When I arrived in Tunis almost a year ago, one of my colleagues at the World Bank office tried to explain to me how the rules in effect had made it impossible to export high-quality olive oil. I found it difficult to understand what she was saying, as it seemed to me that the export of high value-added products should be a major goal for the country. However, to date, the problem persists ...
Also available in: Français
Continuing the dialogue and peer-to-peer exchange on the benefits and challenges to fiscal transparency is essential to sustaining the momentum for reform. The time for action is now — the Arab world has a chance to go from lagging to leading on fiscal transparency.
Leaving university with a business degree back in 2010, my dream was to wow the business world with my enthusiasm and be the number one businesswoman in Yemen. Little did I know, within a year of working in the business sector, that my passion is not to make rich people richer nor to gain the title "number one businesswoman". My REAL passion in life is to be an influencer and a person who makes real positive impact in people's lives. Realizing that, I started to become a dedicated and aggressively motivated person who fights for economic and social empowerment in Yemen. Right there, I shifted my career focus and objectives from making an empire of my own to making it possible for people with potential, but fewer opportunities in life, to build their idea of an empire.
Our team at the MENA Youth Platform recently had a conversation about women-and youth-led entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and for which emerging trends to look for. One thing is very clear: the next revolution could look very different.
I had the privilege recently to spend an unscheduled hour of discussion with a group of young Tunisians who were visiting our offices. As often, on these occasions it is hard not to get captured by the energy and impatience of the young people in this region. It gives hope that entrepreneurial spirit is really alive and well in a country where reliable private sector services remain otherwise hard to come by, let alone public ones. If one combines the energy of youth with the message in a recent (equally energetic) speech by the Minister of Development to a large group of investors, one gets a sense that Tunisia is, indeed, looking ahead and not to the past.
Yet, as always, reality is far more complex, and often we are confronted with a much gloomier picture of a country that is perceived as, economically, turning inward. This is the case even more so now, as Tunisia is coming under immense pressure to get its public finances in order. This has generated some decisions that go right against the message of openness and dynamism that one gets when meeting with young Tunisians. It all begs the question, for a newcomer like myself, which of the parallel universes is the real one, and, as in a movie, which one ultimately will prevail.
When it comes to education and human development, the Palestinian territories have traditionally outperformed countries with similar GNI per capita as well as its neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa region (figures 1 and 2). Despite facing one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and a severe lack of employment opportunities in the private sector, until 2010, Palestinian youth continued to invest in education.
Equipped with more education than any previous generation, young Palestinians are now moving into adulthood with uncertainty about what their futures might hold amidst a protracted risk of conflict and an economy with steadily rising unemployment.
Landing a job after college can be difficult anywhere, but it is especially hard in conflict-affected economies, such as Palestine. Joblessness and job insecurity are an unfortunate reality for too many young Palestinians.
Businesses, for many the real drivers of job creation, can also be the foundation of wealth and greater economic inclusion of the general population. Jobs or Privileges, a World Bank Group report published in 2014, shows that high-growth startups—or young firms—accounted for all net job creation in Morocco’s manufacturing sector at the time. But, by comparison with older small or medium–size enterprises, young start-ups faced far greater barriers in Morocco to accessing finance.
How can development practitioners promote economic development for parts of the Arab world affected by conflict and fragility? The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) has featured various solutions in a recent blog series on financial inclusion during crises. These blogs highlight the fact that although conflict, violence, and uncertainty make development difficult, solid financial infrastructure for small-scale lending can help people weather a crisis or, in other words, support their economic resilience.
The Tunisian revolution has spawned a butterfly effect, very specific to its context. On the ground, events have continued to evolve, contributing to a revolution within the Tunisian administration. As a result, the foundation has now been laid for an open, transparent, and inclusive government.