Imagine climbing into the cockpit of an airplane the weight of a medium-sized car and the wingspan of an Airbus 340. And then imagine taking off without a drop of fuel on board. Sam Shepard can, unless my eyes deceive me. They do indeed deceive (sadly) but Andre Borschberg is a dead ringer for the star of The Right Stuff, that famous movie about test pilots pushing back the limits of the impossible. Andre is also a test pilot and also pushing hard against those limits flying Solar Impulse, the first experimental solar-powered plane. I was there to watch Andre bring it into Rabat, Morocco on its first intercontinental flight from Switzerland recently.
Regardless of their original circumstances, successful economic and political transitions have a single, unifying characteristic. They may be motivated by crisis, but their successful implementation requires a broad consensus on the need for change, a shared vision of its goals and a common agreement on how to reach them. The need for this critical consensus emerged over the course of a seminar on the role of governance reform in the current transitions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Hosted by the World Bank in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, the Transitions and Governance Reforms in MENA seminar brought together a diverse range of government, civil society and media representatives to discuss the region’s challenges with former world leaders and members of the international development community who had undergone similar transitions.
I am very pleased to announce the launch of a new recruitment drive for Arabic speakers, called the SMART (Strategic MNA Arabic Recruitment of Talent) program, which will provide a small cohort of the best and brightest Arabic speakers with a unique opportunity to pursue a career at the Bank. We are very excited to introduce young, dynamic professionals to the MENA region of the World Bank and in this small way contribute to the expansion of the Arab talent in the World Bank’s MENA Region.
Our latest regional outlook shows a two-track path for growth in MENA. In 2012 oil exporters are likely to fare much better than oil importers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Growth of MENA’s oil exporting countries will be strong and rise from the average of 3.4 percent in 2011 to 5.4 percent in 2012. The new Regional Economic Update presents the outlook for MENA in the context of rapidly-evolving global and domestic environments, recognizing the linkages that matter for shaping country-specific outlooks and the multiple risks that could alter them.
Why 13 governments, 10 ministers and 270 people decided to gather for policy discussions on infrastructure in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the role of the private sector. (And no, it wasn’t the fact that the forum was in Marrakech because none of us left the hotel). I was really inspired by the enthusiasm generated by the March launch in Rabat of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability – Arab World. The event brought civil society people from across MENA together and demonstrated a real ability to shape and further a debate around the issues of participation and youth.