Syndicate content

Middle East and North Africa

Why should Governments Spend on Sanitation?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

A puzzle:  Sanitation is one of the most productive investments a government can make.  There is now rigorous empirical evidence that improved sanitation systems reduce the incidence of diarrhea among children.  Diarrhea, in turn, harms children’s nutritional status  (by affecting their ability to retain nutrients).  And inadequate nutrition (stunting, etc.) affects children’s cognitive skills, lifetime health and earnings.  In short, the benefits of sanitation investment are huge.  Cost-benefit analyses show rates of return of 17-55 percent, or benefit/cost ratios between 2 and 8.

But if the benefits are so high (relative to costs), why aren’t we seeing massive investments in sanitation?  Why are there 470 million people in East Asia, 600 million in Africa and a billion people in South Asia lacking access to sanitation?  Why are there more cellphones than toilets in Africa?

Youth Employment in Egypt and Tunisia vs. Jordan and Morocco Three Years After the Arab Awakening

Yassin Sabha's picture

December 17 marked the third anniversary of the Arab Awakening. On that date, three years ago, Mohammed Bouzazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid,Tunisia. The political tsunami that has shaken Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria is well known. What is less known is the impact that the Arab Awakening has had on Arab youth. They were the driving force behind the revolution, particularly in Egypt and Tunisia. However, youth are far from having reaped the fruits in either country.

The Business Case for Gender: Better Companies, Stronger Economies

Elizabeth Gibbens's picture

Companies that include women among their executives and employees and do business with female entrepreneurs gain in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability, speakers said at the World Bank Group’s Gender and the Economy event this week in Washington, D.C.

A convincing business case for gender inclusion was made by H.E. Sheikh Abdullah al Thani, chairman of Ooredoo Group; Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; and Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief Marketing Officer at General Electric.

“Women are bringing new insights and experiences to workplaces and markets that were previously male-dominated,” said Comstock “Diversity breeds innovation."

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the Bank Group's managing director and chief operating officer, said closing the economic gender gap and increasing opportunities for both women and men in the private sector are key to ending extreme poverty and boosting prosperity in developing countries.

Can Computers Outperform Humans?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

The epic battle of man against machine has been fought on many occasions. One of the most memorable encounters was the chess game between IBM’s Deep Blue and Gary Kasparov. Deep Blue was the first computer to beat a reigning chess champion in 1996 (the machine still lost 2 to 4 after six games). A year later, at their “rematch”, the machine won on the overall score: 3.5 to 2.5.

However, it is surprising that, 18 years later, we still have not figured out the ultimate winning strategy in chess. Any game with limited combinations and full disclosure of information must have ‘safe strategies’ and can be ‘solved’ (as has happened with the game checkers in 2007). The solution, in chess, would from what we know today involve strategies whereby the white player would win or the black player would force a draw. Yet no human or super computer to date has managed to solve chess’ mathematical puzzle.  How much more computing power do we need to succeed?

Why supporting Small and Medium Enterprises in the Gulf is Different

Farrukh Iqbal's picture

Students trying their business inside Dubai Mall
Source: FlickR Creative Commons

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries differ from SMEs elsewhere in that they employ mostly expatriate workers and very few of their own nationals. How do we know this? We see it in the labor force statistics: The share of expatriates in the private sector labor force ranges from 80% to 98% in the six GCC countries— Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)— the lowest being in Oman and Bahrain, and the highest in Qatar and the UAE.   

Another Lasting Impact from Smartphones

Jim Yong Kim's picture

For a very long time, the rich have known to some extent how the poor around the world live. What’s new in today's world is that the best-kept secret from the poor, namely, how the rich live, is now out. Through the village television, the Internet and hand-held instruments, which a rapidly increasing number of the poor possess, life-styles of the rich and the middle class are transmitted in full color to their homes every day.

Last year, when I traveled with President Evo Morales to a Bolivian village 14,000 feet above sea level, villagers snapped pictures on their smartphones of our arrival. In Uttar Pradesh, the state in India with the highest number of poor people, I found Indians watching Korean soap operas on their smartphones.

We live in an unequal world. But while the rich world may be blind to the suffering of the poor, the poor throughout the world are very much aware of how the rich live. And they have shown they are willing to take action.

Education After the Spring Meetings: The Way Forward as a Global Practice

Simon Thacker's picture

adult literacy program for young Moroccan women

It’s the first class of an adult literacy program for young Moroccan women. Ghita comes to the front of the class, picks up a piece of chalk and carefully draws a line on the blackboard. It is the letter alif, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, one of the simplest to recognize and write: a single downward stroke.

Stimulating the conversation on Syria: From art to action?

Catherine Bond's picture


If images spark conversation, can a conversation spur action? Or more specifically, can a discussion about art and Syria’s economy the more than 100 prompt finance ministers attending the World Bank’s annual Spring Meetings in Washington to dig deeper into their pockets and give more humanitarian aid to Syria?

What will happen to the Middle East and North Africa region if the Ukraine crisis escalates?

Lili Mottaghi's picture

 Arne Hoel

Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after the popular voting in early March, the European Union and recently the U.S. and Canada have imposed their first round of sanctions—an asset freeze and travel ban on some officials in Russia and Crimea. This week NATO's foreign ministers, warning that Russian troops could invade the eastern part of Ukraine swiftly, ordered an end to civilian and military cooperation with Russia. Should the crisis escalate, potential fallout on Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries is likely. The effects would be transmitted directly through trade and indirectly through commodity prices.

Syrian Crisis: Seeing Conflict Through Art

Web Team's picture

After 3 years of war, themes of fragmentation, fatigue, and bloodshed all come across in the work of Syrian artists currently being exhibited at the World Bank.

Collectively, their paintings convey a sense of the internal turmoil caused by external violence, paintings that hint at conflict: the skeleton beneath the skin, a fractured womb, being caught in a trap like a fly, the scarlet gashes of torn flesh, and sinister handcuffs, to name a few subjects.

Join us April 9th, 2014, for the opening of the art exhibition featuring 35 paintings by 15 Syrian artists who were given the time and space to work at an artist residence in Lebanon.
Get a glimpse of the paintings here.


Pages