I was a high school teacher in the Bay area in California and reverse immigrated to Egypt. I had a few hours available to me and I wanted to teach, so one day by coincidence someone in my church asked me to teach Arabic in Cairo’s “Garbage City.” What I witnessed was a horror initially, but then fell in love with a group of people with such an incredible work ethic. Over the years, I’ve watched an amazing transformation of their trade.
Over the next decade, the Middle East and North Africa faces the challenge of creating 40 million jobs for its youth with an estimated 10.7 million new entrants expected to join the labor force. With nearly one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24, the region has one of the youngest populations in the world. Therefore, the employment response must be well above average to employ the current and future jobseekers.
What are the chances that Hania and Abdallah will have adequate access to basic services that are crucial for their growth and development? What are the difficulties that children like Hania face due to factors, such as gender, birthplace, and family wealth, which are beyond their control? How does Egypt perform in ensuring equitable access to basic services for all of its children?
“We are not geniuses. We just use common sense.” For CEO and co-founder Ahmed Zahran of Karm Solar Egypt, a company that aims to commercialize solar technologies, it’s not about being a visionary. It is about good business. Ahmed and other young entrepreneurs and business leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the region.
As the Arab Spring swept through the region, Iraq was at war and fighting a homegrown insurgency. Since the war’s end, Iraq has had to pick up the pieces and come to terms with its sanctions and bloody sectarian conflict. How Iraq addresses these challenges in the medium term will have a long-term effect on its stability and development.
An analysis of the quality of growth, and more specifically of the dynamics of the private sector is necessary to understand a region’s underperformance in job creation. While many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region had periods of solid growth over the past decade, they all underperformed in job creation. This is because the quality of growth matters as much as the quantity.
On October 8, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree pardoning all "Arab Spring" political prisoners. While the decree, if implemented, marks a milestone in Egypt’s hard-fought 21-month-long revolution, the quotient of inequality that contributed to setting it off still remains. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, inequality has risen to the top of social agenda.
I finally had a chance to look over the latest Global Competitiveness Report (2012-2013), an annual publication of the World Economic Forum and I thought it would be interesting to see how the participating Arab countries were doing. So, what do these rankings actually mean and how did the Arab countries do? Well, as in all things, it varies by country and groupings of countries.
One could easily think that in Tunisia the "International Right to Know" day would be a celebration. As a result of the January 2011 uprising, the country hosts one of the most progressive access to information laws in the region, its press is active, and civil society has flourished. But what I experienced last Friday was hardly a celebration – it was work.
Pervasive unemployment is arguably one of the most pressing policy challenges in many countries across the Middle East and North Africa region. Youth, women, and higher education graduates seem to be the hardest hit. With reference to the latter group, some say the youth bulge combined with better access to higher education has produced more graduates, but these then entered relatively stagnant economies with rigid labor regulations.