Israeli companies have much to gain from investing in private-sector development in poor countries, according to a senior representative of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation.

In addition to the obvious financial rewards, there is also the added value of helping to boost employment and services in countries that need such assistance, Oliver Griffith, head of communications for IFC’s Western Europe office, told The Jerusalem Post during a visit to Israel Tuesday. Griffith, who was here to participate in the annual Agritech conference in Tel Aviv, said he hoped to attract interest from local clean-tech and agriculture firms.

The International Finance Corporation was established in 1956 and is the largest multilateral source of loan and equity financing for private-sector projects in the developing world.

It finances and provides advice for private-sector ventures in partnership with private investors and, through advisory work, helps governments create conditions that stimulate the flow of both domestic and foreign private savings and investment.

IFC investments have more than doubled since 2005. The IFC invested a record $19 billion in more than 500 projects in 102 countries in 2011, including $6.5b. mobilized from other investors. Advisory services project expenditures totaled $207 million across 642 projects with an approved value of $820m.

The organization has had relatively limited experience with Israeli sponsors since first working with a partner here in 1974. Overall, it has provided financing of $186.4m. plus syndications of $107.4m. to support 18 Israeli projects in 14 countries. Sixty percent of those projects have been in the manufacturing and services industry, with the remainder in infrastructure and financial markets.

Two partnerships with Israeli companies are still ongoing. Archimedes Global launched a project in 2011, with a $3m. IFC investment, to support the development of the health insurance sector in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Home Center began a $138.5m. project in 2008, supported by a $67m. IFC loan package, to develop a chain of do-it-yourself stores in Russia.

In 2003, the IFC partnered with leading Israeli construction and engineering company Ashtrom to support the second phase of the redevelopment and expansion of Jamaica’s Sangster International Airport. In 1997, it supported Ormat Industries’ project to build, operate and own a 24-MW geothermal power project in Guatemala’s Quetzaltenango Province.

Griffith said the IFC would welcome interest from Israeli companies from all industries, provided their projects are commercially viable. But he warned that his organization expects partners to comply with eight strict performance standards that deal with environmental impact, labor conditions, health and safety, land acquisition, indigenous rights and cultural heritage.

“Sometimes it is difficult to work with the IFC because of our strict performance standards,” Griffith said.

“[But] a lot of companies want to work with us because of those standards, because they know that if we do the environmental due diligence, they won’t have problems when they invest. For example, if you have a mining project, and you cut off the top of a sacred mountain and the population goes against it, the mine can end up shutting down and the company can lose their investment.”

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