Overview

  • The past year has seen a number of positive developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Recovery and reconstruction efforts are underway in Iraq following the liberation of its territory, while countries such as the Arab Republic of Egypt and Saudi Arabia have undergone major economic and social reforms. With support from the international community, Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan continued to show remarkable resilience

    Moreover, growth has picked up across the region, and almost all MENA countries have moved to reduce or eliminate energy subsidies, identify new sources of non-oil revenues, and expand social safety nets to shield the poor from adverse effects of change.

    At the same time, violence and the consequences of war continue to take their toll in Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Republic of Yemen. The Middle East Peace Process remains challenging, and parts of the region risk losing a whole generation of out-of-school children to fragility, conflict and violence.

    ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

    Economic growth in MENA is expected to rebound to an average 2.0 percent in 2018 from an average 1.4 percent in 2017. The mild rebound in regional growth reflects the positive impact of reforms and stabilization policies undertaken in many countries in tandem with the recent pick up in oil prices and external oil demand. Economic growth in the MENA region is forecast to improve modestly, reaching an average of 2.6 percent in 2019-2020. Oil exporters will significantly benefit from higher oil prices and external oil demand that will likely remain high, as well as domestic reforms. Oil importers are expected to benefit from reforms, rising trade with the Europe and China, and financial inflows from MENA oil exporters.

    While overall growth appears robust, the pace of the economic recovery in the region is still sluggish. Challenges—including the slow pace of reforms, a temptation to return to pro-cyclical fiscal policies in the wake of higher oil prices, rising debt levels, and high unemployment rates among youth and women—still exist and, if not addressed, could deter economic recovery and hamper long-term growth prospects in the region.

    Last Updated: Oct 01, 2018

  • The World Bank responded to strong demand from countries in MENA for development finance, global expertise and innovation during the financial year that ended on June 30th, 2018. In addition to US$6.3 billion in new financial commitments during the past financial year, the Bank also delivered a wide range of analytical products to help MENA countries transform their economies and lay the foundations for inclusive growth and job creation. 

    The record commitment included US$5.9 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which supports development in middle-income countries, and US$430 million from the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries. The World Bank’s knowledge services included support for the region’s high-income countries, through its Reimbursable Advisory Services. The program, which reached US$55 million during the past financial year, supported efforts to diversify economies and promote private sector development, while supporting human development through the reform of key public services such as education, health and social protection. 

    The Maximizing Finance for Development approach, to leverage private sector financing sustainably in support of development, is now an integral part of Bank Group programs in almost all countries in the region, with sub-regional strategies developed for the Maghreb, the Mashreq, and Egypt.

    The MENA regional strategy puts the promotion of peace and social stability at its center and continues to guide the Bank’s engagement. The strategy’s four pillars focus on forging a new social contract with citizens; increasing regional cooperation; building resilience, which includes addressing the challenges of forcibly displaced people; and supporting recovery and reconstruction. Many Bank programs in the region include more than one of these pillars.

    Renewing the social contract

     

    Promoting more accountable and more inclusive structures and supporting private sector–driven economies to provide greater opportunities remain key regional priorities for the Bank. In Tunisia, for example, a $60 million loan targeted youth facing unemployment, another $100 million loan focused on early childhood development, and a separate $140 million program supported farmers. In Lebanon, a $400 million program promoted labor-market reforms and skills training, including for refugees. A $30 million grant to the West Bank and Gaza supported fiscal measures while strengthening the business environment, and a separate $13 million Innovative Private Sector Development Project further strengthened the role of technology in helping to develop the private sector. In Djibouti, a $13 million project sought to foster women and youth entrepreneurship and further highlighted the region’s private sector focus, while in Egypt, a $500 million project supported critical reforms in the education sector.

    Increasing regional cooperation

    The Middle East and North Africa is the least integrated region in the world. The Bank’s activities in the region therefore focus on promoting greater cooperation, efficiency, and interdependence, particularly in the energy and private sectors, where reforms will enhance cross-border investments and reinforce moves toward a regional market. In fiscal 2018, a $1.1 billion loan to Egypt enhanced fiscal stabilization and private sector reforms in the energy sector while further reducing subsidies. In Morocco, a $200 million loan enhanced private sector participation in municipal infrastructure, while another $200 million program supported private sector activities in agriculture. To promote the expansion of renewable energy capacity in the country, the Bank also provided $100 million in additional financing for the Noor Solar Power Project in central Morocco, which promotes private sector participation.

    Building resilience to forced displacement

    In countries throughout the region, especially in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, the forcibly displaced—including refugees and internally displaced persons—continue to pose challenges for local services. In Jordan, a $148 million program for education reform will benefit both host communities and refugees in the country. Meanwhile, in

     Lebanon, Syrian refugees are among the beneficiaries of a $225 million loan that will improve public transportation in Beirut and the surrounding areas. These projects all include concessional financing from the Global Concessional Financing Facility, an initiative launched in 2016 that leverages funding from donor countries to bridge the financing gap for countries dealing with refugee crises.

    Supporting economic recovery and reconstruction

    Following the liberation of Iraq from ISIS, the World Bank has focused on recovery and reconstruction in the country. This effort includes the $300 million Iraq Social Fund for Development program focused on small-scale community projects, the $200 million Iraq Emergency Social Stabilization and Resilience Project focused on social protection for vulnerable populations, and $400 million in additional financing for the Emergency Operation for Development Project to rehabilitate infrastructure. Meanwhile, the $210 million Baghdad Water Supply and Sewerage Improvement Project underlines the Bank’s commitment to longer-term reforms in Iraq’s water sector, including creating the enabling environment for private sector investments. Elsewhere in the region, the Bank has expanded support to vulnerable communities affected by conflict, most notably in the Republic of Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis looms. In fiscal 2018, the Republic of Yemen received three grants totaling $400 million for health and nutrition, specifically targeting the cholera outbreak, urban services, and emergency electricity provision. An additional $36 million grant will help smallholder farmers.

    RECENT ANALYTICAL WORK

    A number of analytical studies have been published recently by the Bank addressing key challenges as the region struggles with major political and economic transitions. 

    The World Bank’s latest Middle East and North Africa Economic Monitor focuses on how the region could accelerate growth and create  the number and quality of jobs needed by seizing the opportunities that the digital economy offers and leveraging the potential of its large, well-educated and tech-savvy youth population. 

    Water Management in Fragile Systems: Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in the Middle East and North Africa

    Focuses on the critical role that effective management of the region’s scarce water resources plays in promoting growth, building up resilience and contributing to future stability.

    Shedding Light on Electricity Utilities in the Middle East and North Africa finds that improvements in the efficiency of electricity utilities could cover the average investment urgently needed in the region’s electricity sector, estimated at 3 percent of GDP. 

    The Toll of War: The Economic and Social Consequences of the Conflict in Syria which examines the impact of the conflict as of early 2017, and finds the biggest loss is from the disruption of economic activity. Enhancing job opportunities for skilled women in the Palestinian territories highlights the constrains to labor market entry in the face of Palestinian women, and provides recommendations going forward.

    Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018

  • The World Bank remains engaged in a wide variety of development work, , while also focusing on alleviating some of the immediate challenges arising from the crisis gripping some countries of the region.

    In Yemen, the Bank has mobilized US$1.2 billion in emergency IDA grants and partnered with UN agencies to help the 75% of the population in need of assistance.

    To respond to the risk of famine, the Bank partnered with UNICEF and private agents to implement a US$200 million Emergency Cash transfer program. The program builds on Yemen’s national cash transfer system, and targets 1.5 million households (or 8 million people). 

    The delivery of cash transfers has been rolled-out nationally in all 333 districts in Yemen, has -so far- reached 1.33 million poor and vulnerable households, of which 44 percent of the direct recipients are women. More than 75 percent of the beneficiaries used the cash transfer to purchase food and medicine only.

    An Emergency Health and Nutrition project has provided drugs, medical supplies, vaccines, as well as operating costs for 1800 health facilities, supporting the delivery of basic health services to more than 10 million Yemenis in all districts of the country.

    A cash-for-work program has provided temporary work to more than 1 million Yemenis who have provided services and carried out needed repairs to infrastructure.

    In Iraq, the Bank has a number of projects to help the country move from emergency response to recovery and development. In the recently liberated zones, seven Bridges and 320 Kms of roads have been rehabilitated and are open for traffic. 

    In addition, 39 ambulances and 14 mobile clinics have been procured, and 167 pieces of special machinery and equipment for the maintenance of water, sanitation and municipal services, as well as 3,120 garbage containers for solid waste management system were procured, delivered and successfully distributed to the targeted cities, benefiting more than 0.5 million citizens. 

    In Egypt, a US$3.15 billion programmatic Development Policy Framework (DPF) delivered technical assistance and financial support over 2015 to 2017 in support of the government’s efforts to revive the economy after the 2011 downturn. The DPF supported the consolidation of the government’s public finances while enhancing social protection of the poor, and ensuring reliable and sustainable energy.

    While moving from power deficits and rolling blackouts in 2014 to energy surpluses in 2015 and 2016, The reforms paved the way for the government to Maximize Finance for Development, with integrated World Bank Group support. 

    The DPF supported policy action in electricity tariff and subsidy management, as well as introduction of a renewable energy law, while the International Finance Corporation helped design the landmark solar Feed-in-Tariff program to attract private investment in renewable energy, and led a consortium of nine international banks to invest $653 million in solar energy, with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency providing $210 million in political risk insurance to enable the private investments.  

    With the reform of energy subsidies, Egypt is saving US$14 billion annually, and a large proportion of these savings have been channeled to strengthening social safety nets that are better targeted to the segment of the population most in need.  

    In Jordan, the Emergency Services and Social Resilience Project grant helped 16 municipalities, with 2 million Jordanians and close to 250,000 Syrian refugees, respond to the increased demand for services due to the large influx of refugees, including in solid waste collection, rehabilitation of basic infrastructure, roads network improvements, lighting in the streets, and easing rising community tensions. 

    The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development for Inclusive Growth project has resulted in the creation of over 2,000 private sector jobs for the most disadvantaged segments of society. 

    The Second Education Reform for Knowledge Economy project has contributed to the expansion of quality kindergartens and innovative, alternative childcare all over the country. Construction of new schools and extensions raised enrolment rates in primary and secondary schools from 96.9 percent to 98.1 percent, and 60.4 percent to 76.9 percent, respectively.

    Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018

  • The World Bank Group has stepped up its partnerships with bilateral and multilateral donors, regional development banks, Islamic financial institutions and emerging country donors. Less traditional partnerships are just as crucial: one of the sharp lessons of the recent political awakening has been the urgent need to reach out more consistently and consult across a wide spectrum of society, including civil society, academics, NGOs, and the private sector.

     

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Contact

Washington DC
MENA Team
mnateam@worldbank.org
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