The Middle East and North Africa Transition Fund held its second steering committee meeting in the Moroccan capital, Rabat last month. Four new grants were awarded at the meeting in support of the ongoing reform process in Morocco. Jonathan Walters, World Bank coordinator for the Transition Fund was in Rabat and provided us with some background on what the Fund hopes to achieve both in Morocco and the region.
The Middle East and North Africa region is 60 percent urbanized compared to the global average of 52 percent and is home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations. By 2030, a 45 percent increase of MENA’s urban population will add another 106 million people to urban centres.
“If we are able to say that a poor, majority Muslim, and conservative society is capable of making a democracy of international standard, other countries in the region will have no excuse not to follow us,” says Amira Yahyaoui. “But Tunisia won’t succeed unless we continue to be bold. We must be audacious in our ambitions.”
For some, the Arab spring, so-called, has already turned into winter. History does not necessarily repeat itself though, but for what happens next in the Arab world to have any chance at being good, there is an urgent need for an Arab economic awakening. For without strong economic underpinnings, and without growth and quality employment for the millions of young Arab men and women who seek jobs and a decent life, the Arab democratic transition indeed faces a grim future.
Since its big-bang beginning with the “Arab Spring”, the MENA Blog has evolved and grown, featuring various perspectives from economists, young people, political commentators, and leaders in their respective fields. Each has contributed in their own way, inviting readers into their world discussing a diverse range of important issues.
In Morocco, a structural transformation of the economy that will lead to stronger growth and job creation will require a coordinated set of policies in several key areas. It will involve maintaining the stability of the macroeconomic environment, improving the business environment, and developing a trade policy that better supports the competitiveness of Moroccan products.
I had never dreamed of getting the chance to pose a question to a president, but I got my chance a few months ago. In September 2012, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansur al-Hadi paid a visit to Washington DC. Having grown up in Yemen, I was intrigued by his arrival. And as a woman, I wanted to hear about his vision for women’s role in the new Yemen.
A forthcoming World Bank report entitled “Building Effective Employment Services for Unemployed Youth in the Middle East and North Africa”, concludes that in order to help unemployed workers in the region obtain the skills required for the available jobs, there is an urgent need to reform existing employment programs.
For defenders of women’s rights in Tunisia, the figure of Tahar Haddad looms large. For generations of women’s rights activists in Tunisia, he has been seen as the brains and heart behind the country’s progressive legal status of women. Houda Bouriel, director of the Cultural Center of Tahar Haddad in Tunis, notes that for Haddad, “a society in which women are not liberated is not truly free.”