Members of the Egyptian startup business KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

A New Economy for the Middle East and North Africa

Despite its geopolitical challenges, the economies of the Middle East and North Africa have vast untapped potential in their young, educated, and tech-savvy populations. If governments can implement the reforms needed to shift from public- to private-sector-led development, the region's economies could become digital powerhouses.

WASHINGTON, DC – Countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) possess all of the ingredients they need to leapfrog into the digital future. They have large, well-educated youth populations that have already adopted new digital and mobile technologies on a wide scale. That combination has immense potential to drive future growth and job creation. But will it?

Public spending, the region’s historical engine of development, has reached its limit. Because the public sector can no longer absorb the swelling ranks of university graduates, the MENA region now has one of the world’s highest rates of youth unemployment.

The digital economy holds the promise of a new way forward, but it is still in its infancy, and young people face obstacles in putting technology to productive use. Although the Internet and hand-held devices are ubiquitous throughout the region, they are currently used for accessing social media, rather than for launching new enterprises.

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