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Middle East and North Africa

Women are key for corporate success

Ahmed Ali Attiga's picture

Female board members can dramatically improve the fortunes of public companies — and the Middle East

While the Middle East has made strides towards gender equality in recent years, the upper echelons of its corporate world are still dominated by men.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in Jordan. Women there hold just 4% of all board of directors’ seats, and nearly four-fifths of firms don’t have any women on their boards. Those numbers pale in comparison with many other countries, including the United Kingdom, where 25% of all board members are women.

But a new study from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, suggests that companies would do well to inject some female leadership into their ranks — a finding that has deep implications for the entire region.

Don’t shut your doors to refugees

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية
The author on the day of his graduation from the Master of Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 2008. © Jenny Spinner

I walked among dead bodies of people blown up by bombs. I ducked and covered from bullets falling around my feet, and I was almost choked to death by an angry mourner. One of millions of Iraqis, I was trying to survive a brutal reality that never seemed to end.

I still cannot escape these images. I still smell the dead. I had to go to where death lay due to my job as a reporter. That job left many journalists, including one of my former colleagues at the Washington Post, dead.

As rewarding as it was, that job cost me my country. I had to seek refuge. Armed groups had taken every chance to attack journalists and their families, especially those who worked for American media. They kidnapped them, tortured them, and asked for ransoms to spare their lives. I did not want this to happen to my family.

#Music4Dev guest Rahim Alhaj: We have a responsibility to end the refugee crisis

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

He learned to play the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, at an early age in his hometown of Baghdad. He grew up writing protest songs against the dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually forced to leave his beloved Iraq in 1991. He later found refuge in the United States.

Migrant or refugee: What’s in a name?

Xavier Devictor's picture
What is the difference between an economic migrant and a refugee? In principle, the response is clear: economic migrants are essentially people in search of opportunities for economic betterment, while refugees are fleeing a peril for their lives and their specific status is defined under the 1951 Geneva Convention.In the face of such despair, traditional mechanisms for managing economic migration simply do not work, while refugee law does not apply.

Leveraging Islamic finance promotes growth and prosperity of small businesses

Bertrand Badré's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español
Shop owners get ready for another day of work in Cairo, Egypt. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


From the smallest rural villages in Bangladesh to the large, bustling metropolitan centers of Cairo or Istanbul, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of Islamic communities around the world, keeping local economies humming.

I first became interested in the potential of leveraging Islamic finance to grow SMEs when I led a seminar on the topic in 1997. I’ve come full circle, almost 20 years later, when I had the opportunity to speak last month in Istanbul at a conference on “Leveraging Islamic Finance for SMEs” organized by the World Bank Group, the Turkish Treasury, the Islamic Development Bank and TUMSIAD, the largest association of SMEs in the country with 10,000 members.

Unleashing private investment in renewable energy

Korina Lopez's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
Angus McCrone, Jin-Yong Cai, and Rune Bjerke discuss renewable energy. © Franz Mahr/World Bank


More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. If that number seems daunting, then consider this: 1.1 billion people – more than three times the population of the United States – live without electricity.

So it goes without saying that ending energy poverty is a key step in ending poverty itself. And world leaders agree – a sustainable development goal just for energy was adopted last month. It emphasizes the role of renewable energy in getting us to the finish line of reaching sustainable energy for all by 2030. What will give us a big boost in that race? Private financing.

I am a migrant

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | 中文 | Español
Courtesy Jim Yong Kim


​In 1964, I came to the United States from South Korea, then an extremely poor developing country that most experts, including those at the World Bank, had written off as having little hope for economic growth.

My family moved to Texas, and later to Iowa. I was just 5 years old when we arrived, and my brother, sister, and I spoke no English. Most of our neighbors and classmates had never seen an Asian before. I felt like a resident alien in every sense of the term.

Get smarter: A world of development data in your pocket!

Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep's picture
Many dinner conversations and friendly debates proceed in a data vacuum: “The problem is big… very big!” How big exactly? Most likely your friend has no idea. 

It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
 
Open data for sustainable development

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Clean air as a poverty reduction priority

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
​Many parts of the development community have long embraced the following narrative: When nations are young and poor, they are willing to sacrifice natural resources—dirtying their water and their air—to promote economic growth and meet their population’s basic needs. Then, once these nations achieve a certain level of wealth, they become less concerned with accumulating material goods and more concerned with quality-of-life issues, and only at that point are they willing to spend money—or sacrifice growth—for benefits like clean air.

However, a recent resolution by the World Health Organization's (WHO) governing body shows that this narrative is beginning to change. 

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