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Middle East and North Africa

How Islamic finance can boost infrastructure development

Joaquim Levy's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan. © littlesam/Shutterstock
Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan. © littlesam/Shutterstock

In many developing countries, there are glaring gaps in the quantity of infrastructure per capita. For example, power generation capacity per person in these countries is only one-fifth that of advanced economies. We know that expanding infrastructure investment in economic and social services is an effective way both to promote inclusive growth and to foster local resilience to global shocks. In particular, investment in quality, sustainable infrastructure helps finance the transition towards a low-carbon, more environmentally friendly economic model. This happens notably in the renewable energy and low-emission transport sectors. Given the scale of resources needed to address the infrastructure investment gap, mobilizing the private sector for this goal has become imperative, especially in countries where financial transactions in banking and capital markets follow Islamic law (or shari’ah) principles.
 
The conventions of Islamic finance are particularly suitable for infrastructure development. They define an asset-oriented system of ethical financial intermediation built on the principles of risk-sharing in lawful activities (halal) rather than rent-seeking gains. This “entrepreneurial” approach by investors requires a high degree of transparency and creates incentives to monitor projects more carefully, which, in turn, strengthen the efficiency in building and operating infrastructure.

The UN and the World Bank working together in crisis-affected situations

Franck Bousquet's picture
Also available in: العربية
Girls School in Sanaa. © UNICEF Yemen
Girls School in Sanaa. © UNICEF Yemen


Creating sustainable peace and development solutions for countries affected by conflict, crisis and violence is a global responsibility for the international community.
 
At the United Nations General Assembly this week, the UN and the World Bank, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) launched the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM), the first global partnership dedicated to preventing famine. With support from the world’s leading tech companies, the FAM aims to use data and state-of-the-art technology to pair decision-makers with better, earlier famine warnings and pre-arranged financing. Our work on the FAM is the latest example of how our organizations are joining forces to reduce the risk of global crises.

Refugee crisis: What the private sector can do

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français
© World Bank Group
© World Bank Group

There are about 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world today, of which more than 25 million are considered refugees. Almost 85 percent of them are hosted by low or middle countries with limited resources such as Jordan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Turkey, and Bangladesh. These countries face enormous challenges in meeting the needs of refugees while continuing to grow and develop themselves. 

I visited Jordan in 2014 and 2016 and was struck by the generosity and hospitality of this small, middle-income country, which accepted the influx of more than 740,000 refugees of the Syrian war and other conflicts (and that only counts the number officially registered by the UN Refugee Agency!) In 2017, Jordan had 89 refugees per 1,000 people –the second-highest concentration in the world. Its services and economy were under tremendous strain. The refugees themselves were frustrated by lack of opportunity to support themselves.  

Identification as a centerpiece for development: What can other countries learn from Peru?

Samia Melhem's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español
© World Bank
Juan and his sisters proudly show their identification. © Daniel Silva Yoshisato/World Bank

Peru has placed so much emphasis on the importance of identification that it has created a museum dedicated to it. The "Museum of Identification" in Lima demonstrates to visitors the significance of identity in the country’s narrative. In fact, the Incas, centuries before the Europeans arrived, kept track of the population by using “quipus”, an accounting tool based on strings, with each node denoting a village or community.
 
Peru has continued to prioritize identification, and the uniqueness of each person—long before the Sustainable Development Goals made “legal identity for all and free birth registrations” a global priority (SDG 16.9).
 

5 inspirational youth you should follow this #YouthDay 

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية | Español | 中文
Refugees take wood working courses at the Kalobeyei Youth Training Center in Kalobeyei, Kenya.
© Dominic Chavez/International Finance Corporation

Youth are the engine of change. Empowering them and providing them with the right opportunities can create an endless array of possibilities. But what happens when young people under 25—who make up 42% of the world’s population – lack safe spaces in which they can thrive?
 
According to the United Nations, one in 10 children in the world live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labor market challenges, and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth. 
 
That's why the United Nations theme for International Youth Day this year focuses on “Safe Spaces for Youth.” These are spaces where young people can safely engage in governance issues, participate in sports and other leisure activities, interact virtually with anyone in the world, and find a haven, especially for the most vulnerable.

Digital skills have great potential in unlocking economic opportunities for youth

Zubedah Robinson's picture
Also available in: 中文 | Français | Español | العربية


Giving youth the education and skills they need remains one of the world’s most pressing challenges. Globally, more than 260 million children and youth are not in school. Worse, nearly 60 percent of primary school children in developing countries fail to achieve minimum proficiency in learning. Adding a new layer of complexity to this challenge, technology is quickly transforming the skills required to compete for jobs and access economic opportunities—as highlighted in the World Bank’s forthcoming 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work. And for regions with a huge youth population such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s time to put digital skills training front and center.
 
International Youth day is August 12. This year’s theme is Safe Spaces for Youth and the contributions they make towards freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue. Among these spaces are civic spaces, public spaces, digital spaces and physical spaces. Personally, I am very interested in the digital spaces concept, not because I am a digital engagement specialist here at the World Bank, but because I think the future of tomorrow’s work is going to be very aligned with technology.

Stories of success: We-Fi’s Women Entrepreneurs Reporting Award

Priya Basu's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
 
Amanda Burrell, Documentary Filmmaker. © World Bank
Amanda Burrell, documentary filmmaker, receiving the award. © 2018 One World Media Awards


Jordan’s Water Wise Women initiative puts women at the heart of efforts to combat severe challenges in water supply and sanitation by training more than 300 local women to be plumbers.  The program, led by the German government, led to the formation of a women’s cooperative that bids for commercial contracts in schools, mosques, and government agencies.
 
A short documentary film produced for Al Jazeera showcases how these women are not only challenging stereotypes by thriving in the male-dominated profession of plumbing, but also implementing a range of water management techniques for their communities.
 
Each group of Water Wise Women is trained to eradicate water leakage and improve hygiene.  Trained women receive toolboxes and funding for outreach to disseminate information within their community and reach at least 20-25 other women.
 
The film was just awarded the Women Entrepreneurs Journalism Award, sponsored by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), as part of the 2018 One World Media Awards. This is the first time that the One World Media Awards have included reporting on women’s entrepreneurship as a category. The award covers broadcast, digital, film or print journalism that explores women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries. Reporting can showcase stories of successful female entrepreneurs, the challenges women face in trying to start or grow their businesses, and/or the critical role that women entrepreneurs play in economic development by boosting growth and creating jobs. 

In World Bank art exhibition, artists unpack displacement stories

Juliana J Biondo's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Installation shot of Unpacked, a mixed media sculpture by Mohammad Hafez and Ahmed Badr. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank

As the World Bank Group strengthens support for refugees, internationally displaced people, and their host communities, the World Bank Art Program curated a multi-dimensional art exhibition entitled, Uprooted: The Resilience of Refugees, Displaced People and Host Communities to contribute a unique perspective. This exhibition showcased the creative voices of those artists touched by the refugee crisis, or those artists who were refugees themselves.

Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. © Bassam Sebti/World Bank
Artist Marina Jaber from Iraq. 

The Uprooted exhibition included a visual art exhibition and musical performances featuring over 30 artists from places such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Central African Republic, Burundi, and Guinea. The artists produced works that questioned the impact of transience in individual lives and entire communities of people.

One capstone of the exhibition was the construction of a shed intended to evoke the shelters found in places such as the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. For the exhibition, the shed was enhanced with murals on its sides. Each mural was done by the hand of a different artist – Suhaib Attar, an artist from Jordan and son of Palestinian refugee parents, Marina Jaber from Iraq, a country with millions internally displaced people, Diala Brisly, a refugee from Syria, and Didier Kassai from the Central African Republic, a country in which violence and war have forced hundreds of thousands into displacement. 

Empowering women toward peace and stability

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Chorty Tabo, 25, holds her son, Simon. She fled South Sudan a year ago. She is part of a women’s association, working together in a hair salon in Meri refugee site in the DRC. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse


More than 1.5 billion people worldwide live in areas plagued by violence and conflict. According to the UN, women in conflict-ridden countries are disproportionately affected. They are actively targeted as a tactic of war to humiliate, terrorize, punish, or forcibly displace them. In fact, women and girls are disproportionately exposed to sexual violence during conflict. And, as more men die, more women and families are left destitute. The World Bank Group is committed to doing more to prevent this cycle of violence against women, as set out in this IEG report.

Entrepreneurship is an important mechanism to help women rebuild their lives and dignity after conflict and during protracted conflict and crisis situations. Take the example of Chorty a war widow who successfully banded together with other war refugees from South Sudan to open a hair salon in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the UNHCR story, the business is small, but the women are earning money to feed their children and take care of their families. These women are vital role models in their communities and give others hope to rebuild their lives.

How is your life different from that of your parents?

Venkat Gopalakrishnan's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文
© You Ji/World Bank
© You Ji/World Bank


Yunus owns a fabric store in Blantyre, Malawi. The store was founded by his grandfather, who immigrated to Malawi in 1927, and has now been in his family for three generations. Business is good, Yunus said, but that the cost of essential services like electricity and water has gone up since his grandfather and father owned the store. Even so, he remains optimistic.
 
Marija Bosheva is a student at an agriculture and forestry vocational high school in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Like many high school students around the world, she takes daily lessons in history, math, biology, and chemistry. However, unlike many of her peers, she is also studying oenology — the art of making wine.
 
Are you carrying on a family tradition, like Yunus? Do you work or study in an entirely new field that didn’t exist when your parents were your age? How has life changed for you compared to your parents or grandparents when they were your age, and how do you see your children’s lives and possibilities compared to your own? Are you in the same position vis a vis your peers as your parents were vis a vis theirs?
 
Share your story, using the hashtag #InheritPossibility.

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