Why We Need Social Entrepreneurship in the Middle East

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The tremors shaking the Middle East have not fully subsided, but the ominous question already looms: What comes next? Much of the media focus has been on political reform, as tyrants are toppled and drama unfolds with the suspense of a Hollywood movie, but the demands of protestors have been clear: They want political andeconomic reform. Very little attention, as yet, has been paid to the latter, which is undoubtedly more elusive for sound bites but will prove to be a much more urgent and powerful demand in the coming months.

Economics and demographics are two of the most potent factors contributing to the recent eruption and they, too, will determine the best solutions for moving forward. Among the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, on average more than 50 percent of the population is younger than 25. Within this demographic group, the unemployment rate averages about 40 percent. Combine this with a relatively high literacy rate-almost 80 percent for the regional average and more than 90 percent in several countries-and you have a perfect recipe for frustration and anger: young, educated people without jobs.

The countries these youth are rattling are not just suffering from decades of political hegemony, but also suffer from long-term economic stagnation. Corrupt and stifling government bureaucracies have strangled most formal enterprise and forced the rest into a vibrant but restrictive informal economy. TheWorld Bank’s Doing Business 2011 report found that it takes an average of 20 days and 38 percent of per-capita income to start a business in the MENA region.

Source: Inc. (link opens in a new window)