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Middle East and North Africa

My life as an entrepreneur in Egypt

Mostafa Amin's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Egypt is a market of more than 100 million people and full of opportunities for the trained entrepreneurial eye. Like many developing nations, Egypt seems to have a struggling job market, but many see this as a blessing in disguise. In a country where millions are looking for jobs, there are also millions who give up on the search and create their own opportunities. This might seem far-fetched, but the reality is that poor people in developing nations are extremely entrepreneurial – probably even more so than in developed countries. Professor Ha-Joon Chang captured this fact in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

One of the best decisions in my life was to reject a job offer from a big corporation and embark on an entrepreneurial start-up journey. Indeed, the journey has been tough and there were, and still are, bumpy roads, but the rising entrepreneurial spirit across the country has been extremely uplifting. I have been in the Egyptian entrepreneurial ecosystem for the past few years and I consider myself well connected and quite informed about everything that has been happening. But I can say with confidence that what the country has been seeing in the past few years is very promising and inspires us to do more. 

From marginalization to inclusion: The story of the waste pickers in the West Bank

Amal Faltas's picture

About a decade ago, we started a project to improve solid waste management for waste pickers like Ibrahim and the 840,000 people in the southern West Bank governorates of Bethlehem and Hebron. One of the project components included the closure of the Yatta dumpsite, where illegally dumped and burned household waste was reaching a very unsanitary and hazardous level. 

But here came the challenge. 

While the closure of the dumpsite would mean putting an end to a serious environmental and public health problem, it was terrible news for the waste pickers and their families. It meant that the livelihoods of those families would come to an end. 

Clearing the air pollution in Iran

Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

The cold season is here and just like previous years in the past decades the residents of Tehran and several other large cities in Iran such as Tabriz, Mashhad, and Isfahan are suffering from high levels of air pollution. Just in the first week of February and in the last week of autumn, the schools in Tehran were shut down for almost the whole weeks because of dangerously high levels of air pollution and similar measures were also taken in Tabriz, Urmia, and Mashhad.


Unfinished journeys: Helen Zughaib captures the aftermath of the Arab Spring in her art

Aida Haddad's picture
Also available in: العربية

According to a World Bank study, the current violence in the Middle East and North Africa Region led to fifteen million people fleeing their homes, giving rise to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Many sought refuge in neighboring countries that are economically fragile, further complicating the tragedy. Women and children bear the brunt of war and this is what Helen Zughaib aimed to capture in her paintings. 

The World Bank Art Program, in partnership with the Office of the Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region, organized an exhibition of the works of artist Helen Zughaib, titled: The Arab Spring/Unfinished Journeys, that were on view in the main building of the World Bank’s Washington headquarters from January 18 to February 16. The theme of Helen’s work depicts the sense of hope and dignity that prevailed when the Arab Spring began, only to dissipate soon after with the horrors of war and forced migration. 

Youth volunteers in Yemen provide hope during conflict

Khalid Moheyddeen's picture
Also available in: العربية

Even before the protractive conflict, implementing development projects in some of the most remote and disadvantaged districts in a number of Yemeni governorates faced significant challenges. To address these challenges, and overcome some of the problems related to access to these remote areas, Yemen’s Social Fund for Development (SFD) devised a program in 2004 to attract youth interested in volunteering to promote development. In its first phase, this program — known as “Rural Advocates Working for Development (RAWFD)” — targeted a number of male and female students from these remote areas and provided them with a development-related program while they are attending universities in major cities. After graduation, these young graduates made a big difference in facilitating SFD operations and activities of other national and international organizations in their home areas. 

Walking in the Footsteps of History – Towards the Social Fund for Development in Iraq

Ghassan Alkhoja's picture
Also available in: العربية

It had rained a couple of days ago. Our footsteps almost float on soil that feels soft, almost spongy. We see footprints of wolves that roam the lands at night. The sun is low in the sky, and a slight breeze wafts all around us. There is serenity in the air, as if history itself is imprinted in the consciousness of this land. This is Uruk, some 300 kilometers south of Baghdad, and some 7,000 years from the start of civilization. 

Last year in May, I authored a blog about the Iraq Social Fund for Development (SFD) project. I wrote about Iraq’s glorious history, its abundant natural resources, its profound cultural heritage, and its vast human capital. I wrote about the cradle of civilization and the great rivers, embodied by the city of Uruk, one of the earliest urban centers in civilization, which many believe lent its name to modern day “Iraq”. I also wrote of the deep challenges that are facing the people of Iraq. Successive years of conflict, violence and displacement have significantly eroded or destroyed much of what the people of this land have built. Today, I write about the promise of history, the optimism of the present, and the potential for a more promising future. 

Transitions and Time Lags: Understanding a Dispiriting but Temporary Phenomenon

Antonius Verheijen's picture
Also available in: العربية

Having spent much of my working life working with and in countries in transition, it remains painful to watch the disillusionment that so often strikes people that had the courage to change a bad political situation, but then are forced to live through economic hardship. It is those that chose change that seem always to suffer most. But one source of hope is that, fortunately, this hasn’t stopped people from trying. This was true for Southern Europe in the late 1970s (though I was still in school at the time), Central and East European countries in the 1990s, several African countries in the 2000s and, as history has a knack for repeating itself, Tunisia today. 

Tunisia: Looking ahead or back to the future?

Antonius Verheijen's picture
Also available in: العربية

I had the privilege recently to spend an unscheduled hour of discussion with a group of young Tunisians who were visiting our offices. As often, on these occasions it is hard not to get captured by the energy and impatience of the young people in this region. It gives hope that entrepreneurial spirit is really alive and well in a country where reliable private sector services remain otherwise hard to come by, let alone public ones. If one combines the energy of youth with the message in a recent (equally energetic) speech by the Minister of Development to a large group of investors, one gets a sense that Tunisia is, indeed, looking ahead and not to the past.

Yet, as always, reality is far more complex, and often we are confronted with a much gloomier picture of a country that is perceived as, economically, turning inward. This is the case even more so now, as Tunisia is coming under immense pressure to get its public finances in order. This has generated some decisions that go right against the message of openness and dynamism that one gets when meeting with young Tunisians. It all begs the question, for a newcomer like myself, which of the parallel universes is the real one, and, as in a movie, which one ultimately will prevail.

Three ways Tunisia can strengthen economic and social inclusion

Carine Clert's picture
Also available in: Français

Despite a difficult context of political transition and acute economic crisis, post-2011 Tunisia boldly laid the foundations for social dialogue. It allowed the government and key social actors to achieve a consensus on the country’s strategic direction. The 2013 Social Contract addressed the crucial challenge of social inclusion, with the need to target subsidies more effectively to make room in the budget for social investments. This included improving the targeting and coverage of the social safety net program – the Program for Needy Families-PNAFEN. In addition, for the first time, the government’s 2016-20 Five-Year Plan makes inclusion a strategic priority and lays out a vision for building a minimum social protection floor for all.