North Africa and the Middle East: economic rights of women are still incomplete

  • 29 October 2012

A study on the Economic Rights of Women in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia was presented in Rome, during the visit of seven Libyan entrepreneurs organized by the Association “Pari o Dispare” with the support of Italian Minister of Foreign Countries and of the Eni.

The study showed alarming statistics. Based on data from OECD, World Bank, UNHCR and ILO, in the Middle East and North Africa, only the 22% of the female population is employed. The percentage rises slightly, to 27% if we refer to the averages of data on women employment in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

These represent the lower levels found in the world, while the apex of female employment (70%) is record in the Far East and the Pacific. The 64% of European women are employed, as many as those in sub-Saharan Africa (also taking into account those employed in agriculture).
In order to increase the GDP of the Development Countries, the increase in female employment and entrepreneurship is considered one of the possible solutions. According to this, for example, the Egyptian GDP in 2020 would increase by 34% if the number of women and men employed will be equal.

The Egyptian, Jordan, Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian constitutions guarantee economic rights to both sexes, nevertheless there are limits imposed by religion and families traditions.

It is important to remember that, although with some reservations, all of these five Countries signed the United Nations Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Women of these countries, despite everything, have lots of difficulty in conducting entrepreneurial work, because of the difficulty in traveling (in Egypt and Jordan a woman can get the passport only after and explicit declaration of her husband) and the general because of the lack of autonomy and independence (according to Islamic law a woman must obey her husband).

In addition, some economic rights are currently not yet required by these countries legislations: for example, equal salary is not formally guaranteed in Tunisia, the prohibition of sex discrimination is not guaranteed in Egypt and Jordan, sexual harassment in the workplace are not considered a criminal offense in four of the five countries studied (the only exception is Morocco) and lastly the option to start legal action is still lacking in Egypt and Jordan.

The European Commission announces new initiatives to boost private investment in the Neighbourhood

  • 27 October 2012

Two new initiatives to boost private investment in the Neighbourhood region were presented in Brussels at the Strategic Board meeting of the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF, that consists of the European External Action Service, the European Commission and Member States. Neighbourhood Partner Countries and European Public Finance Institutions attend as observers.)

The first initiative is about the Investment Security in the Mediterranean Region (ISMED) Support Programme will be implemented together with the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and aims to enhance investment security in the Mediterranean region. The programme will carry out assessments to evaluate the level of investment protection provided by the local authorities, identify gaps and make recommendations to address them. €1.5 million are foreseen for this programme.

Secondly, the ISMED Risk and Cost Sharing Toolkit of the NIF will provide targeted measures like support to risk-sharing mechanisms (making funds available to help private investors by reducing their exposure to risk) and guarantee schemes addressing risk as a major obstacle for private investments. A sizeable part of the €220 million EU grants expected to be available to the Neighbourhood Investment facility until the end of 2013 will serve to underpin this important initiative.

This could leverage resources from European Public Finance Institutions and private investors of at least €2 billion for different infrastructure projects in the Neighbourhood region.

Financing and implementing large infrastructure projects requires considerable financial resources. The NIF is aimed at creating a ‘partnership’, pooling together grant resources from the EU Budget and the EU Member States and using them to leverage loans from European Finance Institutions as well as own contributions from the ENP partner countries. Accordingly, to receive a grant contribution from the NIF, a project must be financed by an eligible European Finance Institution.

Since it was set up in 2008 the Facility has made available almost €600 million for important investment projects in EU Partner Countries. Blended with loans from European public finance institutions of about €8 billion, this strategic use of EU grants has unlocked a total project financing of at least €18 billion for EU development objectives. Until today most of the support from the NIF was made to public investments.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, said: “I welcome the ISMED Support Programme as a concrete example of our good cooperation with the OECD and I am very glad that today we are launching a new toolkit under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility to support private investments in the entire Neighbourhood region. These innovative tools are designed to help our partner countries to attract much needed investments from the private sector for large infrastructure projects more effectively. This should have a positive impact on growth, jobs and the daily life of people in the region”.

Officially launched in May 2008, the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) is an innovative financial instrument of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), whose primary objective is to finance with a mix of grants and loans key infrastructure projects in the transport, energy, social and environment sectors, as well as to support private sector development (in particular SMEs) in the Neighbourhood Region.


  • 18 October 2012




–          Location: Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey

–          Total area: 131,957 km2

–          Capital: Athens

–          Natural resources: lignite, petroleum, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, nickel, magnesite, marble, salt, hydropower potential

–          Natural hazards: severe earthquakes and volcanism: Santorini (elev. 367 m) has been deemed a “Decade Volcano” by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, worthy of study due to its explosive history and close proximity to human populations; although there have been very few eruptions in recent centuries, Methana and Nisyros in the Aegean are classified as historically active.

–          Environment current issues: air pollution; water pollution




–          Population: 10,767,827 (July 2012 est.)

–          Median age: 42.8 years

–          Population growth rate: 0.06%

–          Birth rate: 9.08 births/1.000 population

–          Death rate: 10.8 deaths/1.000 population

–          Urban population: 61% of total population

–          Rate of urbanization: 0.6% annual rate of change

–          Ethnic groups: Greek 93%, other (foreign citizens) 7% (2001 census)

–      Languages: Greek (official) 99%, other (includes English and French) 1%

–          Religions: Greek Orthodox (official) 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%

–          Literacy rate:  96% (male: 97.8%, female: 94.2%).




–          Government type: Parliamentary Republic

–          Independence: 1830 (from Ottoman Empire)

–          Constitution: 11 June 1975

–          Suffrage: universal.




Greece has a capitalist economy with a public sector accounting for about 40% of GDP and with per capita GDP about two-thirds that of the leading euro-zone economies. Tourism provides 15% of GDP. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, mainly in agricultural and unskilled jobs.

Greece is a major beneficiary of EU aid, equal to about 3.3% of annual GDP. The Greek economy grew by nearly 4% per year between 2003 and 2007, due partly to infrastructural spending related to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and in part to an increased availability of credit, which has sustained record levels of consumer spending.

But the economy went into recession in 2009 as a result of the world financial crisis, tightening credit conditions, and Athens’ failure to address a growing budget deficit. The economy contracted by 2.3% in 2009, 3.5% in 2010, and 6.0% in 2011. Greece violated the EU’s Growth and Stability Pact budget deficit criterion of no more than 3% of GDP from 2001 to 2006, but finally met that criterion in 2007-08, before exceeding it again in 2009, with the deficit reaching 15% of GDP.

Austerity measures reduced the deficit to 11% of GDP in 2010 and about 9% in 2011. Eroding public finances, inaccurate and misreported statistics, and consistent underperformance on reforms prompted major credit rating agencies in late 2009 to downgrade Greece’s international debt rating, and has led the country into a financial crisis.

Under intense pressure from the EU and international market participants, the government adopted a medium-term austerity program that includes cutting government spending, decreasing tax evasion, reworking the health-care and pension systems, and reforming the labor and product markets. Athens, however, faces long-term challenges to push through unpopular reforms in the face of widespread unrest from the country’s powerful labor unions and the general public.

In April 2010 a leading credit agency assigned Greek debt its lowest possible credit rating; in May 2010, the International Monetary Fund and Euro zone governments provided Greece emergency short- and medium-term loans worth $147 billion so that the country could make debt repayments to creditors.

In exchange for the largest bailout ever assembled, the government announced combined spending cuts and tax increases totaling $40 billion over three years, on top of the tough austerity measures already taken.

Greece, however, struggled to meet 2010 targets set by the EU and the IMF, especially after Eurostat – the EU’s statistical office – revised upward Greece’s deficit and debt numbers for 2009 and 2010.

European leaders and the IMF agreed in October 2011 to provide Athens a second bailout package of $169 billion.

The second deal however, calls for Greece’s creditors to write down a significant portion of their Greek government bond holdings.

In exchange for the second loan Greece has promised to introduce an additional $7.8 billion in austerity measures during 2013-15.

However, these massive austerity cuts are lengthening Greece’s economic recession and depressing tax revenues.

Greece’s lenders are calling on Athens to step up efforts to increase tax collection, privatize public enterprises, and rein in health spending, and are planning to give Greece more time to shore up its economy and finances. Many investors doubt that Greece can sustain fiscal efforts in the face of a bleak economic outlook, public discontent, and political instability.


–          Currency : Euro

–          GDP (Gross Domestic Product): $298.1 billion (2011 est.)

–          GDP-per capita: $26,600 (2011 est.)

–          Real growth rate: -6.9% (2011 est.)

–          Unemployment rate: 17.3% (2011 est.)

–          Public debt: 161.7% of GDP (2011 est.)

–          Inflation rate: 3.3% (2011 est.)

–          Central Bank discount rate: 1.75% (31/12/2011)



–          Agriculture : wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, olives, tomatoes, wine, tobacco, potatoes; beef, dairy products

–          Industries: tourism, food and tobacco processing, textiles, chemicals, metal products; mining, petroleum

–          Industrial production growth rate: -8.5%


Energy sector:


–          Electricity:

  • Production: 57.11 billion kWh
  • Consumption: 58.71 billion kWh
  • Exports: 2.571 billion kWh
  • Imports: 8.571 billion kWh


–          Crude Oil:

  • Production: 1,751 bbl/day (2011 est.)
  • Exports: 19,960 bbl/day (2009 est.)
  • Imports: 355,600 bbl/day (2009 est.)
  • Proved reserves: 10 million bbl (2012 est.)


–          Refined Petroleum products:

  • Production: 440,200 bbl/day (2009 est.)
  • Consumption: 343,400 bbl/day (2011 est.)
  • Exports: 161,400 bbl/day (2009 est.)
  • Imports: 140,800 bbl/day (2009 est.)


–          Natural gas:

  • Production:  1 million cu m (2010 est.)
  • Consumption: 4.737 billion cu m (2011 est.)
  • Exports: 4.762 billion cu m (2011 est.)
  • Imports: 0 cu m (2011 est.)
  • Proved reserves: 991.1 million cu m (2012 est.)


–          Current account balance: $-29.32 billion (2011 est.)


–          Exports: $28.16 billion

  • Commodities: food and beverages, manufactured goods, petroleum products, chemicals, textiles
  • Main exports partners: Italy (9.6%), Germany (8%), Bulgaria (5.6%), US (5.1%), China (5.1%), Switzerland (4.7%), Belgium (4.7%), (Poland 4.4%).


–          Imports: $ 566.04 billion

  • Commodities: machinery, transport equipment, fuels, chemicals
  • Main imports partners: Germany (10.7%), Italy (9.3%), China (7.1%), Netherlands (5.5%), France (5.1%), Austria (4.5%), Russia (4.2%), and Czech Republic (4.1%).


–          Reserves of foreign exchange and gold : $6.9 billion


–          External debt: $583.3 billion (2011 est.)


–          Stock of direct foreign investment :

  • At home : $35.45 billion
  • Abroad : $41.67 billion




–          Airports : 82

–          Railways : 2,548 km

–          Roadways : 116,711 km

–          Ports and terminals : Agioi Theodoroi, Aspropyrgos, Pachi, Piraeus, Thessaloniki

Political and economic arrangements between Egypt and Turkey are consolidating

  • 11 October 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Turkey, at the beginning of October, on the occasion of the Congress of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is currently the head of the Turkish Republic.

This short trip was very useful for the Egyptians. The President Morsi, in fact, signed an agreement on economic cooperation with the Turkish Prime Minister, Islamic and nationalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This grant provided a loan of two billion dollars to Egypt. In addition, the relationship between the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood has been strengthened.

There are many similarities between these two parties: both are the expression of Sunni Islam and both enjoy a large popular support. However, the choices made by AKP and by Muslim Brotherhood, once in government, are very different.

After the fall of Hosni Mubarak, in February 2011, the relations between the Muslims Brotherhood and Erdogan’s party, and therefore those two countries, have been strengthened.

In fact on March of the same year, Turkish President Abdullah Gül, become the first head of state to meet in Cairo the leaders of the main parties and the youth of Tahrir Square.

In addiction the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu traveled to Egypt several times, and there are rumors about the economic support of the Muslim Brotherhood campaign, by the AKP.

This last two years Egypt and Turkey are more closed, also because the rupture of relations between Turkey and Israel.

Turkey, in fact, was the first Muslim Country to recognize Israel in 1949. Also, during these 50 years, the relations between the two countries are complicated. Turkey was influenced by the relations with the Arab countries of the Middle East.

Regarding the relationship with Turkey, Israel use in the ‘50s the “peripheral strategy”, namely an alliance with other non-Arab        Countries in the region (such as Iran) and support for minorities in Arab Countries (such as the Maronite Christians in Lebanon and the Kurds in Iraq).

The secret agreement signed between Israel and Turkey in 1958 is the lowest point of relations between Egypt and Turkey. Things begin to improve until the second half of the ‘60s, when Turkey began a rapprochement with the Arab and Muslim.

The final rupture of relations between Israel and Turkey was caused by the Israeli attack on Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla in May 2010 that wanted to stop the blockade of Gaza (which Israel imposed for a period of six years).

The rapprochement between Egypt and Turkey become a reality since Justice and Development Party come to power in Ankara, in 2002, and since the new Turkish foreign policy, called the “neo-Ottomanism”, is adopted. The neo-Ottomanism is the intent to defend Turkish national interests, and protect those of other Muslim peoples of the region, in spite of the interests of non-Muslims.

The connection between Egypt and Turkey grow also in the economic field: in January of 2011 was created to promote the end of economic cooperation in the Middle East, an area of ​​free trade, which includes the two Countries, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Also a bilateral agreement is signed in the field of transport (which would transform Egypt into a hub for Turkish goods that travelling to Africa and to the Gulf Countries).

Finally, the Egyptian president proposed, on the occasion of his visit to Ankara, to delete entry visas between the two Countries and invited Turkish businessmen to invest safely in Egypt.


  • 10 October 2012



–          Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Libya and the Gaza Strip, and the Red Sea north of Sudan, and includes the Asian Sinai Peninsula

–          Total area: 1,001,450 km2

–          Capital: Cairo

–          Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, manganese, limestone, gypsum, talc, asbestos, lead, rare earth elements, zinc.

–          Natural hazards: periodic droughts; frequent earthquakes; flash floods; landslides; hot, driving windstorms called Khamsin occur in spring; dust storms; sandstorms

–          Environment current issues: agricultural land being lost to urbanization and windblown sands; increasing soil salination below Aswan High Dam; desertification; oil pollution threatening coral reefs, beaches, and marine habitats; other water pollution from agricultural pesticides, raw sewage, and industrial effluents; limited natural freshwater resources away from the Nile, which is the only perennial water source; rapid growth in population overstraining the Nile and natural resources.




–          Population: 83,688,164 (July 2012 est.)

–          Median age: 24.6 years

–          Population growth rate: 1.922%

–          Birth rate: 24.22 births/1.000 population

–          Death rate: 4.8 deaths/1.000 population

–          Urban population: 43.4% of total population

–          Rate of urbanization: 2.1% annual rate of change

–          Ethnic groups: Egyptian 99.06%, other 0.04%

–          Languages: Arabic (official), English, French

–          Religions: Sunni Muslim 90%, Coptic 9% and other Christian 1%

–          Literacy rate:  72%  (male: 80.3%, female: 63.5% ).




–          Government type: Republic

–          Independence: 28 February 1922 (from UK protectorate status)

–          Constitution: provisional constitution passed by referendum 19 March 2011; adopted 30 March 2011.

–          Suffrage: universal.




Occupying the northeast corner of the African continent, Egypt is bisected by the highly fertile Nile valley, where most economic activity takes place. Egypt’s economy was highly centralized during the rule of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser but opened up considerably under former Presidents Anwar El-Sadat and Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.

Cairo from 2004 to 2008 aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth. Despite the relatively high levels of economic growth in recent years, living conditions for the average Egyptian remained poor and contributed to public discontent.

After unrest erupted in January 2011, the Egyptian Government drastically increased social spending to address public dissatisfaction, but political uncertainty at the same time caused economic growth to slow significantly, reducing the government’s revenues.

Egyptian youth and opposition groups, inspired by events in Tunisia leading to overthrow of the government there, organized a “Day of Rage” campaign on 25 January 2011 (Police Day) to include non-violent demonstrations, marches, and labor strikes in Cairo and other cities throughout Egypt. Protester grievances focused on police brutality, state emergency laws, lack of free speech and elections, high unemployment, rising food prices, inflation, and low minimum wages.

Tourism, manufacturing, and construction are among the hardest hit sectors of the Egyptian economy, and economic growth is likely to remain slow at least through 2012. The government is utilizing foreign exchange reserves to support the Egyptian pound and Egypt may seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund.


–          Currency : Egyptian pound

–          GDP (Gross Domestic Product): $525.6 billion

–          GDP-per capita: $6,600

–          Real growth rate : 1.8%

–          Unemployment rate: 12.2%

–          Public debt: 83.4% of GDP

–          Inflation rate : 10.2% (2011)

–          Central Bank discount rate: 8.68%


Production :

–          Agriculture : cotton, rice, corn, wheat, beans, fruits, vegetables; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats.

–          Industries: textiles, food processing, tourism, chemicals,
pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbons, construction, cement, metals, light manufactures

–          Industrial production growth rate : 0.5%


Energy sector:

–          Electricity:

  • Production: 123.9 billion kWh
  • Consumption: 109.1 billion kWh
  • Exports: 1.022 billion kWh
  • Imports: 896 million kWh

–          Oil:

  • Production: 662,500 bbl/day
  • Consumption: 740,000 bbl/day
  • Exports : 163,000 million bbl/day
  • Imports: 177,200 bbl/day
  • Proved reserves : 4.4 billion bbl


–          Natural gas:

  • Production:  62.69 billion cu m
  • Consumption: 44.37 billion cu m
  • Exports: 18.32 billion cu m
  • Imports: 0 cu m
  • Proved reserves : 2.186 trillion cu m


–          Current account balance : $-5.422 billion


–          Exports: $27.91 billion

  • Commodities: petroleum, petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals, processed food.
  • Main exports partners: Italy (8.8%), Germany (5.5%), US (5.5%), India (5.2%), Saudi Arabia (5.1%), Spain (4.7%), France (4.5%).


–          Imports: $ 53.97 billion

  • Commodities: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, wood products, fuels.
  • Main imports partners : China (11.5%), US (9.8%), Italy (5.6%), Germany (4.9%), Turkey (4.4%), Brazil (4.1%)


–          Reserves of foreign exchange and gold : $183.1 billion


–          External debt : $17.66 billion



–          Stock of direct foreign investment :

  • At home : $72.61 billion
  • Abroad : $6.073 billion



Transportation :

–          Airports : 82

–          Railways : 5,083 km

–          Roadways : 65,050 km

–          Ports and terminals : Ayn Sukhnah, Alexandria, Damietta, El Dekheila, Port Said, Sidi Kurayr, Suez