Monocolumn: Maghreb Focus: Time To Pull Together

One of the sparks for the political unrest that has erupted across North Africa was frustration over the lack of jobs and the rising price of food. So any new governments ushered in by the wave of popular protests won’t have a very long honeymoon.

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

One of the sparks for the political unrest that has erupted across North Africa was frustration over the lack of jobs and the rising price of food. So any new governments ushered in by the wave of popular protests won’t have a very long honeymoon. They will immediately face a huge challenge to create jobs for this frustrated population, and to do that, not only do these countries need change within, they need to work much more closely with each other.

Until now, North Africa has focused on doing business with the EU and countries even further away. Despite their cultural similarities and geographical proximity, these regional neighbours do virtually no business with each other. The last estimate, by the World Bank, said trade within the countries of the Maghreb amounted to less than 3 per cent of their trade.

“Lack of integration is stopping these countries growing,” says Eavan O’Halloran at the World Bank’s office in the Moroccan capital Rabat. “They are losing out by not trading with each other.”

The World Bank also calculates that all countries could increase their national earnings by trading as bloc with other regions, not just as individual countries.

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