“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity… poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Many years later these words by Nelson Mandela still resonate with me in my work on social protection of the poor in the Arab world, where a growing middle class exists alongside severe poverty.
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.
When the Arab Spring broke out and regimes began to fall under the pressure of their own citizens, a revolution on social media also took hold. During this critical period, the use of Facebook and Twitter was ubiquitous, especially in Egypt and Tunisia. Social networks and cell phones played an important role.
Erma Bombeck, the famed American columnist, once said: “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation's compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.” This is exactly what I experienced when I participated in the rehabilitation of damaged homes following the October 19, 2012 car bomb in the heart of the vibrant neighborhood of Ashrafieh in Beirut.
Tune in for the live streaming of a virtual knowledge sharing forum on the topic of jobs on January 16 and January 17 at 8:30 AM EST (3:30 PM Istanbul time). This is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in this issue to connect with experts and top-level practitioners with just a few clicks. Participate in the debate, ask questions and share your views!
During my time in Lebanon last summer, I convinced a close friend, Maroun, to start a small manufacturing firm for producing soap and shampoo. Eventually, he got the business off the ground, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. I witnessed the pain that Maroun had to go through to formally register and set up his business.
“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.
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.
This weekend, as I packed my suitcase for Beirut, I thought of the warm and welcoming people I’ll be working with over the next two weeks. This is my fourth visit to Lebanon this year, and each one has provided me with a different glimpse into Lebanese politics and society. It has helped me to understand the aspirations of some of the country’s citizens and the constraints faced by its policymakers.
High unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) largely reflects the growth deficit. While China has been growing at 10 percent for a decade and has unemployment below 5 percent. MENA is the mirror image, growing at 5 percent and suffering unemployment above 10 percent. The absence of strong growth in MENA has been a serious constraint to employment. It's worth noting though that MENA’s employment situation is not accurately described by the jobless growth that has plagued much of the industrial world in recent years.