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Middle East and North Africa

How language can enhance the resilience of Syrian refugees and host communities

Joel Bubbers's picture
Syrian refugee children in the Ketermaya refugee camp

Today 400,000 school-age Syrian children living in Jordan and Lebanon are not in school. The situation is even worse in Turkey where 433,000 school age refugees are out of school, according to UNHCR estimates. In Iraq’s Kurdistan region, more than 27,000 children are out of schoolز

Chart: Obstacles Firms Face in The Middle East and North Africa

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Political instability, corruption, & unreliable electricity are the key impediments to firms’ growth in the Middle East and North Africa according to 6,000 firms surveyed across Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine and Yemen. Read more in "What's Holding Back the Private Sector in MENA?"

 

How satellites and social media help us anticipate the needs of conflict-affected countries

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank Group plays a major role in recovery and reconstruction efforts in conflict-affected countries. Therefore, it is important for us, in collaboration with international partners, to engage in assessing the needs and planning for recovery and reconstruction as much ahead of time as possible. In recent times, we have been conducting broad-brush damage assessments in active conflict situations using innovative remote-based techniques like satellite imagery or social media analytics to provide not only damage numbers and trends but also qualitative information on the status of various services. These new approaches have helped us maintain situational awareness of and be ready for recovery when the situation allows.

During the initial stages of recovery efforts, supporting local-level recovery initiatives can serve as a springboard for large-scale reconstruction programs, which remains our biggest comparative advantage. Therefore, there is a need to expand these assessments to include other elements of recovery, which would inform preparation of multi-sectoral local level recovery interventions in the short-term, and major reconstruction programs in the medium- to long-term.

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

Bassam Sebti's picture


On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony. 

Banking consolidation in the GCC requires attention to competition

Pietro Calice's picture
Also available in: Arabic | French
National Bank of Abu Dhabi - Ijanderson977 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
National Bank of Abu Dhabi, UAE. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Gulf banking markets may have entered an important phase of consolidation, with the potential to dramatically reshape both the role and the intermediation capacity of the industry. A few days ago, two large banks in the UAE, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank, agreed on a tie-up to create a national champion and regional powerhouse with $170 billion in total assets. In Oman, Bank Sohar and Bank Dhofar are in advanced merger talks. Bank mergers are expected to take place in Bahrain and Qatar as well.

The protracted downward trend in oil prices is threatening economic growth and fiscal sustainability in the region. This is having an impact on the banking systems. Banks are increasingly facing pressure on liquidity in the face of both private and public deposit outflows. This coupled with a low interest rate environment in the context of pegged currencies is eroding margins. Capital buffers are strong yet asset quality may deteriorate if oil prices remain low for a prolonged period and economic growth decelerates further. Therefore, in a context largely characterized by fragmented markets, consolidation may help achieve efficiency gains and ultimately preserve financial stability.

However, it is important that banking consolidation in the Gulf does not come at the detriment of competition. International experience shows that healthy bank competition generally promotes access to finance and improves the efficiency of financial intermediation, without necessarily eroding the stability of the banking system. Bank competition in the region is traditionally weak largely due to strict entry requirements, restrictions to bank activities, relatively weak credit information systems, and lack of competition from foreign banks and nonbank financial institutions. While increased market concentration does not necessarily imply greater market power, there is a risk that the current and prospective wave of industry consolidation may have long-lasting negative effects on competition if left unchecked.

Youth radicalization—looking at the supply side

Kamel Braham's picture
 posztos | Shutterstock.com

Tunisia is one of the most secular countries in the Arab region, and it has one of the most developed education systems. Yet, young people from there are attracted in their thousands—like in no other country—to jihadism. The answer to “why?” may lie in the classroom, where radical movements prey on children in elementary and high school, and most especially on vulnerable children who feel marginalized from mainstream society.

The paradox of higher education in MENA

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Roof of the University of al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world - Patricia Hofmeester l Shutterstock


The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was the cradle of higher education.  The three oldest, still-functioning universities in the world are in Iran, Morocco, and Egypt.  The University of Al-Karaouine in Fes has been granting degrees since 859 A.D.  The Ancient Library of Alexandria, in addition to being repository of books and manuscripts, was a center of learning during the Ptolemaic dynasty, with scholars traveling to there from all around the Mediterranean and beyond.  And scholars such as Ibn Khaldoun discovered fundamental economics four centuries before Adam Smith and others. In short, all of us who have benefited from a university education owe a debt to the MENA region.

The world’s refugee crisis needs both a humanitarian and longer-term response

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Denham and his family have been refugees living in this tent for the last four years. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


The world's greatest risks can't be confined within borders. This is clearly the case with the ongoing refugee crisis, which is unprecedented in scale and affecting people and places far from the scene of civil war, fragility and conflict. The UK vote to leave the European Union showed, in part, the volatility and reach of the impact of forced displacement.

Who supports violent extremism in developing countries?

Elena Ianchovichina's picture

Burned car in the center of city after unrest - aragami12345s l Shutterstock.com

What are the common characteristics among people who justify attacks targeting civilians? In a new paper, we address this question by focusing on attitudes toward violent extremism. We do not study the process of becoming radicalized — or the characteristics of known perpetrators of terrorist attacks—but the characteristics of people surveyed in opinion polls who said they believed terrorist attacks on civilians were justified. People with such an extremist belief may not commit terrorist acts themselves, but they may be at high risk of being recruited by terrorist organizations, or may sympathize with terrorist organizations and be prepared to help them.

Arab reality show tests humanity and empathy

Bassam Sebti's picture


It’s Ramadan and the Arabic TV channels are festooned with shows that vary from recurring popular soap operas, cooking and competition shows — but one has become the talk of the town.

Al Sadma, or The Shock, the Arabic version of the popular American show What Would You Do, is a reality TV prank show. But it’s not like many other tasteless reality shows that invoke fright and even terror, it is a show that invokes morality and examines humanity.


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