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Keywords to the Middle East and North Africa: Check for yours here

Inger Andersen's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Next week I’ll be in a “live chat” conversation online with anyone who wants to jump in and share a thought about what the Middle East and North Africa needs now to shape a future so deeply challenged by the voices of citizens demanding a better social contract.

It has been stunning to see how young people have used social media platforms so creatively to exchange views, to monitor and to hold authorities accountable over the past year. With this same set of tools I believe we at the World Bank can better learn from citizens of the region what their priorities are now. While the World Bank is not a big source of financing to MENA (despite the image some have of us!), we do have global knowledge to share and expertise to offer. But only insofar as countries value that and seek our input.   

We believe that by hearing the voices of MENA citizens and by getting a better understanding of their concerns and priorities, we can better serve the MENA Region in its quest for development. Thus this live chat on Tuesday and others in the future I hope.

So far we have received around 60 comments and I thank you for that. We had planned this as a chat in Arabic only but as we have many comments now in English too we will add an English chat forum and I will do my best to juggle back and forth.

Going through your comments I was struck by two keywords that occurred again and again: EDUCATION and GOVERNANCE. Close after that (and here I’m grouping some words): jobs-employment, transparency-access-accountability, knowledge-innovation-ideas-data, sustainability-growth, corruption (part of governance really), youth, transformation, entrepreneurs, leaders, women-gender equality (I’m glad that made the list) and two mentions of civic education which is a slightly different and important take on education broadly.

When you throw open an invitation to the entire world it’s really fascinating to see issues cohere like this. It is clear that there is significant agreement around the priorities for the MENA region at this time. I think the priorities that have been shared resonate very much with the priorities we at the Bank have been discussing.

I look forward to learning more of the issues you want to highlight in our discussion and I look forward to "meeting" you on line next week. I am encouraged by the voices and views that have already been expressed and know that by listening to the people of the MENA Region we will be greatly enriched as there is a tremendous power in your vision, insight and knowledge.

Let me add a couple of my favorite quotes from your comments which also struck such a true chord: Khaled Hussain in Tunisia yearned for an education system that “encourages taking initiative, creativity, individuality and curiosity.”  He went on: “We want to be set free, to think freely and productively, to have the tools and opportunities to put that thinking into action and to recognize the world as a friendly place.” Kaoutharazaaj of Morocco writes “I think that empowering youth, giving them responsibilities, and instilling the spirit of citizenship in them are significant pillars of development.” And Kais Aliriani in Yemen wrote: “No recipe for all Arab Countries. Let the people of the region think for themselves about their future.”

I could not agree more Kais and I hope those of you who join me for a chat on Tuesday will come in this spirit. Whatever the World Bank or any other institution in the world does to support the people of the MENA countries, this must be underwritten by the vision of the people of the region. Please share that vision with us.

The live online chat will be held in English and Arabic with realtime translation into French on Twitter from @WorldBankLive.


Submitted by Raina on
Thank you Inger. Wondering if you can get your tech team to automatically map the comments to MENA google map and use a auto summary software to pick up key words. Also, this features long term use could be interesting. To map trends (+ forecast) Something along what google does with trend analysis of keywords.

Submitted by Dr.Syed Aiman Raza on
Leaving aside the geopolitical situation and cultural barriers, the poor from this region can make a way out from the vicious cycle of poverty. The fundamental approach towards bailing out the urban and rural poor is to provide compulsory ‘English’ education to the children, atleast until class XII. Along with this, providing ‘technical education’ just after class XII to the children will definitely provide impetus towards easing out their financial problems in the long run. A know how of ‘English’ and ‘technical education’ together will be a potent force which can push the poor to migrate to countries where they can get employment.

Helping the desirous children to gain employment can also be done by letting them know about employment opportunities in their respective ‘technical knowledge,’ abroad and as well in their own country. It is a known fact that households reeling under intense poverty are always reluctant to send their children to school and even for higher education. Therefore, the time is ripe to introduce these measures which will eventually allow the youth to take decisions and attain technical knowledge, as early in their life.

Submitted by BP Agrawal on
Dr. Raza, thank you for your input on this important and timely issue. As expressed by many during my conversation with the Region on January 10, 2012, education plays a crucial role during this very positive wave of enthusiasm for reform taking place now in the region.

Before focusing on the types of compulsory education, one must address the issue of improving the quality and relevance of education in the region. This will require action on incentives and accountability. There is also the issue of inclusion - even if students get good quality and relevant education - and firms are creating jobs, they may not benefit the young or women as there is exclusion in the labor market. However, as our Sector Manager in Education addressed in his blog, "Myths about education in the Arab world," there are also some positive developments happening in this area as well.

Thank you for your insightful comment and we look forward to your continued engagement.

Submitted by Dr.Syed Aiman Raza on
Very true Inger, improving the quality and relevance of education in the region and inclusion of women in labor market are two most important issues to be addressed in the region. I was working on a project for Institute for Money Technology and Financial Inclusion amongst the poor Muslim embroidery workers in Lucknow India on how they managed their finances inspite of earning less that $2 a day.

Regarding their education, what was surprising to me was that male children stopped going to school after the age of 16 while the female children kept their studies going on until the age of 21.This pattern clearly showed that male children were involved in the household economy of embroidery. The young children came back from schools and helped their parents in completing the embroidery patterns,spending up to 5-6 hours on a daily basis. The parents reasoned out that spending money on their children will not give them any job/employment,so why spend money and time. This is how poor think when it comes to spending money on education of their children.

Inclusion of women in education and labor market is the most important issue which should be tackled with seriousness and care because the the region's social and cultural outlook is quite different from rest of the world. In almost all Muslim cultures around the world the girl/woman is supposed to keep her modesty and is kept away from the male dominated world. Now the only way to bring them to schools for providing them with better education is to bring their community leaders or even clerics forward in the developmental programs run by the Bank.

Thanks a lot Inger for your reply and its really great to see your commitment towards the development of the region.

Dr.Syed Aiman Raza, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Shia PG College Lucknow,India

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