On October 26, Tunisians go to the polls for the first time under their new constitution to elect 217 new parliamentarians to govern their small Mediterranean country for the next five years. Besides the hectic political campaigning, though, another struggle is going on: the gender push.
In any developing country, you’ll hear politicians and government officials talk about foreign investment as a solution, a priority and a need. In other words, it is essential for economic growth and more jobs. Tunisia is no exception. Ever since the 2011 revolution there has been a lot of talk about tackling unemployment by encouraging foreign investments.
The Middle East and North Africa region has a large diaspora. According to the latest United Nations estimates, 11 million citizens from the MENA countries lived abroad in 2013. Many of the members of this group hold prominent positions in their adopted countries. They have the potential to contribute to the development of industries in their countries of origin. Executives in multinationals can influence the choice of locations abroad in increasingly defragmented supply-chains. This is especially relevant for members of the diaspora. Seddik Belyamani, originally from Morocco, was Boeing's top airplane salesman, and was instrumental in converting an initial push-back by Boeing’s executives into an interest and a first mover investment in Morocco.
A former hotel owner in one of the region’s major cities, who wants to remain anonymous, tells a story that should have had a happy ending. Her 40-room hotel was doing well. It had built a reputation for excellent service. She decided to capitalize on her success and expand the business by adding a restaurant. This would have provided her with another revenue steam and allowed her to attract more customers, especially foreign tourists. Apart from expanding her business, the need for new kitchen and wait staff would have meant jobs for the local community. It would also have meant more business for local suppliers of everything from food to tablecloths.
With such a long list of potential benefits, who would want to stand in the way?
After dropping for many years, there has been a recent resurgence of fertility rates in Egypt. A woman born in the 1960s gave birth to an average of 1.4 children by the time she turned 25. Then there came a sharp drop, bottoming out at near 1.1 for women born in the late 1970s. But since then, fertility rates have bounced back, up to an average of 1.2 for women born in the mid to late 1990s.
What makes smart politicians? Jeffrey Frankel has an idea. His recent blog examines the allure, and trap, of universal subsidies. For one thing, they know that pulling the plug on bad policies should be done sooner rather than later. The same can be said of other policies related to investment and labor legislation. Economic democracy is a great thing. However, beware of misguided routes to achieving it.
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- Saudi Arabia
- Syrian Arab Republic
- United Arab Emirates
- West Bank and Gaza
- Yemen, Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Global Economy
- Labor and Social Protection
- Public Sector and Governance
On assignment in the Morocco office for about three months, I had the chance to have what I could confidently describe as a rich development experience. Getting away from Egypt’s years of unrest helped me develop a clearer vision.
Hassen Abidi crumbles a sickly-looking ear of wheat in his hand. He doesn't need an agronomist to tell him it's infected with a fungal blight known to local farmers as “septoria”. "I know more about growing things than any doctor knows about medicine, but I'm at my wit's end with all this," he says. "I sometimes wonder why I carry on planting."
Tunisian sugar beet and Sudanese sesame seeds are the main ingredients of the halwa made by Tunisia’s Grand Fabrique de Confiserie Orientale (GFCO) company. Great globs of sesame seeds, mixed with nougat, are put in cans bearing pictures of a gazelle. The Ottoman Turks left behind a taste for this sweet not just in Tunisia but in Libya and Algeria too, and this brand of halwa has long made its own way onto their markets, according to the company's director, Moncef Ayoub.
In Libya right now, one out of every two people is 24 years old or younger (52 percent).
One out of every two fighters was previously unemployed or a student (52 percent).
Why does this matter?
Since my last trip to Tripoli in April, the unfolding conflict has brought these numbers to life. At the time, opportunities were emerging, which I’ll return to in a bit. The current conflict notwithstanding, it was clear at the time that Libya has immense potential due to its natural resources and unique geography.