Economic Research Forum (ERF)


Accelerating Africa’s economic transformation

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to exacerbate the move away from globalisation that began early this century and promote regionalisation around big economic blocs. This column, originally published at the LSE Business Review, explains how African countries have an opportunity to deepen regional integration and create their own value chains, transforming the raw materials that they have in abundance. Agribusiness could be as pivotal for Africa as coal and steel for Europe because of the benefits of food security and jobs for the continent.

Prospects for Sudan’s peace agreement in the shadow of the coup

The Juba Agreement for Power Sharing in Sudan (JAPS) signed in late 2020 raised hopes of ending almost two decades of internal armed conflict in Sudan, but the military coup of October 2021 has thrown doubt on whether the peace process can succeed. This column summarises research concluding that even without the coup, the JAPS alone would have been insufficient to bring peace and democracy to the country.

Getting the private sector to generate decent jobs in Arab countries

Formal private sector firms in Arab countries suffer from four overlapping labour market challenges: job creation, inequality, productivity and technology. As this column explains, proposed policy responses need to rise to the enormity of these challenges. They also need to take account of short-term interventions to address Covid-19, as well as medium and long-term solutions to structural problems.

MENA public healthcare systems: building resilience for future emergencies

The pandemic caught most countries in the Middle East and North Africa with underfinanced, imbalanced and ill-prepared healthcare systems. This column outlines what went wrong, the economic and health impacts, and the implications for policy. The authors conclude that together with a strong focus on building core public health functions, leveraging the power of data openness can help to promote the region’s recovery. It can also support resilient systems capable of responding to future health calamities arising from epidemics, wars and natural disasters driven by climate change.

Climate finance: poorer countries need it as a matter of urgency

Climate change will shrink the economies of rich, poor, hot and cold countries alike, and will make it more difficult and more expensive to raise the finance needed to decarbonise in the future. This column, which originally appeared on The Conversation website, argues that the cost of early action is far cheaper than the cost of delayed action. Mobilising climate finance is a win-win for both the developed and developing economies.

Energy subsidies: easy pickings for climate policy or political bombshell?

In the Middle East and North Africa, energy consumption is heavily subsidised, which has harmful environmental consequences. But reform of energy subsidies is politically difficult, not least because of limited government legitimacy and citizen distrust of authorities. This column argues for a new holistic approach to reform to account for the frail social contract that has prevailed for decades between elites and the broad population of the region.

Most read

Egypt’s care economy needs to address deteriorating working conditions

A robust and high-quality care economy is critical for supporting women’s employment – as both an employer of women and a mechanism for redistributing unpaid care work to the market. Yet in Egypt, despite national goals of expanding care services, employment in the sector has been shrinking, while becoming increasingly privatised. As this column reports, care jobs have also experienced worsening conditions of work, including reduced formality and the emergence of a pay penalty for care workers.

Unemployment among young women in GCC countries

The average rate of unemployment among young women in the high-income countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is far higher than the equivalent for young men. This column reports new evidence on the extent to which flexible labour markets, in the context of a generous social contract, can reduce female youth unemployment rates in the region.

Boosting trade through flexible rules of origin in preferential agreements

Rules of origin are critical components of preferential trade agreements designed to stop products coming in under insufficient transformation or through the partner that applies the lowest tariff. But in practice, these rules are often needlessly complex, undoing the benefits of market access associated with trade agreements. This column reports research showing that the adoption of more flexible product-specific rules of origin within preferential agreements would give a significant boost to global trade.

Challenges of GCC investment in the energy transition

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have identified the energy transition as a crucial area of growth and are investing heavily in a diverse array of projects. However, as this column explains, the region faces a number of challenges in making a success of these investments, most notably its current dependence on fossil fuels, a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, the high upfront costs, and geopolitical tensions.

The decline of social insurance in Egypt: directions for reform

The longstanding challenge for the Egyptian economy of providing its workers with decent, formal, socially insured jobs has become even more difficult. As this column explains, informality has been rising rather than falling, with a substantial reduction in social insurance coverage for the employed since the late 1990s. Reforms are needed to reverse this decline.

Social insurance in Egypt: between costly formality and legal informality

The rates of participation of Egyptian workers in contributory social insurance has continued to decline, even during times when the country has had positive annual growth rates. This column discusses key institutional elements in the design of the current social insurance scheme that have contributed to the growing gap in coverage, particularly the scheme’s cost and eligibility requirements.

Making trade agreements more environmentally friendly in the MENA region

Trade policy can play a significant role in efforts to decarbonise the global economy. But as this column explains, there need to be more environmental provisions in trade agreements in which developing countries participate – and stronger legal enforcement of those provisions at the international level. The MENA region would benefit substantially from such changes.

Jordan: navigating through multiple crises

Jordan’s real GDP per capita is today no higher than it was 40 years ago. While external factors have undoubtedly had an adverse effect on the country’s economic outcomes, weak macroeconomic management and low public spending on investment and the social sectors have also played a substantial role. This column explores what can be done to reduce high public debt, accelerate private sector development and enhance social outcomes.

Egypt and Iraq: amenities, environmental quality and taste for revolution

The Middle East and North Africa is a region marked by significant political turbulence. This column explores a novel dimension of these upheavals: the relationship between people’s satisfaction with, on one hand, the amenities to which they have access and the environmental quality they experience, and, on the other hand, their inclination towards revolutionary actions. The data come from the World Value Survey collected in 2018 in Egypt and Iraq.

Iran’s globalisation and Saudi Arabia’s defence budget

How might Saudi Arabia react to Iran's renewed participation in global trade and investment? This column explores whether the expanding economic globalisation of Iran, following the lifting of nuclear sanctions, could yield a peace dividend for Saudi Arabia, consequently dampening the Middle East arms competition. These issues have attracted increased attention in recent times, notably after a pivotal agreement between the two countries in March 2023, marking the resumption of their political ties after a seven-year conflict.