Djibouti does not make the headlines as often as its larger neighbors Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia –or Yemen, just across the Gulf of Aden. As children go back to school this month, the small, French speaking country deserves our attention as it works to overcome serious education challenges with a committed group of partners including the World Bank.
Whether constructing a new bridge or buying textbooks for a public school, governments around the world constantly purchase a wide variety of goods and services. In the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, these types of public contracts represent between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP each year, an annual amount equal to tens of billions of US dollars.
In my very first meeting with a government official, I was asked about World Bank support for geothermal power generation in Djibouti and the exploration needed to identify viable sources. I must admit, at the time, I was not very familiar with the technology. Nevertheless, I learned fast about geothermal energy and about the project that was under preparation.
Disaster Risk Management has become a critical component of national policy and planning. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the interplay of natural disasters, together with the impacts of climate change, water scarcity, and urbanization, have emerged as serious challenges for policymaker. While the number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, in MENA, the number has almost tripled.
Everyday more than 4,000 trucks carrying goods out of the ports of Djibouti-city head west towards Ethiopia. The route passes through a barren, austere landscape where temperatures can soar to 50c. The road is poor and the going laborious. About an hour out of the city, after miles of heat and emptiness, the road turns and a small schoolhouse appears.
The Middle East and North Africa region is 60 percent urbanized compared to the global average of 52 percent and is home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations. By 2030, a 45 percent increase of MENA’s urban population will add another 106 million people to urban centres.
During my time in Lebanon last summer, I convinced a close friend, Maroun, to start a small manufacturing firm for producing soap and shampoo. Eventually, he got the business off the ground, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. I witnessed the pain that Maroun had to go through to formally register and set up his business.
Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa region, shares her impressions of her recent visit to Djibouti.
The Financial Times issued its ranking of the world’s top 70 executive business programs. Nearly all successful emerging economies are on the list, as are advanced economies, but no program in MENA has made the list. Several countries have multiple programs represented in their domain, such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Singapore, to name a few. Executive programs are an important indicator for future top management and leadership role jobs.
Remember this acronym TAP. It is short for transparency, accountability and participation and is here to stay for a long, long time. It is a simple euphemism for a very complicated roadmap for Arab transition to “dignity, freedom and social justice.” But is TAP really a remedy for the chaos gripping the Middle East? Even if it is not, it certainly was the resounding buzz word at a World Bank regional seminar “Transitions and Governance Reforms in MENA,” convened in Rabat, Morocco, recently.