Morocco’s CESE Project: Regionalization empowering local populations

This is the second in a series on the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) project to produce a report “assessing effective access to basic human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights in the southern provinces – laying the groundwork for regionalization in the south and throughout Morocco.

Morocco’s 2011 Constitution called for “regionalization,” or devolving administrative powers including budgets, hiring, taxation, municipal functions, and similar responsibilities to locally elected officials. It turns out that this approach is not a new idea for King Mohammed VI. One of his first actions upon ascending the throne in 1999 was to move forward with the partial devolution of political decision-making from the capital Rabat to the provincial governors, a program that had been announced in 1997. Although this was a partial reform to share decision-making between the government based in Rabat and the provincial governors, it was considered quite innovative, if only marginally successful due to delays in its implementation. It set a clear precedent and showed that the King had every intention to change how Morocco is governed.

A preferred modus operandi for the King is to reach consensus on contentious issues—such as the 2004 reform of the family law—through debate and consultation. In the same way, regionalization was put on the public agenda as early as 2006 with the resurrection of the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), which was charged with coming up with a autonomy proposal for the Western Sahara built around decentralization. That was followed quickly by the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative in 2007, which called for decentralizing authority to the people and institutions of the Western Sahara to manage their own affairs while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty.

The next step was to further elaborate on the principles of decentralization. In a November 2008 speech, the King stated that the aim of decentralization is to “enable good local governance . . . respond more closely to the citizen’s needs, and boost integrated . . . development.” King Mohammed has been especially keen in multiple speeches to emphasize citizen participation in government, which reflects the need to engage communities in ongoing dialogue about managing how government is to serve the people.

In a November 2009 speech and then again in June 2010, the King indicated that the southern provinces will be the first region to experience the benefits of regionalization. In the Advisory Council’s final report in March 2011, decentralization was defined within the context of how institutions and responsibilities could be allocated in a new model of local government. All of this activity was superseded by King Mohammed’s March 9, 2011 speech, in which he announced the forming of a commission to draft a new constitution, and he made specific mention of decentralization as a key means of empowering the people.

As Youssef Ben-Meir, head of the High Atlas Foundation, wrote in 2010, regionalization/decentralization is more than institution-building or shifting responsibilities from one level of bureaucracy to another.  “… A range of important managerial capabilities must be developed among local public and private organizations through training, education, and experience. Successful decentralization programs build administrative capabilities of local government, civil organizations, and community groups, as well as their technical skills and capacities to apply participatory planning, resolve conflicts, and manage resources.”

While the 2011 Constitution may lay the groundwork for regionalization, and the Parliament may pass the enabling legislation taking into consideration the CESE report recommendations, an equally daunting yet more critical task is capacity-building for those who will be tasked on a daily basis with making regionalization work on the ground. That is the core challenge of decentralization and should be its most enduring legacy.

Morocco’s CESE Project: The Makings of Democracy

This is the third in a series of blog posts on Morocco’s Economic, Social, & Environmental Council (CESE) project to assess “effective access to basic human, economic, social, cultural & environmental rights in the southern provinces – laying the groundwork for regionalization in the south & throughout Morocco.”

For its 2013 International Day of Democracy—Sunday, September 15—the United Nations promoted the theme of “Strengthening Voices through Democracy,” to “shine a spotlight on the importance of people’s voices, both expressed directly and through their elected representatives, in today’s political, economic, social, developmental, environmental and technological debates.”

That’s exactly what Morocco’s regionalization plan wants to do.

Although consultation has long been a feature of King Mohammed VI’s strategy for building public support for major initiatives such as the family law and autonomy proposal, those were largely top-down plans. The Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) is taking a different vector: it starts from the testimonies of hundreds of Moroccans about very specific concerns that they have about every conceivable issue of governance—from environmental issues to gender equality and the role of state agencies in human and social development. These testimonies are then correlated with research studies that collect data on the issues and literally generate report cards on how the government is doing. Contrast this to the uncertain and often failed policy processes in other Arab countries and one begins to appreciate the forward-leaning approach embodied in this uniquely Moroccan synthesis.

CESE’s Commitment to Engaging the People

While there is much anticipation for the CESE mid-term report due shortly, the initial report gives clear indicators of where Morocco is headed on the issue of local governance and reform. The CESE team encourages improvement in civil dialogue (p.30), and speaks of the importance of building “trust among the populations of the southern regions and fostering confident ties between the populations in these regions and public institutions (p.32).” Recognizing the benefits of regionalization, the report notes, “This aspiration to participation [in local governance] should be leveraged in a positive manner by…addressing…citizens’ trust in the government’s ability to respect and guarantee their human rights (p.35).”

When addressing transparency in the consultation process, the report points out that “stakeholders information and consultation, and their participation in the design, achievement and evaluation of the objectives and policies pursued by an organization, whether public or private, is a lever for improving decision-making processes and for strengthening both the perception and exercise of democracy (p.132).” CESE emphasizes the role of civil society in the information-sharing process, noting that this “principle is enshrined in the Constitution (Article 156), which significantly strengthened the principles of representative and participatory democracy (p.132).”

Making Moroccan Regionalization—and Democracy—a Success

Knowing that democracy-building is an important priority for US foreign affairs, and that former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the current Secretary John Kerry and President Barack Obama have all shown a keen interest in Morocco’s progress, I spoke to a senior official at the International Republican Institute (IRI) to better understand how the US can support Morocco’s drive for democratic reforms.  I asked him how he would define “success” for regionalization and the CESE project.

He responded by breaking it out at the national, provincial, and local levels. At the national level, there has to be clear definition of the powers to be shared and how they are to be implemented and evaluated over time. At the provincial level, there must be a clear understanding of the roles of leaders such as the governor and agency heads so that they accept their responsibilities to the central government, to local officials, and to the citizens in their provinces. At the local level, encompassing locally elected municipal officials and local agency representatives, the concrete impact of regionalization must be monitored and officials held accountable for meeting the needs of the people.

The key, he believes, is setting in motion mechanisms for enabling citizens to fully participate in local decision-making. With its broad experience in promoting democracy and good governance, the US can provide Morocco with examples that have worked in other countries. Town meetings, consultations with civil society, and grassroots organizing are some of the means for engaging citizen groups and building trust. The bottom line is to continue to create trust between citizens and local officials, thus reinforcing support for social and economic development. Empowering citizens goes beyond statements to specific opportunities to run for local office, testify at council meetings, hold town meetings for engaging citizens and officials on issues such as the budget processes and program priorities, ensuring transparency on setting local ordinances, and similar outreach. All of these are elements of a recurring theme: capacity building for officials, civil society, and change agents at all three levels responsible for implementing regionalization.

So far, Morocco is getting it right…a transparent, consultative process among all stakeholders to build mutual respect and trust in a regionalization program that will vest responsibility and resources for local decisions in the affected communities. It is a revolution of real consequences for the entire region.

Morocco Resists Regional Status Quo, Moves Ahead to Define Future –

It’s the weekend in Casablanca. A shallow rain has dampened down the dust on the construction sites, for a few hours. Many people are just starting their day, having had their fill of a Friday dinner that always features heaping mounds of tagine and cous cous. I have been here for more than a week, enough to enjoy the fullness of the days and a good night’s sleep. And they have been full.

The biggest news this past week has been about King Mohammed VI welcoming recommendations by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) for migrant policy reform, the introduction of sweeping judicial reform legislation, and reports about an agreement for a new governing coalition, one that will hopefully break the stalemate in Parliament.

While these larger issues are in play, I went to meet some of the newer and more active players in Morocco’s retooling of its economy and political life, to get a sense of how Moroccans are managing while the rest of the region stutters through transitions and setbacks.

I began at Maroc Taswiq, a company that is working to solve one of the most vexing challenges to exporting – how to coordinate many small suppliers such as local cooperatives, so that buyers don’t have to make a pilgrimage to have access to Moroccan natural products. In its showroom, located between the Sofitel and the Royal Mansour, are hundreds of organic and otherwise certified products for which Morocco can be a major international source.

From 25 different flavors of honey and dozens of spiced versions of cous cous, to armfuls of spices, nuts, soaps, and olive oils, to various versions of argan oil products, to the latest fad – cactus products – it is hard to take it all in.  Maroc Taswiq’s government title is “Office de Commercialisation et d’Exportation (OCE)” and it provides testing, packaging, marketing, and distribution services.

When I visited, a USAID-financed expert was on site providing his expertise on next steps for marketing OCE’s many products. I managed, barely, to avoid filling a suitcase with the most attractive products, but I encourage US wholesalers to find a home for some dozens of these specialties in their catalogs.

Moroccan Voices for Progress

My next stop was the Moroccan Institute for International Relations (IMRI) where I met with Jawad Kerdoudi, who heads this independent think tank with a keen interest in US-Morocco relations. We talked about the Free Trade Agreement and its impact on bilateral trade; the work of the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE), which is a year-long study on how to implement regionalization in the Southern Provinces; and also regional political relations. As one of the leading Moroccan intellectuals who travel across North Africa, he has perspectives that are very helpful in framing issues within a context that is less covered in the US media. IMRI is an important stop for anyone who wants to have a helpful exchange about regional issues.

As is not surprising in Morocco, time spent in a hotel lobby can lead to interesting meetings. While talking with the head of Dow Chemical for North Africa, we sat with the head of Green Maghreb Banking, who is working with Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to promote greater consumer use of solar and green products. We were then joined by former Moroccan Ambassador to the US, Aziz Mekouar, who updated us on Morocco’s outreach to Africa.

The lobby began to fill, as there was a book signing and reception that evening. We were happy to see Mbarka Bouaida, former Parliamentarian and one of Morocco’s most dynamic young leaders, who was the first woman to head Morocco’s version of the committee on Foreign Relations. She provided us with a quick assessment of the ongoing negotiations to build a new governing coalition. As the evening moved along, we caught up with Liz Fanning, former Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, who is the founder and executive director of Corps Africa, which will soon have its first group of African volunteers to work in Africa on development projects.

Morocco’s Solar Energy Agenda

Back to my business agenda, I met with Ilias Hamdouch, a senior advisor at Morocco’s solar agency MASEN, who provided his thinking on the next two tenders that will be coming out shortly to expand the initial 150mw CSP project in Ouarzazate and how the initial project is impacting the overall energy diversification strategy.

He believes that cost competitiveness and innovative project structure are the top priorities for selecting the contractors. MASEN’s solar strategy goes beyond producing energy to identifying and promoting industrial clusters and teaming with other investors and developers to build a solar industry in Morocco. The opportunities for US companies in downstream solar development range from infrastructure projects like extending the national grid throughout the country to piloting energy efficient building materials, technologies,  services and products.

My next post will feature interviews with CDG Capital,  and Casablanca Financial City, two major players that are coming to New York and Washington, DC the week of October 6 along with the Moroccan Agency for Investment Development (AMDI); and with Phillip Nelson, the US Economic Counselor to Morocco, who gave me an overview of US trade and investment priorities with Morocco.

Engaging Stakeholders in Defining Future of Morocco’s So. Provinces

Having completed the second iteration of its assessment of the government’s performance in the Southern Provinces, the CESE traveled to Dakhla, the major tourism center in the region, to sound out the local population on its drafted recommendations.

Having completed 2nd iteration of its assessment of the government’s performance in the Southern Provinces, CESE traveled to Dakhla to sound out local population on its drafted recommendations.

 This is the fourth  in a series of blog posts on Morocco’s Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE) project to assess “effective access to basic human, economic, social, cultural & environmental rights in the southern provinces – laying the groundwork for regionalization in the south and throughout Morocco.”


During my recent visit to Morocco, I was curious to discover if people, particularly those who are politically aware, were following what the country is doing to define its strategic vision for the Southern Provinces.

As with any unscientific sample, I may not have captured a complete cross-section of Moroccan perspectives, but that didn’t diminish the interesting responses I encountered. Two key themes are intertwined in the proposed vision: regionalization — that is, devolving power from the central government to locally elected officials — and citizen participation, which leads to greater accountability in that governing process.

Opinions ranged from a small minority of shrugged shoulders, with little or no knowledge of the work of the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE), to those who strongly support moving towards autonomy for the south through regionalization. People in the know were emphatic that the change in Council leadership to Nizar Baraka, the former finance minister, would mean continuity in the serious and detailed work of CESE.

The Stakeholders Take Center Stage

Having completed the second iteration of its assessment of the government’s performance in the Southern Provinces, the CESE traveled to Dakhla, the major tourism center in the region, to sound out the local population on its drafted recommendations.

Quite a cross-section of Sahrawis and other Moroccans attended, representing local government officials, civil society, tribal federations, professionals, and citizens, whose opinions covered the spectrum of positions on Morocco’s role in the Southern Provinces. Supporters and dissidents had the opportunity to learn if the testimonies they had given at earlier town hall meetings had been integrated into the preliminary recommendations.

Much to CESE’s credit, there appeared to be general agreement that the representations were fairly stated. The audience took the time to ask questions, present clarifications and examples of concerns, and take issue with or support the report’s findings. It was a somber yet enthusiastic gathering, which demonstrated that in the sometimes confusing transition to democracy, Morocco is moving in a constructive and healing direction.

The notions of healing and justice, along with fairness and transparency, were repeated often during the exchanges. Citizens who were skeptical that the report would be taken seriously even though it was commissioned by King Mohammed VI, were emphatic that it was long past time for locally elected officials to have the responsibility and resources to provide social and government services without bias. Those who were encouraged by the report’s initial conclusions praised its emphasis on transparency, accountability, and rule of law as markers for how the region should be governed. There was general agreement that short-term changes were critical to build credibility and indicate the seriousness of the regionalization project.

Next Steps

If one thing is clear from the Arab uprisings, it is that the transition to greater democracy and economic and political reforms can be quite challenging, as well as destabilizing. Morocco has avoided the conflict and bloodshed that has afflicted others in the region, yet it is clear from those with whom I spoke that there is a need for game-changing actions sooner rather than later. The introduction of judicial reform legislation, the anticipation of the new government in formation, which should make economic reforms less difficult to adopt, and the general acceptance of evolution rather than revolution as the way forward are all helpful ingredients in Morocco’s particular recipe for change.

It is interesting to observe, from the perspective of how US democracy evolved, that regardless of the cultural environment or diversity of the population, citizens today still aspire to the same goals: rule of law, justice, equality, and respect without discrimination. And achieving them requires patience, perseverance, and active participation by those citizens over the long haul.

The CESE report lays down serious markers for where Morocco should be heading, and it was done by Moroccans, for Moroccans. Nice.

Education and Employment: Bridging the Divide (Part 2/2)

East and North Africa, rates of unemployed young women are eight times that of men. This is the last of a two part series. Read part one here.

As Jamie McAuliffe, president and CEO of Education for Employment (EfE), remarked at the WEF conference in Jordan: “We are trying to get governments and businesses to identify job-creating sectors and encourage investors to engage in them.” He also spoke of the need to encourage entrepreneurship and facilitate ways for young people to start small businesses through micro-financing programs. He went on to emphasize with regards to women that: “The rates of unemployment are as high as eight times that among young men,” and that “getting young women into the work force and supporting opportunities for them to become entrepreneurs is one of the critical challenges and opportunities.”

Entrepreneurship, however, due to the hesitation of financial institutions and inadequate legal structures, is more attractive than attainable at this time in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Even in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, enabling business start-ups largely remains tied to one’s status and social connections rather than the business prospects of the product or service.

So in addition to the four factors listed above, one could add a fifth: the role of the informal economy, which for many is the only accessible outlet for entrepreneurship since official channels are full of obstacles for those with little experience or education to manage the multiple steps for launching a business.

Another concern expressed in The WEF program was engaging youth to perceive employment as more than work and more as a career, that is, acquiring skills that over time enable one to reach higher levels of achievement and compensation – critical in societies that place such a high premium on marrying well and being able to provide for a family. With the concern that public payrolls can no longer support inefficient labor practices, and the lack of diversity in most MENA economies, the IMF has issued a report on the need for greater private sector absorption of new job entrants. This will require a long-term, multifaceted program working with governments in hands-on technical and vocational training projects, as well as higher quality and better targeted secondary and tertiary education.

A sotto voce topic that relates to youth attitudes towards work is their perspectives on the kind of work and on-the-job behaviors that they value. Dealing with the expectations of job applicants is a nagging complaint across the MENA, especially about those with university educations and few practical skills. With few role models to emulate that are not tied to “the old ways,” young people range from those who are poorly or partly educated and unskilled and semi-skilled through experience, to those who are educated and unskilled with expectations that are not aligned with prospects in their economy.

It is no wonder that when youth across the region are polled about their job choices, more than 30 percent believe emigration is their best alternative. Joe Saadi, chairman of Booz and Company and managing director of its Middle East practice, painted the stark consequences of lagging youth recruitment: “Every year you don’t have the capacity to absorb newcomers into the labour force, you’re compounding the unemployment issue and, given the social and economic pressure in the region, there is this sense of urgency setting in.”

An interesting and in some ways compelling recommendation from someone whose company recruits young people, is to institute a form of compulsory service for six months in order to change the mindset of young people unwilling to consider certain jobs. This would instill values consistent with the workplace, according to Mohammed Al Mady, CEO of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), which has more than 20,000 employees. He believes that this approach will: “Teach them resilience, teach them modesty, teach them how to work and take the ladder step by step until they reach what they want.” Al Mady pointed out that even the recent Saudi labor policy to force the private sector to employ more nationals – nitaqat – did not necessarily address the problem of improving the quality of youth for employment purposes.

Case: Youth Employment Challenges in Morocco

Morocco has yet to experience significant economic dislocations as a result of the Arab Uprisings, and its subsequent actions may serve as a potential case study of a North African country that has undergone the least amount of turmoil while advancing economic reforms that in no small part are focused on the labor force.

The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2013 identifies education and the inefficiency of the labor market as the most obvious drags on the kingdom’s competitiveness and social cohesion. Not only is the public education system not aligned sufficiently with the needs of business, “the labour market structure needs to allow for an efficient use of talent and sufficient flexibility.”

As in other Arab countries, youth between the ages of 15 and 29 account for about 30 percent of the population and 44 percent of those of working age. “Official statistics indicate that about 90 percent of young women and about 40 percent of young men, who were not studying in the past couple of years, are either unemployed or part of the economically inactive groups.”

In a thoughtful analysis, Lahcen Achy, an economist specializing in the MENA, adds a less visible, yet critical piece of analysis: “Young people spend on average 80 percent of their time hanging out or doing personal and recreational activities that are highly unproductive.”

He challenges the stereotype that the situation is most critical for unemployed university graduates. “Most of the unemployed youth in Morocco have either low education levels or haven’t studied at all… those who are least educated are left without any help… and only 8 percent of unemployed youth have benefited from [the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills] services.”

His argument is that the marginalized youth, whose numbers far exceed university graduates, must be targeted for both employment and social integration. Involving the private sector has had some success, but the pace of generating jobs with wages that meet living needs (including prospects for marriage and family) is woefully short. Morocco is aiming at a more systematic and integrated employment strategy in partnership with a number of international agencies. For example, the European Training Foundation (ETF) has brought together business and civil society groups to exchange views on options “to improve human capital in the country’s small business sector.”

Across the board, recommendations include a more integrated framework for promoting entrepreneurship from primary through university education; women’s entrepreneurship as a national priority; and better access to finance, training, and coaching services as well as data collection on the impact of these programs that would allow for policy formulation – a necessary component if the informal sector is to evolve into a dynamic part of the nation’s economy.

Recent programs in the US and a joint certification program developed with French technical assistance provide opportunities for workers who have gained skills outside the formal system to receive certification of their accomplishments, which will enable them to move up the value chain, perhaps even become an entrepreneurial offshoot from existing industries.

It is in this environment of accelerating demands for youth employment and bringing greater efficiencies to workforce development that underlines the importance of coming to grips with the challenges before they become widespread regime liabilities. The government’s inability to date to move its agenda of economic reforms through parliament has resulted in a stalemate that threatens progress in facilitating economic growth.

King Mohammed VI’s insistence that the educational sector be insulated from political volleyball may help renew a national debate and progress on strategies to move forward more aggressively on measures to improve Morocco’s competitiveness — a key factor in attracting the domestic and foreign investment critical to generating the jobs so badly needed in the country.

Education and Employment: Bridging the Divide (Part 1/2)

In the Middle East and North Africa, rates of unemployed young women are eight times that of men. This is the first of a two part series.

After more than two years, economic issues raised during the Arab Uprisings are still lingering on government agendas. Along with governance and transparency concerns, the most obdurate legacy for most countries is the demand for meaningful employment — a nettlesome priority that bedevils governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including the wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members.

A Complex and Interconnected Challenge

Current governments are burdened with trying to fix education and training regimes that did not prepare local management and workforces for competitive global markets. The lack of a qualified labor force is part of a web of symptoms that result in weak economic growth policies. In addition, opaque regulations are an obstacle to open and competitive markets, as well as restrictive financial regimes that continue to block attempts to broadly facilitate entrepreneurship and greater domestic and foreign investment. While there are some glimmers of improvement, after decades of neglect, the prospects for short-term solutions are limited.

Improving education and training requires an organic strategy that incorporates stakeholders across the employment spectrum, from labor and management to the labor pool, government ministries, the private sector, and all intermediary groups and institutions, including NGOs and civil society focused on concerns ranging from gender to healthy environments.

A core economic issue is the plight of youth, usually defined as those under 30, with little schooling through university education, who are marginally employed usually in the informal economy, unemployed, or seeking employment. The priority of youth employment was in the spotlight of the 2013 WEF in Amman, Jordan where experts in employment and education and advocates such as Queen Rania of Jordan were quite explicit about the challenges confronting the region. According to the 2013 World Bank development report on jobs, some 40 percent of men and 62 percent of women in the MENA are engaged in non-wage employment (farming and self-employment).

The International Labor Organization (ILO) put youth unemployment at 28.3 percent in 2012 and says it will not reverse course for the next five years, despite a global economic recovery the ILO projects at 30 percent by 2018. In his remarks at the WEF, Majid Jaafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, noted that on average, over 25 percent of the region’s youth are currently unemployed and the figure is rising — expected to exceed 30 percent within five years, and already exceeding 50 percent in some countries.

Challenges to Accelerating Youth Employment

While there is universal agreement on the centrality of improving job opportunities for youth in the MENA, realistic programs and goal-setting are constrained by four fundamental factors:

1.   Availability of jobs: Throughout the region, from Mauritania and Morocco to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, there is a jobs deficit due either to a lack of opportunities, a mismatch between the job skills and those of the labor pool, gender restrictions, or perceptions of young people concerning available jobs.

2.   Lack of investment in projects that create jobs for nationals: Either there is not enough local and foreign investment to drive job creation, or projects are capital (energy) or skills intensive (construction, infrastructure), limiting opportunities for inexperienced local hires.

3.   Inefficient ecosystem supporting new business development: Onerous local labor regulations, lack of reasonable access to financing for start-ups and business expansion that inhibits entrepreneurship, perceived threats to existing unions and industries, and insufficient resources for targeted training and education combine to stifle growth.

4.   Need to coordinate and target international and national economic and technical assistance programs: Too often, well-meaning efforts are in silos within government ministries or agencies, and do not benefit from a broader perspective on closing the gap between education and employment and applying value chain analysis and similar tools to better utilize human investment dollars.

Agencies look to addressing their specific objectives rather than seeing how their efforts impact other agencies. For example, entrepreneurship, technical, and vocational training will benefit from closer coordination and sharing of resources to align programs to provide skills for trainees that enable them to make choices, rather than limit their options to certain trades.

Given the wealth and demographic differences among the MENA countries, there are few cookie-cutter approaches or “lessons learned” that can be applied across the region. Rather, a series of principles need to be defined in each case, informed by similar efforts in other parts of the world. As the Arab Competitiveness Report 2013 points out:

“North African economies face significant challenges related to labour-market efficiency and institutions. More labour-market flexibility and more efficient allocation of talent, as well as a fundamental overhaul of the institutional framework, will be crucial for creating growth and employment in these countries [Libya, Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria].”

While the required reforms may be conceptually and technically straightforward, the political, social, and economic stakeholders in each country will inevitably shape the policy outcomes.

Take the issue of facilitating skills acquisition by youth. With the majority of the populations in MENA between the ages of 15-35, there are few prognosticators who are willing to divine how that demographic surge is to be absorbed, particularly if greater female employment is an objective.