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publication July 2, 2021

Middle East and North Africa: Looking Forward


Photo © Salvatore Ferri / Shutterstock

The decade following the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010–2011 was marked by both successes and setbacks for countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. An initial wave of reforms supported macroeconomic stability in some countries. But the fact that youth and female unemployment remain unacceptably high reflects deep-seated human capital and governance challenges, often stemming from the influence of the state in economies. Conflict persists in several countries, severely setting back development progress. Even prior to COVID-19, MENA was the only region in the world to see an increase in extreme poverty (measured at $1.90 per day), driven by conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, making it more urgent for countries to improve governance and restore trust with their citizens, as well as to strengthen human capital; support jobs and economic transformation; advance gender equity; address the drivers of fragility, conflict, and violence; and accelerate a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.

World Bank assistance to MENA focuses on these strategic areas, supporting both near-term recovery and longer-term economic transformation. Through the MENA Strategy, the World Bank is helping to:

  • Restore trust through: Transparency, tech-enabled service delivery, and debt management
  • Strengthen human capital through: Modern education, health, and social protection systems
  • Support jobs and transformation through: A competitive private sector, digitalization, and economic regional integration
  • Advance gender equity through: Inclusive economies with fewer barriers to women’s involvement
  • Address fragility through: Recovery and reconstruction; support for refugees and host communities, and
  • Accelerate green growth by: Combating climate change, making economies resilient and inclusive, and promoting sustainable growth.

These activities are organized around a high-level strategic framework that seeks to:

  • Renew the social contract,
  • Strengthen Resilience to shocks,
  • Expand Regional cooperation, and
  • Support Reconstruction in conflict-affected countries

In the decade leading to the international community’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the World Bank will continue to work with its clients and partners to build momentum for economic transformation that can help countries meet the aspirations of their people and unleash the MENA region’s vast potential.