Modern Diplomacy advises that in Iraq: an Urgent Call for Education Reforms to Ensure Learning for All Children is nowadays a requirement that is not only to prepare people for life, with all knowledge and skills to contribute to a thriving society. It is to be noted that Iraq historically witnessed writing in its earliest form as a means of communication and education, etc.
Learning levels in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and are likely to decline even further because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education service delivery, including prolonged school closures.
These low learning levels are putting the future of Iraqi children and the country at risk. A new World Bank report says that while, now more than ever, investments are needed in education to recover lost learning and turn crisis into opportunity, these investments must be accompanied by a comprehensive reform agenda that focuses the system on learning outcomes and builds a more resilient education system for all children.
Human capital is essential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. However, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born in Iraq today will reach, on average, only 41% of their potential productivity when they grow up.
At the heart of Iraq’s human capital crisis is a learning crisis, with far-reaching implications. Iraq’s poor performance on the HCI is largely attributed to its low learning levels. COVID-19 has led to intermittent school closures across Iraq, impacting more than 11 million Iraqi students since February 2020. This report highlights that, with schools closed over 75% of the time and opportunities for remote learning limited and unequal, Iraqi children are facing another reduction of learning‑adjusted years of schooling. Effectively, students in Iraq are facing more than a “lost year” of learning.
“Iraq can use lessons learned from the current health crisis, turn recovery into opportunity, and “build forward better,” to ensure it provides learning opportunities for all Iraqi children especially its poorest and most vulnerable children” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “The World Bank is ready to support Iraq in building a more equitable and resilient post-COVID-19 education system that ensures learning for all children and generates the dividends for faster and more inclusive growth”.
The report Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path puts forward for discussion sector-wide reform recommendations, focusing on immediate crisis response as well as medium and long-term needs across six key strategic areas:
1. Engaging in an Emergency Crisis response through the mitigation of immediate learning loss and prevention of further dropouts.
2. Improving foundational skills to set a trajectory for learning through improved learning & teaching materials and strengthened teacher practices with a focus on learning for all children.
3. Focusing on the most urgently needed investments, while ensuring better utilization of resources.
4. Improving the governance of the education sector and promoting evidence‑based decision‑making.
5. Developing and implementing an education sector strategy that focuses on learning and “building forward better”.
6. Aligning skills with labor market needs through targeted programs and reforms.
Hadi Khatib of IMFInfo.com asks what are some Favorite destinations in the Arab world for Digital Nomads and provides answers that would not be a surprise for anyone who knows the MENA region. But before we get into Hadi’s thoughts, here are some of Kamel Daoud‘s in his latest article in Liberte. It summarises well our situation at this conjecture, specifically that of the MENA region.
Strange paradox: the journey dies in the very century that has overcome gravity, distance, arduousness. As if after inventing so many Herculean engines, it is the vengeful immobility that becomes our lot.
Flying today? It is a long, expensive act, which requires availability, compelling reasons, health tests, a rare visa and other passage documents.
Go to sea? It goes through death, or shipwreck, or uprooting. It is no longer a journey, but a swim against the current.
Here is Hadi Khatib’s
What are some favorite destinations in the Arab world for digital nomads?
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe
Entrepreneurs and young CEOs may be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living
The Arab world has quite a few places where remote work is possible
The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe.
The UAE recognized this role and issue a special visa to attract those workers. Dubai’s Remote Work Visa provides digital nomads with the chance of mixing business with pleasure. Valid for one year, requirements extend to providing proof of employment with a minimum income of $5,000 per month, or proof of ownership of a company. The fee is $611 and must be accompanied by valid health insurance with UAE coverage.
But, as COVID-19 winds down, is a return to the office imminent? Airbnb’s introduction of long-term rentals is one indication that this model for work-life balance may have some staying power. Just like desert nomads, digital nomads are not always on the move, and often settle for periods of time before moving on again.
Who are digital nomads?
Digital nomads are mostly freelancers – the likes of bloggers, writers, editors, content creators, web programmers, translators, consultants, and photographers. Additionally, entrepreneurs and young CEOs may also be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities.
Digital nomads are typically drawn to destinations that meet certain requirements and that are anchored by accessible visas that allow them to legally stay in a foreign destination for a good amount of time.
While remote and exotic locations certainly are attractive, these places could quickly lose their appeal if they lack strong and reliable internet connections.
Costs of living
Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living. When paying the bills, like rent, electricity, groceries, and internet becomes a concern, it’s time to return to nomad life again.
Crime rates and safety ratings
Nomads like the presence of other nomads to hang out and share war stories with. Without them, they could feel isolated and dependent on the friendliness of locals. One thing that must be taken into consideration when choosing a destination is whether locals like foreigners and whether or not crimes rates are high.
Morocco has multiple cities that are fun to explore, such as Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, and many more. If you’re more of a beach person, Morocco has that too. English, Arabic and French languages are spoken. It’s pretty safe as a country and visas are relatively easy if you have a passport from a Western country.
You can stay in Morocco for up to 90 days with a tourist visa, which is easily extendible. In the cities, Morocco has pretty good internet access whether it is through cafes and hotels. There are also options to buy data plans for relatively cheap. Outside the cities, though, it might be tougher to find places with strong internet, but they do exist.
Morocco has multiple residence options depending on your budget. There are hostels (the cheapest option) and Riads (hotels typically created from houses in the medinas, and are the most expensive option), and many choices in between. As for the cost of living, Morocco is cheaper than the US.
Tunis, the capital, is right on the coast and is a great place for remote work. There are many places to travel to within Tunisia to see beautiful landscapes and historic ruins. People do speak English, especially in cities, but not everyone. Tunisia is also pretty safe. The tourist visa for Tunisia allows for stays up to 90 days and is free for people with US passports. Longer than that, though, and you will need to fill out another application and pay for another type of visa. The visa application is now available online.
Internet speed in some places in Tunisia is slower than in other countries, which does make it harder for remote work, but there are places with faster internet.
With amazing places to visit like Petra or Aqab, Jordan makes an amazing country for digital nomads to work from. Jordan has a lot of places to visit, food to try, and sites to explore. Many Jordanians in Amman speak English and overall, Jordan is safe.
In Jordan, the visa process is simple. You can get a visa at the border for single entry, two entries, or multiple entries. The single-entry visa is $56.50 and is valid for 30 days.
The prices of the visas increase from there. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, you have to register at a police station.
For internet access, there are many cafes in Amman that have internet. In addition, data plans are available to buy and are somewhat cheap.
Airbnb, hostels, and renting from locals is available. To get around in Amman, taxis are probably the best option.
The cost of living in Jordan is more expensive than in Morocco or Tunisia, although the food is cheaper than in the US. On average, the cost of living is about $1330/month.
Egypt has many places to visit including Alexandria, Luxor, Dahab, and more. Not every place in Egypt has Ancient Egyptian sites, but there are places that have beaches and are fun to explore. Not everyone speaks English but you’ll find help with the language very quickly. Egypt is relatively safe.
The visa process for Egypt is different than the other countries. A tourist visa for someone from the US costs $25 and is good for 30 days only. Beyond that, you will probably have to get a visa before traveling, which is available either online or at an embassy.
Internet in Egypt is typically pretty slow. It would be hard for digital nomads to use the internet, but in some places, like in Dahab, Egypt, there are good spots for the internet. Beyond that, though, it might be better to get a modem or find a “coworking space” to work in.
Hostels are good options for long-term stays.
As for the cost of living, Egypt is much cheaper than the U.S. The average cost of living for a single person in Egypt is $750/month, with some variance in cities.
Makarochkina, Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations at Schneider Electric, highlights how the data centre industry in MENA can benefit from the recovery in economies across the region
With an end in sight to the major public health measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, recovery and renewed development is high on every business agenda.
The data centre sector in the Middle East and North Africa is poised to take advantage of the recovery in economies across the region, as businesses and consumers adapt to new realities, while also looking forward to new opportunities.
With forecasts of significant growth in spending, there is an unprecedented opportunity for the sector to achieve digital transformation goals, incorporate new technologies and build a base of sustainability that will see it thrive into the future.
According to a recent report from IDC, after a contraction of some 4.9% in 2020, IT spending across the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) will make a return to growth this year, increasing 2.8% to $77.5 billion. Furthermore, spending on digital transformation is set to accelerate in the post-pandemic period, increasing from 25% of total IT spending in 2020 to 37% by 2024.
Within that spending intent, the analyst reports that public cloud services spend will grow 26.7% to $3.7 billion, with SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS spend growing 24.5%, 30.6%, and 30.7%, respectively. Attendant with this is a professional cloud services spend growth to a total $1.6 billion.
The spend is reflective of the growth in demand for cloud services generally, combined with the pandemic effect that drove many consumers and business increasingly online for all manner of services.
From a data centre operator perspective, the pandemic has had many distinct effects. Not only is there a growth in demand, but it has been combined with limited access for hands-on operations, a general skills shortage and an increased requirement for resilience and availability.
To adapt to the increasing complexities of the industry, data centers and providers are shifting their priorities to meet the unique needs of these facilities who are facing numerous challenges from these growing, complex environments.
The general skills shortage in the technology sector across the region, combined with the desire for increased availability and resilience, is also driving renewed interest in preventative maintenance for the data centre. With the new levels of instrumentation available and greater capacity to monitor and manage infrastructure, preventative maintenance will be more effective than ever in reducing downtime, increasing availability and improving total cost of ownership, allowing operators to best leverage what specialist skills are available.
For the required growth in capacity to be met quickly, modular approaches to data centres are being widely adopted, further reducing the demand for skilled technicians on the ground. It is expected this approach will also deliver benefits for energy efficiency and operational costs while bringing capacity online quicker.
New approaches to enterprise architecture are being adopted too, in the form of cloud-based integrated digital platforms to span silos of data and services. IDC had highlighted siloed initiatives as a potential stumbling block for digital transformation efforts in the region. It had reported that 44% of organisations in the region said their digital transformation initiatives are not integrated, and more than half (51%) highlighted siloed data as a challenge, driven by limited understanding of existing data assets and a lack of enterprise-wide data management. Almost two thirds (62%) of organisations reported concern over siloed technology environments.
To continue to attract investment in the sector, data centre operators will need to have sustainability at the core of activities, with transparency and standardised reporting. A key factor in these sustainability efforts will be energy supply and consumption. Recent information from market data firm MEED Insight has found that so far in 2021, renewable energy project contract awards in the region have surpassed those for conventional power plant projects.
Building on this momentum, it will be possible for data centre operators to engage in power purchase agreements (PPA) for energy from renewable sources. PPAs will contribute significantly to reducing carbon footprints overall, while driving the development of RES generally in the region, with wider benefits for all from an increased supply of clean, renewable energy.
Challenge and opportunity
Despite challenges such as skills shortages, siloed initiatives, and changing patterns of usage and demand, the advent of new technologies, increasing supplies of renewable energy, and targeted investment, mean that the data centre sector in the MENA region will have the resources and the demand to grow significantly while building in the latest technologies to achieve new levels of service and sustainability.
As the market for data services becomes increasingly global, the unique characteristics of the region can build a vibrant industry, leading in digital transformation. The widespread availability of digital platforms and services can spur further economic development and drive innovation generally, ensuring a more prosperous future for all.
Hadi Khatib on AMEInfo of 18 September 2021 came up with this deep statement on the anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs that is long, as is the one curing it
The anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs is long, as is the one curing it
A research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region revealed anxiety has several facets in the minds of these leaders. But all of these insecurities have cures.
55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress.
More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends.
Research finds that entrepreneurs are happier than people in jobs.
EMPWR, a UAE-based digital media agency dedicated to mental health and an exclusive mental health partner for WAMDA and Microsoft for startups, published a research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region.
The research indicated that startup founders undergo higher levels of stress than the rest of the region, with twice the likelihood of developing depression issues.
55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress; the pandemic was the second most-cited reason cited by 33.7% of respondents. 44.2% spend at least 2 hours a week trying to de-stress.
Other insights, uncovered by the report, include:
A good relationship between co-founders can help startups navigate the pandemic-hit market. More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends
Many entrepreneurs live well below their means to fund their ventures, leading to stress that is detrimental to their health
With only 2% of healthcare budgets in the MENA region currently spent on addressing mental health, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young entrepreneurs and achievers could lead to an economic burden of $1 trillion, by 2030, according to the report.
EMPWR’s MENA partners shared special offers on their mental health services for the region’s entrepreneur community.
From Saudi Arabia:
Labayh is offering the technology ecosystem a 20% discount on their online mental health services for 2 months. Promo code: empwr, with the offer valid until October 29.
O7 Therapy are offering 50% off their online mental health services, for 50 Entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Promo code: Entrepreneur50, valid until December 1, 2021.
From the UAE:
My Wellbeing Lab is offering 20 one-on-one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs that wish to be coached and helped; alongside unlimited access for any entrepreneur to their “Discovery Lab”, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and leaders insights into their mental wellbeing as well as their teams. Promo code: MWL21.
Takalam is offering 10% off for 3 months. Promo code: Impact.
Mindtales is offering the MENA ecosystem 50% off their services for one month. Their App can be downloaded here.
H.A.D Consultants is offering 20 one on one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs. Promo code: HAD_SME01.
Nafas, a meditation app focused on reducing stress, anxiety, and help with insomnia, is offering access to its platform. Register as a user via this link to redeem benefits.
Entrepreneurs’ mixed emotions
Entrepreneurs must grapple with uncertainty and being personally responsible for any decision they make. They likely have the longest working hours of any occupational group and need to rapidly develop expertise across all areas of management while managing day-to-day business.
Work on the economics of entrepreneurship traditionally assumed that entrepreneurs bear all the stresses and uncertainties in the hope that over the long term they can expect high financial rewards for their effort. It’s false.
2. Highly stressful, but…
High workload and work intensity, as well as financial problems facing their business, are at the top of the entrepreneurs’ stress list.
But some stressors have an upside. While they require more effort in the here and now, they may lead to positive consequences such as business growth in the long term. Some entrepreneurs appear to interpret their long working hours as a challenge and therefore turn them into a positive signal.
3. Autonomy is both good and bad
The autonomy that comes with being an entrepreneur can be a double-edged sword. Entrepreneurs can make decisions about when and what they work on – and with whom they work. But recent research into how entrepreneurs experience their autonomy suggests that, at times, they struggle profoundly with it. The sheer number of decisions to make and the uncertainty about what is the best way forward can be overwhelming.
4. An addictive mix
The evidence review confirms that, by any stretch of imagination, entrepreneurs’ work is highly demanding and challenging. This, along with the positive aspects of being their own boss coupled with an often competitive personality, can lead entrepreneurs to be so engaged with their work that it can become obsessive.
So the most critical skill of entrepreneurs is perhaps how they are able to manage themselves and allow time for recovery.
Stress management tips for entrepreneurs
Identify what the actual source of your stress is. Is it tight deadlines, procurement issues, raising capital, managing investors’ expectations, building a talented team, or delay in landing the first sale for your new startup business?
Even if numbering more than a few, break them down because unmanageable tasks look simpler when broken down into smaller segments. Then, list down how you plan to successfully tackle each issue. Meanwhile, exercising multiple times a week has been rated as one of the best tactics for managing stress.
Another technique for handling stress is to take a break. Rest as much as you can before going back to continue with the tasks. It’s also a good idea to reach out to friends, family, and social networks because they are likely to understand what you’re going through and offer words of wisdom and courage.
Stay away from energy-sapping junk food. Eating healthy keeps you fueled for the next challenge. Finally, get enough sleep, and power naps. Sleep helps your body and mind recover.
Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about them. He can be reached at: email@example.com
FIOR Reports post By Becca Roberts on Smart Cities as to How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions could be made good use of in several of the MENA region’s broken and/or stagnating countries.
Smart Cities: How Technology Is Helping To Rebuild War-Torn Regions
The above image is of Part of the new Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was built as part of extensive redevelopment efforts on the former Soviet territory. Image: Bojan Stojkovski / ZDNet
For more than three decades, the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has been at the center of much disagreement between the neighboring Caucasian states of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The city of Agdam once had a population of 30,000 but was hit hard by the conflict. Now it’s a ghost town.
Since it began in 1988, the conflict over the region has also produced more than a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Now as Azerbaijan seeks to gradually rebuild the country hit by the struggle, authorities hope technology can play a central role in encouraging citizens to return to the region by creating smart cities and villages that offer better ways of life encourage.
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According to Anar Valiyev, urban planning expert and associate professor at ADA University in Baku, building new communities supported by digital amenities will make the region more attractive not only to returnees but also to those who have stayed in the region Conflict.
The first planning phase is followed by a pilot project in which a number of “smart villages” – referred to as Aghaly-1, Aghaly-2 and Aghaly-3 – are being built in the Zangilan region of Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 200 houses are being built here from innovative building materials such as recycled steel and precast concrete and connected to intelligent electricity, gas and waste disposal companies.
“Alternative energy sources are used for all residential buildings, social facilities, office buildings, restaurants, processing and production of agricultural products.”
Bridging a digital divide
Building new, digitally supported communities will also serve to bridge the gap between the Azerbaijani capital Baku and other urban and rural areas.
Such projects could also entice young Azerbaijanis to move to the Nagorno-Karabakh region in search of new opportunities. Eldar Hamza, 26, is one of them.
During the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Hamza’s family was evicted from the town of Fizouli, which had a population of around 17,000 before the war but became a ghost town after they escaped.
“I also believe that most of them will return to live here if there are opportunities for large companies to lay off workers in the area.”
Eldar Hamza, 26, now works as a tour operator in Baku after his family was displaced by the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The nearby city of Agdam is also being rebuilt. Before the conflict, the city had almost 30,000 residents. Now, like Fizouli, it is practically deserted.
“We are in the planning phase and are now designing various locations,” said Emin Huseynov, Azerbaijani economist and special representative in the Agdam district, opposite ZDNet. “But the most important [part] is the basic infrastructure that is being made now. When it’s done, we’ll start building the city. “
The development of smart cities should be a boon to Azerbaijan’s ICT industry, which is still in its infancy, and its oil-oriented economy.
In 2016, ICT was one of eleven economic sectors identified by the Azerbaijani authorities as being of strategic importance to the country. The country has now adopted a strategic roadmap for its development; However, according to a report by IPHR and Azerbaijan Internet Watch, the ICT sector represented only 1.6% of Azerbaijan’s total GDP in 2020.
“I think that the ICT sector will develop faster because the development of smart cities also requires faster development of information technology,” Valiyev told ZDNet Informatik und Systemtechnik.
There is also great interest in IT and agriculture. Dmitry Andrianov, founder of Baku-based tech magazine InfoCity, says the development of smart cities and smart villages in the liberated areas of Karabakh should prove to be an incentive for the advancement of the Azerbaijani technology sector and points to the growth of the young IoT startup Sumaks and agritech startup Kibrit.
“All of this helps to create sustainable demand for young IT specialists,” says Andrianov.
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