The political transition in Egypt has gone through many phases, but the ability to deliver on the demand for bread, dignity, opportunity and social justice that epitomized the 2011 revolution will continue to stand as an arbiter of its ultimate success. This will be especially apparent in the distribution of economic opportunities and how they are shaped by public policies.
Although regional economic activity is expected to accelerate in 2012, growth is expected to retreat slightly in 2013. The single biggest risk to this forecast is prolonged political and policy uncertainty, which is a key constraint to private investment and trade, particularly trade in services, while political and social unrest are serious downside risks to the outlook.
After several months of planning and consultations with our partners, which started in May 2011, the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) was launched on November 8, 2012. As part of the outreach strategy, the Egypt DM team organized a series of information sessions in four of Upper Egypt’s major cities; Asyut, Qena, Aswan and Minya. The sessions were co-organized and co-hosted with Egypt DM partners International Labor Organization, Social Fund for Development, Sawiris Foundation, and others.
Last Thursday I had dinner with my friend Youssef. He told me he was disappointed with the way things were turning out in his country. A young Tunisian educated at the Sorbonne, Youssef took leave from his cushy management consultant job to volunteer for the government after the revolution. Like Youssef many Tunisians feel disillusioned. I replied that now is the time to redouble the efforts.
Similar to their peers around the world, young Palestinians do equate schooling with the prospect of getting good jobs. But what is most striking is that education has become a source of self-worth and social recognition. In the words of one young man from Old City in Hebron, “When you have a degree you have your respect wherever you go.”
The other day I was in a car going to a meeting with Yemen’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. A car bomb exploded less than 500 meters from our location, targeting the Minister of Defense. The minister escaped but 12 people were killed and many more were injured. These are only some examples of events that we face in a fragile and conflict-affected state.
Over the next decade, the Middle East and North Africa faces the challenge of creating 40 million jobs for its youth with an estimated 10.7 million new entrants expected to join the labor force. With nearly one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24, the region has one of the youngest populations in the world. Therefore, the employment response must be well above average to employ the current and future jobseekers.
“We are not geniuses. We just use common sense.” For CEO and co-founder Ahmed Zahran of Karm Solar Egypt, a company that aims to commercialize solar technologies, it’s not about being a visionary. It is about good business. Ahmed and other young entrepreneurs and business leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the region.
As the Arab Spring swept through the region, Iraq was at war and fighting a homegrown insurgency. Since the war’s end, Iraq has had to pick up the pieces and come to terms with its sanctions and bloody sectarian conflict. How Iraq addresses these challenges in the medium term will have a long-term effect on its stability and development.
An analysis of the quality of growth, and more specifically of the dynamics of the private sector is necessary to understand a region’s underperformance in job creation. While many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region had periods of solid growth over the past decade, they all underperformed in job creation. This is because the quality of growth matters as much as the quantity.