2011 was marked by the revolutionary and social movements of the “Arab Spring”, which started in Tunisia and Egypt (January 2011) before spreading to Syria, Yemen and, to a lesser extent, Jordan and Morocco. In 2011, AFD worked intensively to provide a response to the development challenges facing Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries, where the financial and economic situation sharply deteriorated within a profoundly changed political and social environment. One example is its contribution to the implementation of the “Deauville Partnership”, launched by the French President at the G8 Summit in Deauville on 26 and 27 May 2011, through both the implementation of the Recovery Support Plan (PAR) in Tunisia and the launch of new project appraisals in Egypt in the informal housing and agricultural SME sectors.
2011 was a positive year for AFD’s activity in Morocco, where its commitments rose to €541m, i.e. almost 50% of AFD’s total commitment authorizations in the region (€1,127m). The year was, however, marked by the suspension of our activities in Yemen and Syria.
Finally, 2011 provided the opportunit:
- to strengthen our relations with the European Union under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF)
- to pursue operational knowledge production on the topics of urban transport and water demand management with the Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI).
2012 has begun with the adoption of a new strategy paper, the Regional Intervention Framework 2012-2014, which defines three objectives for AFD Group operations in the Mediterranean and Middle East:
- to create added value and quality jobs
- to reduce social and regional inequalities
- to improve the quality of life for communities, notably through the management of scarce natural capital (trees, land and water).
Youth employment is a key issue and a major challenge for countries in the troubled Mediterranean region. Yet it is difficult to come up with solutions, as the problems facing the governments in these countries are interlinked and the scope for action is often too limited, explains Emmanuel Comolet, an AFD economist specialized in the region.
What action can AFD take to improve the employment situation in the Mediterranean region?
Two years on from the beginning of the Arab revolutions, the employment situation continues to be a key issue. It is both a symptom and a result of the economic, social and political contract that is currently being overhauled in a number of Southern Mediterranean countries.
With its dual role as a bank and development agency, AFD works to meet these economic and social challenges by using all the instruments that it and its partners – especially European partners – have at their disposal.
AFD consequently finances projects that support employment (reintegration, employment aid, business start-ups) and vocational training projects to make young people more employable. It also takes part in reflection on public policies related to employment issues (particularly through partnerships, the organization of conferences, workshops, etc.).
It achieves this via loans and grants to governments, loans to vocational training centers, assistance to build its partners’ skills, support for NGOs who set up youth integration systems, etc..
Maroc, mechanical engineering formation
What are AFD’s main projects in terms of employment and/or training in the Mediterranean region?
Tunisia and Morocco have been implementing programs to upgrade training and employment for several years now. They have benefited from financial and technical assistance from AFD and other donors. These programs are systematically based on partnerships with professional sectors and have helped create or restructure a number of vocational training centers.
AFD is also supporting the private sector under the Palestinian National Development Plan via a grant that aims to make businesses more competitive and develop the local market.
Furthermore, AFD leads a series of workshops on employment and training policies with the Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), at the request of the authorities in the countries in question and in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders from the North and South. The first two meetings for this program were held in Tunisia (in 2011) and Egypt (in 2012) and two others have been scheduled in 2013 and 2014.
Egypte © Didier Gentilhomme
Do these projects pay off? What are the obstacles to the success of these projects?
We can only remain humble in the light of the results. Countries in the region need to come up with an economic future and continue their political transition. As both job creation and democracy are not like instant coffee, the transitions could still last several years. With an extremely low activity rate for people of working age (under 50%) and worsening economic situations, the return to strong and job-creating growth requires the involvement of international stakeholders. They are already numerous and France and AFD have a role to play with them.).
If the political spring seems achieved in some countries, in some others, the situation is still chaotic, resulting in a certain inertia in the decision making process, and procrastination in the stabilization of an economical perspective (especially about the government’s role and the use of subsidies, the fields to give a priority to, and the introduction into the global economy).