How talented is the MENA? [Report]

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INSEAD Business School, Google and the Center for Economic Growth recently released this year’s edition of the Middle East and North Africa Talent Competitiveness Index (MTCI), a study ranking countries in the region based on their ability to attract, grow, and retain talent.


While the UAE ranked first among the MENA countries and made to the top 25 globally, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria appeared at the bottom of the list.

The numbers in the red boxes shown in the map below indicate the scores of all MENA countries which are also ranked based on their level of readiness for the future of work: well positioned (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain) mixed readiness (Kuwait and Jordan), less well positioned (Oman, Lebanon and Tunisia) and low readiness (Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria).

The numbers in the red boxes indicate the scores of all MENA (Map via Google, INSEAD and The Center for Economic Growth).

Startups as talents employers

The report focuses on the crucial role of the private sector in employing talent, and startups are no exception. Entrepreneurship has become recurrent in many Arab economic policies in which entrepreneurship is marketed as an engine that creates jobs.

The flourishing of entrepreneurial resources including incubators, accelerators, and venture capital entities in the MENA is a proof of the the ecosystem’s enhanced role.

Yet, policy makers have simply not streamlined legislative and regulatory frameworks to enable the development of tech startups and other high-growth industries. A major challenge is that of scalability which is hindered by three main interlinked factors: first fragmented markets which means that enterprises cannot easily expand from one country to another, second, the lack of a pan-regional payments systems and third, the steep tariffs and duties on cross border trade.

According to the report, most startups fail: globally, only 10 out of a hundred startups will employ more people and generate higher revenues compared to when they started. Therefore,  governments need to dedicate additional efforts to grow the number of firms in the scale-up phase. Otherwise, the report concludes, tech entrepreneurship will not be the main generator of employment in the MENA region.  

Towards a knowledge economy

In addition to increased attention to innovation and startups, the MENA is interested in diversifying its economy to include knowledge-based markets. The rise of automation and digitization has led to the need of a transition from labor intensive markets to those relying on intellectual capabilities.

The report shows that 17 out of the 22 countries in the Arab World have ‘identified the development of a knowledge-based economy as a medium to long-term economic policy objective’.

The scores show that Lebanon followed by Jordan rank the highest in the region in terms of producing ‘general knowledge’ skills. This refers to people who combine skills like leadership and creativity with global networks knowledge to achieve technological, scientific, or other innovations.

In conclusion, the report suggests that countries should look beyond skill formation and formal education, and to build a mature skills ecosystem within a strong private sector. To do that, to do so, governance systems must be improved while technology can help advance transparency and accountability, by enhancing policy making and by empowering greater citizen involvement.

Feature image via Pixabay.

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