The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have been in turmoil ever since I learned how to spell “Middle” and “East.” People there turn violent in the name of religion; they oppress women; they use young children as suicide bombers; they breed terrorists and they still seem to live in the medieval era except for some gulf states like UAR or Kuwait.
There is truth to the above statement, but the West’s engagement with the region is also a great factor in their cynicism, anger, frustration and radicalism. We cannot ignore the argument that their anger at the West’s foreign policy, political exploitation (for their own self-interest) are at the heart of MENA’s anger and upheaval.
We cannot also ignore the fact that, in the most cases, people in MENA are uneducated and unemployed. Had the West spent even a fraction of the cost of insatiable and indefatigable bombing on education and opening manufacturing establishments, the story would have been far opposite of what we witness and hear about them incessantly. I am not ignoring the fact that there are other factors for their state of affairs such as internal fighting, tribalism and political struggle for power by their leaders.
1. Here are some statistical facts about the folks in that region according to the World Bank:
54% of the people in MENA region are unemployed.
2. Among the educated with university degrees, 30% are unemployed and unemployable.
3. They have no source of legitimate employment other than joining scarce public sector jobs.
It should be very obvious to the world leaders and critics that MENA needs help which can be provided by investing in schools and skill centers so that people there can think beyond the box and be employable. We need to be working inside those countries to provide expertise and challenge the status-quo in regards to a lack of education and skills.
Technological and industrial transformation of the region is essential to employment. The big companies can start with opening small facilities in those regions jointly with the public sector. MENA-OECD (Middle East and North Africa – Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) has started this initiative. The big business houses need to work with them as responsible social and global citizens.
Let’s think this way, when an alarming number of erudite lack sense and sensibility giving rise to blind partisanship and constant bickering, what can be expected from those who are at the bottom rung of the food chain? It’s time to halt the bombing and start balming.