CAIRO, Sept. 26, 2010 — Cairo today hosted the first technical meeting of Regulators for MENA Region’s Infrastructure Regulatory Forum to enable regulators to share information and best practices, discuss the recent infrastructure developments in the region, and identify ways to overcome infrastructure challenges in MENA.
The one-day meeting was jointly organized by the Public-Private Partnerships Infrastructure Facility (PPIAF) and the World Bank, in cooperation with the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Agency (EGYPTERA).
This Technical Meeting, which brings together a group of infrastructure regulators from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and West Bank and Gaza, builds on the discussion of the MENA Conference on Infrastructure Reform and Regulation held in Amman last year.
In the MENA Region, strong demography and rapid urbanization combined with structural transformation of the economies have resulted in strong demands for infrastructure services that most governments in the region struggle to cope with. A good illustration of the inability to cope with growing infrastructure demands is the electricity sector, whereby the installed generation capacity is estimated to be 20 percent below the aggregate demand for electricity across countries in MENA.
“While MENA countries need to increase investments in infrastructure, the World Bank stands ready to work with governments in the region, through its lending and non lending activities, to address their infrastructure challenges,” said David Craig, the World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti at the meeting’s opening session.
The Arab World Initiative, launched in 2007 by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, aims at promoting integration within the Middle East and North Africa region and increasing its links with regional and global partners.
“Infrastructure development is at the center of this initiative, encompassing regional infrastructure projects; activities aimed at enhancing the harmonization of norms and standards; knowledge-sharing and capacity building,” he added.
However, there are some considerable challenges for MENA in moving the infrastructure agenda forward. Robust and transparent legal and regulatory frameworks will be necessary to deliver the policy programmes and new institutions and capacity required to implement them.
“However, cooperation among infrastructure regulators, dialogue and the experience-exchange can promote the adoption of common rules, norms and standards, leading to more harmonized regulatory frameworks, the development of common models of private sector participation, and can strengthen trade links and regional integration,” said Paul Noumba Um, Lead Economist at the Sustainable Development Department of the MENA Region, the World Bank.
The Cairo meeting will primarily discuss the following issues: 1) the primary objective of the MENA Forum of Regulators; 2) the members; 3) how the Forum should be implemented and financed; 4) the immediate next steps. The meeting aims to reach consensus on the need to establish an Infrastructure Regulatory Forum in the Middle East and North Africa as other parts of the world have done.