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Global Economy

The Middle East and North Africa cannot miss the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Ferid Belhaj's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية

The traditional route of industrialization for developing countries may no longer be available for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This should not be a source of regret, as the aspirations of the region’s young and well-educated population extend far beyond auto assembly lines. Furthermore, the repetitive work of an assembly line will increasingly be performed by machines rather than people. The rapid pace of technological change that is propelling this process, dubbed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," offers new opportunities for developing countries. Opportunities the MENA region cannot afford to miss. 

Invest in women to boost growth in MENA

Lili Mottaghi's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Only one in five working-age women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has a job or is actively looking for one. Currently, women make up only 21% of the labor force and only contribute 18% to MENA’s overall GDP. Had the gender gap in labor force participation been narrowed over the past decade, the GDP growth rate in MENA could have doubled or increased by about US$1 trillion in cumulative output. Instead, the current gender gap in the traditional labor market has extended to the rest of the economy, including the technology sector, impacting women’s access to, and use of, digital services. Women are 9% less likely to own a mobile phone and 21% less likely than men to use mobile internet. 

Smart regulation is key for creating a new digital economy in MENA

Andrea Barone's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية

The call for the transformation of the role of the state contained in the latest MENA Economic Monitor (MEM) cannot be overemphasized. For the "moonshot approach" to the new digital economy to succeed in generating equitable growth and creating millions of jobs, public authorities in the region must become effective regulators. Indeed, digitization poses a set of unique economic, political, and social challenges that require defining clear "rules of the game".

Forcibly Displaced: How MENA Can Reverse its Human Capital Depreciation

Lili Mottaghi's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français


The countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) endure a paradox. They have a highly educated labor force but a large pool of unemployed youth. Whether this contradiction results from uncoordinated economic and educational policies, skill mismatch, low productivity of labor, or anemic demand due to lack of a robust private sector, the ensuing lengthy unemployment and skill depreciation have resulted in disproportionate human capital erosion across the MENA region. MENA countries’ rankings in improving their human capital formation have fallen, acc ording to the human capital index (produced by the World Economic Forum) and in 2017, were among the lowest in the world, close to South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Economic and Social Empowerment is Believing in People’s Potential When No One Else Would!

Laila Tawfik Anaam's picture
Also available in: العربية

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. 

Millennials Welcome! Young women are revolutionizing the startup scene despite conflicts in MENA

Tobias Lechtenfeld's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français


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.

Transitions and Time Lags: Understanding a Dispiriting but Temporary Phenomenon

Antonius Verheijen's picture
Also available in: العربية


Having spent much of my working life working with and in countries in transition, it remains painful to watch the disillusionment that so often strikes people that had the courage to change a bad political situation, but then are forced to live through economic hardship. It is those that chose change that seem always to suffer most. But one source of hope is that, fortunately, this hasn’t stopped people from trying. This was true for Southern Europe in the late 1970s (though I was still in school at the time), Central and East European countries in the 1990s, several African countries in the 2000s and, as history has a knack for repeating itself, Tunisia today. 

Tunisia: Looking ahead or back to the future?

Antonius Verheijen's picture
Also available in: العربية

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.

Did data miss the Arab Uprisings?

Mohamed Younis's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt. Hang Dinh / Shutterstock.com

In the build up to the Arab uprisings, data was doing its part to deceive those who follow the region closely. Tunisia and Egypt provide great examples. Both nations closed the first decade of the century implementing the kind of classic economic reforms often praised by western-based multilateral and international organizations. Extremely qualified, intelligent and well-meaning experts on both countries took an objective look at reforms, GDP trajectories and other traditional metrics, such as infant mortality rates, poverty reduction, etc., and concluded that these countries, while not perfect, were moving forward along a path of increasing correction. A few weeks later, both nations were in complete political upheaval.  

Developing but growing less happy: what explains this paradox in the Arab world?

Elena Ianchovichina's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Shutterstock l arindambanerjee

The events of the Arab Spring took the world by surprise: there were no obvious signs of an approaching storm in the Levant and the Maghreb. Objective measures—used on a regular basis—showed that economies in these parts of the Middle East and North Africa grew at a moderate pace, had low and declining rates of absolute poverty, low-to-moderate income inequality, as well as decreasing child mortality rates and increasing levels of literacy and life expectancy. 

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