North African countries need to work together

Technological and geopolitical forces are reshaping regional landscapes, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), which has urged north African countries to work together.

The Middle East and North Africa Risks Landscape briefing paper warns that the technological breakthroughs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are bringing opportunity but also risk for those unprepared to adapt.

At the same time, fractures between global stakeholders – including geoeconomic tension – are adding another layer of risk for the region.

Because north Africa and the Middle East are home to more natural-resources-dependant economies than skills-driven ones, and because the region houses existing political and societal divides, the impacts of technological and geopolitical disruptions may be more pronounced here than elsewhere.

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and north Africa has closed with a call for its stakeholders to increase collaboration on social, economic and climate issues. It should help the region “punch at its weight” instead of below it, co-chairs of the meeting said in the closing plenary.

“This is a region with two systems,” said Mirek Dusek, head of Middle East and north Africa, World Economic Forum. “One is forward-looking, young and technology-native. The other is the legacy system with sclerotic institutions, conflict and fragility. Building new platforms of collaboration is about providing the space for people to think through the economic and social model, the environment and humanitarian emergencies in a multi-stakeholder way.”

One area to start such cooperation is by developing and encouraging travel in the region, said Rania Al-Mashat, minister of tourism for Egypt.

“Tourism is one way to overcome the unfortunate rise of protectionism and nationalism. It is also a way to increase economic growth and employment,” she said. Tourism is responsible for one in every ten jobs globally, and one in every five new jobs.

Using entrepreneurship to solve social issues should be a top priority for stakeholders from across the region, added Adel Boseli, chief executive officer of Amal Glass DMCC.

“We are in a part of the world where there are so many problems,” he said. “We face them every single day. It makes us all social entrepreneurs, whether we like it or not.”

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