From developing forward-thinking policies that make it easier for outside investors to set up businesses in Jordan, to working with the government and private-sector institutions on the front lines of promoting Jordan as an investment destination, to actually facilitating individual investments—the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) adds value at every level of the investment continuum. Our partnership with the Jordan Investment Commission (JIC), in particular, has helped establish the Kingdom’s first-ever full-service investment window, and JCP is leading an ambitious effort to institutionalize the work of the Commission’s new Investment Promotion Directorate. Working with specific sector organizations and business associations, JCP has also helped individual firms increase their investment readiness, assisting startups to become self-sustaining and working with larger firms to grow. Learn more below about our work with the Jordan Investment Commission, Oasis500, iPARK, the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan, and with leaders in the green economy.
Leveraging Jordan’s Special Trade Relationship with the United States
Jordan has long been a beacon of stability and peace in a volatile region. Recognizing this, the United States negotiated a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Kingdom in 2001, which took full effect by the end of that decade. To make good on the promise of that FTA, USAID, through JCP, has been supporting the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan (AmCham). As a private organization whose members include some of Jordan’s leading industrialists and with buy-in from the highest levels of the Jordanian government, AmCham is a key partner of the U.S. Mission in Amman, convening business and financial sector leaders, serving as a platform for forging a common strategic approach to growing the Kingdom’s economy, and sponsoring trade delegations and study tours that have led to millions of dollars in investments and exports.
JCP has played a critical role in institutionalizing AmCham’s work, including by supporting the creation of a dedicated unit overseeing activities related to the Jordan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as well as the Tijara Coalition, which has brought together representatives of the Jordanian private and public sectors to devise, for the first time, a national strategy to increase exports. Through these and other initiatives, including several trade missions to major U.S. cities and business-to-business meetings while there, AmCham has so far supported 29 companies to export to the United States. As a result, Jordanian companies have relocated their manufacturing operations to Jordan, bringing $15 million in investment to the country. Other companies have reported export increases of nearly $1 million due to their participation in trade missions to the United States organized by AmCham with USAID support.
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Incubating Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises at iPARK
Walk through the halls of iPARK’s offices in Amman — one of three such offices for the business incubator around the country — and you’ll hear the buzzing of dozens of young innovators generating new ideas, picking them apart, and refining them for customers in Jordan, the rest of the Arab world, and beyond. From ed-tech startups to app developers and a coding camp for kids, iPARK’s business support services offer a low-cost way for new entrepreneurs to register their new enterprises, hire staff, and begin marketing their offerings to the outside world.
With JCP support, iPARK has expanded these services nationwide, opening offices in Irbid and Aqaba and assisting a total of 77 businesses — 23 in Amman and 54 in Irbid — to develop their business model and add employees. These new businesses have created 327 high-value jobs, generating $1.59 million dollars in new investment. A further 12 companies are slated for incubation in Aqaba, where USAID assisted iPARK with launching its third incubator in October 2017.
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Planting the Seeds of Entrepreneurship at Oasis500
Oasis: the word itself suggests a source of replenishment, energy, and hope. And for the dozens of entrepreneurs that have found their footing at Oasis500, that’s exactly what Jordan’s leading startup incubator has offered. From helping budding business people develop their ideas into marketable business plans to giving them state-of-the-art office space in Amman’s King Hussein Business Park and giving them direct exposure to investors, Oasis500 has, with USAID support, developed an ecosystem unlike any other in the Kingdom, where young people come to turn their ideas into reality. With USAID support, Oasis500 implemented 11 boot camps with 252 entrepreneurs, held 13 investment events with new investors, and conducted one national entrepreneurship competition. These efforts have paid off through more than $4 million invested in 35 startups and 110 new jobs.
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Institutionalizing Investment Promotion at the Jordan Investment Commission
Recognizing its pivotal role in Jordan’s economy, JCP has worked extensively with the Jordan Investment Commission, the primary institution responsible for boosting investment in the country, to position the country as an attractive destination for outside capital. JCP has supported JIC - from developing the regulations underpinning the 2014 Investment Law to drafting an Investment Promotion Strategy and training the JIC staff charged with implementing it. Along the way, the project has bolstered the work of the JIC’s Investment Promotion Department, contributing to development of its Investors’ Guide and profiles of some of the Kingdom’s most investor-ready sectors.
JCP has also worked closely with the JIC to support the drafting of 13 investment regulations that paved the way for facilitating various investment incentives, such as the Investment Window and the removal of the minimum capital requirement on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). JCP also supported the preparation of a Licensing Manual mandated under Article 17 of the Investment Law. The manual is key to bringing transparency and predictability to the registration and licensing of investment in the Kingdom.
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Renewable Energy Fuels Jordan’s Electric Vehicle Sector
When JCP began in 2013, electric vehicles were a rare sight in Jordan. Still, the country had devised a vision to build a transformative green economy, one which could help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels — benefitting its balance sheet as well as the environment. That’s why USAID launched JCP with clean energy as one of its key focus sectors, with a mandate to ramp up investments in renewable energy (RE) as well as kickstart a brand new industry — the electric vehicle (EV) industry. Through enabling legislation allowing solar-generated electricity producers to sell their excess energy to the country’s grid, JCP created the incentive structure for the RE sub-sector to grow. At the same time, the promise of more affordable energy helped push more EVs onto Jordan’s roads. Fast forward to 2019, and this industry is not only on the map, it is growing at rates even JCP had not predicted.
In fact, data from the Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Department shows that, since JCP's EV interventions began in 2014, the number of electric vehicles on Jordan’s roads has roughly tripled each year — from 73 three years ago to nearly 5,000 in 2017. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to more than 50,000, marking a nearly 700x return on USAID’s investment.
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Investment Dispute Management
In collaboration with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program last week held a two-day capacity building workshop on Investment Dispute Management in Jordan. The objective of the workshop is to build capacities of Jordanian policy makers on investment dispute settlement and prevention to avoid and manage disputes between foreign investors and the State. Investment law experts from OECD, Jordan, and MENA countries were hands-on to provide policy and legal advice on Investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) and prevention. ISDS is a system through which individual companies can sue countries for alleged discriminatory investment-related practices. The workshop also discussed international good practices to improve dispute management, review dispute prevention policies to be further developed in Jordan, and clarify the dispute settlement provisions of the Jordanian Investment Law and investment treaties.
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