Middle East and North Africa

Lebanon © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
The Middle East and North Africa region continues to be in transition. Violence continues in Iraq, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Yemen; and Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon are home to millions of forcibly displaced people. The Arab Republic of Egypt and Tunisia are consolidating their political environments; Jordan and Morocco are also undertaking governance and economic reforms; and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, while stable, are challenged by low oil prices and are initiating reforms to diversify their economies. The situation in the West Bank and Gaza remains largely unchanged, with occasional outbreaks of violence.

Economic growth in the region is projected to remain at 2.9 percent in 2016, with lower-than-average growth in the GCC (2.2 percent) countries and in Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia (1.8 percent), and higher-than-average growth in the region’s developing countries (4.4 percent). Growth in 2017 is projected to rise to 4.2 percent, assuming in large part that oil production increases in Libya and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Less than 3 percent of the population live in extreme poverty, but vulnerability is high because 53 percent of the population live on $4.00 a day or less.

World Bank assistance

The World Bank approved $5.2 billion for the region for 15 projects this fiscal year, including $5.2 billion in IBRD loans and $31 million in IDA commitments. It also committed $53 million in special financing for five projects in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Bank delivered 187 analytical and advisory services in fiscal 2016. It partnered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on a path-breaking report entitled The Welfare of Syrian Refugees: Evidence from Jordan and Lebanon, which includes evidence-based policy recommendations. Another report the Bank published, entitled Trust, Voice, and Incentives: Learning from Local Success Stories in Service Delivery in the Middle East and North Africa, examines the roles of incentives, trust, and engagement that suggest ways governments can increase accountability, policy implementation, and service delivery. The Bank provided more than $30 million in Reimbursable Advisory Services to GCC governments, with a focus on education, governance, economic diversification, and small and medium enterprises.

This fiscal year the Bank announced a new regional strategy that puts the promotion of peace and social stability at its center. The strategy’s four pillars focus on forging a new social contract in order to create more-inclusive and more-accountable governance structures and private sector–driven economies; increasing regional cooperation; building resilience, which includes the challenges of forcibly displaced people; and supporting economic recovery and reconstruction.

Renewing the social contract

The World Bank can play a role in helping countries in the region to renew the social contract in at least three areas—jobs, quality services, and citizen engagement—to contribute to peace and stability in the short term and economic growth in the long term. To promote trust in government institutions and processes, the Bank approved a $1.2 billion loan for Iraq to help it stabilize the fiscal situation and focus on governance reforms. It approved a $1 billion loan to Egypt to improve its fiscal balances and support reforms in energy subsidies. A $500 million loan to Tunisia will allow the government to focus on governance and reforms that will help create jobs. A $200 million loan to Morocco will help strengthen transparency and accountability.

Increasing regional cooperation

Beyond economic benefits, the potential gains from increased integration in areas such as energy, water, and education can serve to build regional cooperation and trust. A $250 million loan to Jordan will significantly enhance its energy security by diversifying its energy imports and building ties to neighboring exporters. A $200 million road transport loan to Tunisia will enhance links to both its own lagging regions and its neighbors.

Building resilience to forced displacement

Building resilience to forced displacement means promoting the welfare of forcibly displaced people and the host communities throughout the region. Support from the World Bank includes a $350 million program for Iraq that will help to rebuild seven cities and towns that have been liberated from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and will help to resettle their returning populations (see project details in the box). A $20 million IDA grant to Djibouti will support its efforts on behalf of forcibly displaced people there. A $12.3 million loan will expand the coverage and enhance the social assistance package extended to people in Lebanon affected by the Syrian crisis and assist all vulnerable Lebanese households.

Supporting economic recovery and reconstruction

Providing assistance to recover and restore economies affected by conflict and instability is at the core of the Bank’s mission and assistance in the region. Buffeted by bouts of instability, often linked to unemployed youth, Tunisia is seeking to strengthen the employability of higher education graduates, whose rates of unemployment are the highest in the country. The Bank’s $70 million loan will assist the government in its efforts to do so. Similarly, $5 million in financing to the West Bank and Gaza will support job creation in the private sector.

Further Information: World Bank's Middle East and North Africa Region homepage »

Supporting recovery and reform in Iraq

In the summer of 2014, Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and other smaller cities and towns in Iraq fell to ISIS. The defeats caused the government to fall and Western and regional powers to intervene in support of a new, reformist government.

By the following summer, the Iraqi army and its allies had retaken control of substantial portions of the country, including seven cities and towns that needed to be rebuilt and prepared for the return of the thousands of residents who had fled. In July 2015, the Bank approved the Iraq Emergency Operation for Development Project, a $350 million package that will support the repair and reconstruction of damaged power, water, and sanitation networks as well roads and bridges; the enhancement of health care services; and the rebuilding of houses damaged in the conflict. The operation is part of a larger program to be carried out over a five-year period in two conflict-affected governorates, Salah Al-Din and Diyala, covering seven cities, (Al-Aazeeam, Al-Alam, Al-Dalooeyya, As-Sadiya, Dour, Jalula, and Tikrit).

In December 2015, the Bank approved a $1.2 billion loan focused on three areas: improving public expenditure management; increasing the sustainability of the energy supply (by reducing gas flaring, harnessing natural gas, and reducing subsidies on energy); and improving the transparency of state-owned enterprises, such as allowing private banks to compete with Iraq’s two large, state-owned banks. The reforms supported by this loan will help to stabilize the economy and lay the foundations for inclusive growth for all Iraqis.

Regional Commitments and Disbursements for Fiscal 2014-16

  Commitments (millions) Disbursements (millions)
  Fiscal 2014 Fiscal 2015 Fiscal 2016 Fiscal 2014 Fiscal 2015 Fiscal 2016
IBRD $ 2,588 $ 3,294 $ 5,170 $ 1,666
$ 1,779 $ 4,427
IDA $ 199 $ 198 $ 31 $ 273 $ 194 $ 44
Note: Portfolio of projects under implementation as of June 30, 2016: $14.5 billion.




Indicator 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Total population (millions) 338 344 350 356 363
Population growth (annual %) 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8 1.8
GNI per capita (Atlas method, current US$) 4,081 4,562 4,771 4,598 4,390a
GDP per capita growth (annual %) -2.4 1.1 -0.9 -0.2 -2.2a
Population living below $1.90 a day (millions) - - - - -
Life expectancy at birth, females (years) 74 74 74 74 -
Life expectancy at birth, males (years) 70 70 70 70 -
Youth literacy rate, females (% ages 15-24) 89 89 89 89 -
Youth literacy rate, males (% ages 15-24) 94 94 94 94 -
Carbon dioxide emissions (megatons) 1,309 - - - -
Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
SDG 1.1 Extreme poverty (% population below $1.90 a day, 2011 PPP) - - - - -
SDG 2.2 Prevalence of stunting, height for age (% children under 5) - - - 17 -
SDG 3.1 Maternal mortality ratio (modeled estimate, per 100,000 live births) 97 95 94 92 90
SDG 3.2 Under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) 28 27 26 25 25
SDG 4.1 Primary completion rate (% relevant age group) 93 95 93 - -
SDG 5 Ratio of female to male labor force participation rate (modeled ILO estimates, %) 27 28 28 28 -
SDG 5.5 Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (% total) 11 14 16 17 17
SDG 6.1 Access to safe drinking water (% population with access) 90 90 93 93 93
SDG 6.2 Access to basic sanitation facilities (% population with access) 86 87 90 90 90
SDG 7.1 Access to electricity (% population) - 96 - - -
SDG 7.2 Renewable energy consumption (% total final energy consumption) 3 3 - - -
SDG 17.8 Individuals using the Internet (% population) 23 26 29 34 38

 ILO = International Labour Organization; PPP = purchasing power parity; - = not available. Visit data.worldbank.org for data updates.
a. Estimated data.