MENA is an acronym that stands for the Middle East and North Africa. Nineteen countries are included in this region, which is around 6% of the world’s population. This region has significant oil and natural gas reserves with 60% and 45% of Earth’s supply, respectively. This makes the MENA region particularly essential to worldwide economic vitality. These countries give us the ability to drive our vehicles and heat our homes, so it is vital to gain some insight into the problems in these regions.
Some of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa are members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC. The OPEC aims to provide a stable supply of oil to countries around the world.
The MENA region grew in importance in 2011 when some of the dictatorships in these countries were overthrown in an event called The Arab Spring. Countries like Libya have had unstable oil supplies that affect international prices since overthrowing local dictators. Prices for oil are different all over the world, but conflict in these regions can affect everyone, not just the people of Libya.
This unrest has caused 15 million people to flee their homes and seek shelter in countries that don’t have the financial means to help. The refugees that have had to leave their homes are terrified and fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Djibouti. These countries are delicate and don’t have the ability to help everyone that comes over the border. The World Bank has stated that this is the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Some of the countries in the MENA region are going through civil war. The United States and Russia provide assistance to opposing sides of the wars in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen. These wars have caused oil production to be lowered significantly throughout Syria, Libya, and Yemen. These countries have some of the highest supplies of oil around the world. People in the MENA region are facing extreme poverty, which doubled to 5% in 2015. In fact, even the outlook for economic growth has dropped to 0.6% in the MENA countries. This isn’t good news for the people living in these countries.
Countries in the MENA region are in crisis. This region is suffering without the help of jobs from the oil and natural gas industries. You may wonder what is being done to help the people in these countries. The World Bank Group has come up with a strategy based on four pillars:
- Renewing the social contract
- Regional cooperation
- Resilience to refugees and migration shocks
- Reconstruction and recovery
These pillars are in place to promote peace and stability. The World Bank Group has had some success in its endeavor, even within countries at war. They were able to continue assisting the people of Yemen while in open conflict. The Group has received grants for $1.7 billion, which has helped to provide essential life-saving services and economic opportunities for the people of Yemen.
The World Bank Group has also provided significant funding to Lebanon and Jordan. They created a facility called the Global Concessional Financing Facility to help families with concessional financing. This type of financing allows people to get lower interest rates and more extended grace periods. The longer grace periods will enable you to make payments late if necessary without incurring late fees or penalties. The facility has helped to lower tensions in the region and get people the help that they need. It has paid out over $2.5 billion in concessional financing to the people of Lebanon and Jordan. These efforts are helping the economy grow and expand.
The World Bank Group added to its list of pillars recently to help even further. The three new components they included are:
- Harnessing the regions human capital
- Leveraging technologies for a new digital economy
- Developing the private sector through the Maximizing Finance for Development Approach
The human capital index in the MENA region is only at 49%, meaning that people in these countries can only be half as productive as they need to be without proper healthcare and education. The World Bank Group hopes to reform school, so the people in these countries are able to get an education and find employment. It is crucial to help the region thrive and get people out of poverty.
The World Bank Group hopes to help these countries learn new technologies that will help them thrive in the modern world. By improving people with getting an education and jobs, they hope to stabilize the economies of these countries. The youth in these countries are the next generation, and it is believed that if they were given access to high-speed internet, education, and employment, they could lead the country into a new frontier of economic growth and stability.
The private sector in the MENA countries needs to be developed to help find the potential in these regions. The World Bank Group hopes to transform the economy of each country by helping youth reach their potential. The Group has helped the people of Egypt to find $20 billion in private investments to their energy sector through bank supported policy reform. Just imagine what that kind of money could do for other countries in the Middle East and North Africa!
The acronym MENA is also used when discussing the weakening relationships between the Arab States. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are in a standoff that has resulted in no-fly zones and sanctions between the two countries. The destruction caused by these countries at war could cause indescribable trauma to lives and infrastructure. With the high demand and need for help in these regions suffering from unrest and war, The World Bank Group has pledged $5.47 billion in commitments to invest in the people, private sector, and digital transformation.