Middle East & North Africa

For most of the Middle East and North Africa region, the initial hope and optimism of the Arab Spring transitions has faded, with the notable exception of Tunisia, as the countries with the most promising transitions stalled or reversed course in their attempts to form democratic societies.

CIPE is committed to continuing to support its democratic partners in the region to help them weather this period of chaos and instability and play a leading role in building democratic institutions, now and in the future. CIPE supports reform-oriented private sector actors to influence the trajectory of transitions in their respective countries. CIPE strengthens the capacity of business associations and chambers to serve as the voice of the private sector in policymaking. CIPE helps improve governance by fostering transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors, and works with local partners to increase support for, and understanding of, the freedoms, rights, and responsibilities essential to market-oriented democracies.

Program Results & Impact

  • Tunisia: CIPE partner the Arab Institute of Business Leaders (IACE) played an active role in influencing the debate during Tunisian elections. IACE conducted roundtables with candidates and private sector leaders on issues of reform. It developed a Who’s Who directory of key actors for outreach; created a website, Kanas, to track politicians’ progress in fulfilling promises made; and made a web tool, Le Comparateur, which allowed voters to compare platforms across parties and issues. As a result, citizens were armed with information and tools with which to evaluate candidates and hold them accountable for their promises.

    CIPE also worked with the International Republican Institute to help political parties develop economic platforms and consider private sector viewpoints. CIPE’s work resulted in a more proactive, technical, and voter-centric approach to economic platform development.

  • Syria: CIPE partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) is generating real-time business and economic data from various governorates, through a network of liaisons to local councils inside Syria, including Aleppo, Idlib, Lattakia, and Deir Az-Zour. Data includes critical information such as currency exchange rates, industrial and agricultural production, prices of consumer staples, and energy supply. The resulting SEF policy papers are informing the work of decision makers in the democratic opposition, international and host communities, the private sector, and civil society. As a result, SEF stregthened the business community’s role in decision-making and helped ensure that services are delivered in a just manner that supports legitimate commercial activity.

    Addressing the tragic “lost generation” of Syrian youth, CIPE and SEF developed a civic education course for young high school graduates displaced by the war. The curriculum focuses on economics and business skills, as well as citizenship and democratic participation. To date, over 600 youth have participated in the course. As a result, the students generated new business ideas and are better prepared to participate in the rebuilding of their country

  • Egypt FEDA: CIPE partner the Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) engaged in a multiyear grassroots consensus-building process among its members to develop a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Reform Agenda and advocate to policymakers for its implementation. FEDA’s advocacy resulted in commitments in Egypt’s new constitution to develop the small business sector and to address the informal sector of entrepreneurs operating without the benefits and legal protections that are available to registered companies. Seven changes in tax policy favorable to small business came as a result of FEDA recommendations.

    Most significantly, FEDA’s advocacy resulted in a regulatory change allowing SMEs to fully own land in “new urban communities.” Full ownership frees SME owners to use the land as collateral on bank loans, thus increasing SMEs’ access to finance. Access to finance facilitates SME growth and urgently-needed job creation.

Read more about CIPE's programs in the Middle East & North Africa.

Publication by Region

The Role of the Private Sector in Improving Public Services in Arab Nations

Article at a glance:

  • Public service delivery in Arab countries, particularly Lebanon, is unsatisfactory due to misaligned incentives.
  • Ethical and competent public servants are unable to provide satisfactory goods and services because of the inefficient nature of state bureaucracy.
  • Replacing government bureaucracy with private enterprises or allowing the private sector to compete for customers in the provision of goods and services would improve experience, cost, delivery, and quality of life throughout the region.

Transitioning to Formality Road Map

This Handbook is designed to provide a comprehensive and realistic road map for integrating the informal sector in the

Celebrating Syrian Youth

Article at a glace:

  • The war in Syria has been especially hard on young people. Millions of children have been denied an education, and more than half of refugee children are out of school.
  • Young Syrians require the knowledge, skills, and encouragement to contribute constructively to their communities through civic engagement, starting and growing new businesses, and social entrepreneurship.
  • CIPE and the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) have introduced a new model of civic education that stands in stark contrast to the regime’s propaganda and the empty promises of extremist ideologies, helping a new generation of leaders acquire an understanding of democracy and economic freedom and justice, which are essential underpinnings in shaping the way that Syria is rebuilt.


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