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Social Development

Egypt and Tunisia's New Constitutions recognize the importance of the knowledge economy and intellectual property rights

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Also available in: العربية | Français
 Arne Hoel

Last January, Egypt and Tunisia enacted new constitutions in the context of the political changes they have been witnessing since the 2011 revolutions that overthrew the Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes. While most public attention has focused on how these constitutions have addressed hotly debated issues such as the structure of government, the role of religion and fundamental freedoms, there has been relatively less attention to how they have dealt with economic and social issues. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the two constitutions contain clauses which give high priority to building a knowledge economy and which provide for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), at the constitutional level, for the first time in the history of these countries.

Wasta Once Again Hampering Arab Youth Chances for a Dignified Life

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Young men from MENA - Arne Hoel

“It is not what you know that matters, it is who you know” is how the old adage goes, and so I have observed from my conversations with family and friends during my recent visit back to my hometown in East Jerusalem when I asked what they thought of the often heard complaint among Arab youth that “wasta” is all that matters in landing a decent job nowadays.

What Arab Women Want

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What Arab Women Want?

Equality for women means progress for all. That is this year’s theme for International Women's Day, which falls on March 8 every year. To mark the occasion, we asked women from across the Middle East and North Africa region to share their views on what it's like being a woman in the Arab world; the challenges they face and what they need most to overcome them. After reading their views, we invite you to share yours.

Women, Law, Norms, and Economics in the Middle East and North Africa

Tara Vishwanath's picture
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 Arne Hoel

In last week's op-ed for the Washington Post, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim provided the broader context for the Bank's concern about discrimination in general, and more specifically about anti-gay laws: "Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer."

Who Benefits from a Higher Minimum Wage in the Egyptian Public Sector?

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 Mohamed Kheidr

The recent article in Mada Masr about Egypt’s new public-sector minimum wage “falling short” makes the right point—that the increase will exacerbate inequality—but for the wrong reason. It is not because the new minimum wage is “not applied on the national level or across sectors.” It is because nearly three out of four Egyptian workers are small farmers, self- employed or work in the informal sector. These workers will not benefit from any increase in the minimum wage, whether it is restricted to the public sector or not. About 41 percent of those in the informal sector earn less than the previous minimum wage of EGP 700, and 75 percent earn less than the new minimum wage of EGP 1,200. The government has just increased the wages of those who are already earning more than about half the workforce.

Broadband in MENA: what will it take to expand internet access?

Natalija Gelvanovska's picture
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 what will it take to expand internet access?

The issue of affordable connectivity gained prominence last week when photographer John Stanmeyer won World Press Photo of the Year for his eloquent picture of people standing on a beach at night in Djibouti, trying to access cheaper wireless service from neighboring Somalia. In a new study “Broadband Networks in the Middle East and North Africa: Accelerating High –Speed Internet Access (launched February 6 in Abu Dhabi) my colleagues Carlo Maria Rossotto, Michel Rogy and I looked at prices and other market structures in places like Djibouti when we set out to understand what it will take to expand broadband internet in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) from its current low base.

What Next for Yemeni Women After the National Dialogue?

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A woman being interviewed during the March 7th, 2011 march
Source: Flickr creative commons

There have been a regular series of meetings in Yemen that gather together women from all walks of life, female politicians, civil servants, current and former cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, lawyers, and representatives of the civil society. I had the chance to attend several of these meetings, as did women from the international community, either female ambassadors or representatives of donor organizations.

January 25th: A Date to Remember in the Arab World

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January 25th
Photo: "January 25th is the best and most honorable day in the history of Egypt"

In the World Bank office in Cairo, there is a beautiful poster that proclaims January 25th as the best day in history. I do not know its origin, but it looks like a drawing made in the heart of Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the January 25th revolution. Three years later, January 25th has a deep meaning in modern Arab history. 

High-Speed internet and the Values of the Arab Spring

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High-Speed Internet and the values of the Arab spring

I remember once at a conference in Tunisia being asked by a young member of parliament why it made sense to invest in a fiber optic cable to a remote village in Djerba instead of improving more basic services such as electricity grids or water irrigation. The interesting thing is that the two are not mutually exclusive, as most of the times conventional infrastructure projects also have the capacity to deliver fiber at a small incremental cost. But at the time I answered that investing in internet infrastructure should not only be seen as an economic activity but also as an extension of the values of the “Arab Spring”.

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