 years, increasing home affordability. By rejuvenating the Palestinian housing sector and its related industries, which together generate thousands of jobs in the Palestinian territories, AMAL stands to spur significant economic growth in Palestine.
Building on MEII’s success in Palestine and in response to the Arab Spring, MEII expanded its activities in the region and has been actively exploring opportunities in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. MEII is launching a $50 million credit guarantee facility in Tunisia to support the nascent franchising sector.