IFC Board Approves Action Plan in Response to CAO Investigation of IFC’s Investment in Alexandria Development Limited in Egypt
Washington D.C., November 7, 2023 — The IFC Board of Executive Directors approved IFC's Management Action Plan in response to an investigation of IFC's investment in Alexandria Development Limited in Egypt conducted by the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), IFC's independent accountability mechanism.
In 2010, IFC invested 80 million Euros in Alexandria Development Limited, a holding company for two Egypt-based cement operations, with the objectives of removing bottlenecks, expanding cement capacity, and improving technical efficiency and environmental performance. The project's intended development impact included expanding the supply of cement in Beni Suef, a frontier region in Egypt, in response to growing demand for large infrastructure and low-income housing projects.
The investigation responds to two 2017 complaints raising concerns about labor practices and health and safety issues at the cement companies. CAO's compliance investigation reviewed how IFC's addressed these concerns in relation to IFC's commitments in its Environmental and Social Sustainability Policy. The complaints, supported by local and international civil society organizations, were filed by former employees of the cement operations. The former employees raised concerns regarding two retrenchment processes in 2002-2003 and 2016-2017. They also alleged occupational health and safety issues at one cement plant and a quarry.
CAO's investigation report concluded that IFC should have considered the 2002-03 retrenchment program as a "significant historical impact" and found that IFC did not address the concerns raised by people affected by the retrenchment. CAO also found that IFC's supervision of the 2016-17 retrenchment process was not in compliance with its Sustainability Policy commitments to ensure the company's actions complied with retrenchment requirements under IFC's Performance Standards.
"We agree with CAO's findings that IFC's assessment of the legacy retrenchment could have been improved," said Emmanuel Nyirinkindi, IFC's Vice President of Cross-Cutting Solutions. "We will promote and facilitate the organization of a country-level workshop to discuss and understand the gaps, if any, between Performance Standards and Egyptian labor laws with respect to retrenchment practices, and understand how these might be addressed in future IFC projects."
The Board-approved Management Action Plan (MAP) developed by IFC took into account consultations with the company and complainants, and seeks to use lessons learned from the project to understand retrenchment risks and encourage good practice in the management of such processes in future IFC projects in Egypt. The MAP outlines areas for improvement in response to CAO's systemic recommendations, including:
- IFC will engage with competent labor organizations with expertise on Egyptian labor law to support ongoing and new investments in Egypt; and
- IFC will facilitate the organization of a country-level workshop to discuss and understand the gaps, if any, between Performance Standards and Egyptian labor laws with respect to retrenchment practices. The workshop will inform IFC practice to strengthen screening, appraisals and monitoring of future investments in Egypt.
"This investigation, and other CAO cases in Egypt, have highlighted gaps between domestic labor law and IFC's labor standard," said Janine Ferretti, CAO's Director General. "IFC's Management Action Plan seeks to address this gap systemically to strengthen future projects, which CAO welcomes. More broadly, exited investments, such as this, present a challenge in terms of project-level responses. We are working to enhance CAO's responsiveness and are sharing insights from our cases to inform IFC's approach to responsible exit."
CAO will now monitor IFC's effective implementation of the actions set out in the Management Action Plan and publish IFC's progress reports on its website and in an annual monitoring report.
The Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) is the independent accountability mechanism of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), members of the World Bank Group. CAO's mandate is to address complaints from people affected by IFC and MIGA projects in a manner that is fair, objective, and constructive, improve environmental and social outcomes, and foster accountability and learning to reduce the risk of harm to people and the environment. For more information, visit www.cao-ombudsman.org.
IFC — a member of the World Bank Group — is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2023, IFC committed a record $43.7 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of global compounding crises. For more information, visit www.ifc.org
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