COVID-19: Forging a new social contract in the Middle East and North Africa

 By Rabah Arezki, Chief Economist for Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank and Mahmoud Mohieldin, United Nations Special Envoy for the 2030 Agenda


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Egypt, Hurghada: Disinfection of a street during the coronavirus outbreak, March 2020. Photo: Aleks333/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 crisis and its dual shock of disease and falling oil prices have brought to light the underlying flaws of Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) economies today. Flaws that authorities must fix if the region is to prosper.

At the global level, there will likely be a ramping up of the role of the state to eradicate the virus and protect economies from depression. State intervention is already high in the MENA region (see Figure 1). How well this helps countries cope first with the pandemic and then its aftermath depends on their ability to refocus, be more transparent, and develop accountability mechanisms.

Figure 1. Government Consumption in GDP

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Mapping the Geography of Political Violence in North and West Africa

By Olivier J. Walther, Assistant Professor in Geography, University of Florida and consultant for the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC/OECD); Steven M. Radil, Assistant Professor in Geography, University of Idaho and David Russell, consultant for SWAC/OECD

A worrying turn

The security situation in North and West Africa has taken a worrying turn. Within the span of a few years, Mali has faced a military coup, a secessionist rebellion, a Western military intervention, and several major terrorist attacks. In the Lake Chad region, Boko Haram is attempting to revive an Emirate, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. In Libya, the bombing campaign by NATO in 2011 hardly put an end to the civil war that continues to oppose rebels and militias. If the trend observed so far continues, this year will be the deadliest recorded in the region since 1997, with more than 8 300 killed through June.

Despite the multiplication of security studies, the geography of conflict throughout the region is obscured by the large number of belligerents, their divergent political strategies, and a focus on individual countries as the primary context of the continuing violence. While violence remains on the increase, it remains unclear whether violent organisations are intensifying their efforts in particular localities, spreading insecurity to a growing number of regions, or relocating under the pressure of government forces. Continue reading