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Frank Giustra

Michael Falco/Michael Falco

Vancouver mining financier Frank Giustra is teaming with former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to create a $20-million (U.S.) fund that will finance small businesses in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The fund, which was unveiled Thursday in Port-au-Prince, will provide seed money to Haitian business ventures with the hope of improving the island country's economic fortunes.

"The fund we are announcing today recognizes the important role small and medium-sized enterprises play in helping to build a modern, self-sustainable economy that will allow Haiti to one day stand on its own two feet," Mr. Clinton said in a statement.

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"We hope to empower entrepreneurs with tools to transform their aspirations, hard work and good ideas into profitable businesses that create jobs and help fuel the growth of the Haitian economy," he added.

Rather than providing direct aid, the new fund intends to provide capital to small-and medium-sized businesses. The belief is that those enterprises will create sustainable economic activity and jobs in Haiti, where unemployment is about 80 per cent.

A massive earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, killing more than 300,000 people, according to some estimates, and leaving many more homeless.

The Haiti investment fund will provide equity and financing for ventures that currently lack access to traditional financing sources. The fund will be managed by a committee and seek a return on its investments. Investment returns and returns on the fund as a whole will be reinvested in the fund and used to back new ventures in Haiti.

"By aligning the fund alongside local needs and priorities, we're giving Haiti's entrepreneurs the tools and resources they need to put their talent and determination to work," Mr. Giustra said in a statement.

Mr. Giustra and Mr. Clinton launched the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative (CGSGI) in 2007, as an offshoot of Mr. Clinton's own charitable foundation. Mr. Giustra, who made his fortune in Canada's rough and tumble junior mining sector, initially pledged $100-million to the CGSGI, which provides aid and funding for small businesses in areas of the world that have been affected by the mining industry.

The duo came under scrutiny when it was revealed that the former president had travelled to Kazakhstan in 2005 and met with that country's president Nursultan Nazarbayev along with Mr. Giustra. Shortly after the meeting, Mr. Giustra was able to close a deal to acquire uranium assets in the former Soviet republic. Both Mr. Giustra and Mr. Clinton have denied that the former president has helped Mr. Giustra in his business dealings.

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In addition to his own contributions, Mr. Giustra has secured donations to the CGSGI from members of Canada's mining industry, including companies such as Vancouver's Teck Resources Ltd. and Toronto brokerage firm GMP Securities. Mr. Slim, who amassed his wealth from Mexico's telecom sector, matched Mr. Giustra's $100-million pledge to the CGSGI.

So far, the CGSGI has focused primarily on ventures in Peru and Colombia. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Giustra travelled to those countries earlier this month to review the foundation's philanthropic efforts.

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