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Middle East and North Africa

Islamic Finance Grabs Headlines in London and Istanbul

Abayomi Alawode's picture



Talk about timing! This week has seen back-to-back initiatives that underscore the growing importance of Islamic finance – and the significant role that the World Bank Group can play in unleashing its potential for financing international development.

This Tuesday, October 29, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom announced that the U.K. will become the first non-Muslim country to issue a Sukuk or Islamic bond, with a £200 million issue planned for early 2014. Cameron also announced plans for a new Islamic index on the London Stock Exchange. These initiatives are all part of a grand plan by the U.K. government to turn London into a global capital of Islamic finance.

The very next day, on Wednesday, October 30, World Bank Group President Jim Kim inaugurated the World Bank Global Islamic Finance Center in Istanbul. Envisioned as a knowledge hub for developing Islamic finance globally, the center will conduct research and training as well as provide technical assistance and advisory services to World Bank Group client countries interested in developing Islamic financial institutions and markets.

How to increase investment in the Middle East and North Africa

The importance of investment promotion: FDI in Middle East and North Africa countries like Morocco could help create jobs for its citizens.

In light of recent political and social unrest in the region, foreign investors are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude to projects in the Middle East and North Africa. For the region’s investment promoters, this demands better, more proactive performance than in the past. Fortunately, although much remains to be done, the investment agencies of the 19 MENA governments are, as a group, off to a good start, according to a World Bank Group report released today.

Global Investment Promotion Best Practices 2012: Seizing the Potential for Better Investment Facilitation in the MENA Region reports on the ability of investment-promoting institutions (IPIs) in 189 countries to handle investor inquiries and provide investors with quality business information through their Web sites. It shows that the MENA region was the only one in the world to achieve significant improvement since the last edition of GIPB in 2009, with the IPIs of Morocco and Yemen among the world's three most improved.

“A man needs one handshake, a woman needs 7 points of contact”

Credit; European Union/EDDThe social and economic challenges of the Middle East and Northern African (MENA) region are all very well-known: the region has the world’s highest general unemployment rate (10 per cent – versus a global average 6 per cent) and the lowest female labor participation (26 per cent in the MENA region versus 52 per cent on average in the rest of the world). But recently, there are signs that this is changing.

Take for example last month’s ‘pitching contest’ by young entrepreneurs at the ArabNet conference in Lebanon, where 40% of the pitches came from women – a much higher percentage than is typical at similar conferences in Europe. And there are testimonies by female entrepreneurs like May Habib, founder of the Dubai-based Arabic translation service Qordoba.com which uses a lot of freelance female workers in the region. She mentioned in a recent interview that the internet has transformed women's opportunities. "More flexible work options, freelance, home-based work, low capital requirements; you can see why starting a company on a small scale is a much more viable thing for women to do than get a corporate job”.

Women in tech drive change in the Middle East

Please watch Women Entrepreneurship to Reshape the Economy through Innovation in MENA, at the European Development Days live on Tuesday October 16 at 11:00 AM cet

Across the developing world, women business owners are far more prevalent at the informal and micro-scale than growth oriented small and medium sized enterprises.  Women still face an uneven playing field in education, employment, earnings, and decision-making power.Women tech entrepreneurs have the potential to change the face of the MENA economy. (Credit: moderntime, Flickr Creative Commons)

The Middle East and Northern African (MENA) region faces its own particular set of challenges.  In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the development of strong economies and opportunities for both men and women to pursue a livelihood without barriers is integral to the future of the region.  There is an enormous enterprise and job creation agenda to be fulfilled in the Middle East. A recent study by the OECD notes that today, only 27% of women in the region join the labor force, compared to 51% in other low, middle and high-income economies, and only 11% are self-employed, against 22% of men.

Investment Promotion with Impact: The Case of Invest in Bogota

Over the last two decades the number of investment promotion agencies (IPAs) has mushroomed from only a few dozen in the early 1980s to roughly 250 agencies worldwide today.  Despite this growth, relatively little attention has been paid towards whether or not investment promotion agencies actually have an impact on the growth in FDI to a location. 

Figure 1: Bogota, Colombia # of inbound FDI projects (by quarter) between 2003-2011

 Source: fDi Markets Database, Authors Calculations

How do companies acquire land when looking abroad for their investments?

Identifying a suitable location for investment is among one of the first decisions to be made once a company has committed to entering a local market for an FDI project. Many assume that foreign companies would automatically seek to acquire land in the most secure and legally available option – typically either purchasing freehold from a private seller or in a long term lease from the government.

Stability in Iraq depends on a business-friendly government

NPR story cited World Bank report

In the report, "Iraq's Shaky Economy Poses Threat to Future," NPR cites The World Bank's Doing Business report that ranks economies based on the ease of doing business in particular countries:

The process of setting up a business in Iraq requires 11 procedures,

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