“Economic Consequences of the Arab Spring”
Senior Research Fellow-Barcelona Center for International Affairs
On April 20, Pathways to Progress: Peace, Prosperity and Change in the Middle East sponsored a roundtable discussion on the “Economic Consequences of the Arab Spring” with Francis Ghiles, Senior Research Fellow at the Barcelona Center for International Affairs.
Mr. Ghiles focused his remarks on the Tunisian revolution, describing the 2010 uprising as a “revolt for dignity.” In particular, he underscored the lack of jobs and opportunity that impelled demonstrators to the streets. He noted that in the previous decade, the European Union’s Euro-Mediterranean Partnership had focused primarily on security issues in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, ignoring Tunisia’s significant development issues.
Mr. Ghiles enumerated several challenges facing Tunisia in the coming months. These include: the European recession’s negative impact on the Tunisian economy; fallout from the Libyan revolution, including weapons flowing across the border; complex identity issues as Tunisia grapples with the role of Islam in public life; and broader fears of lingering instability. Nonetheless, he also underscored Tunisia’s many positive attributes that make it a “laboratory” for innovative economic solutions.
More broadly, Mr. Ghiles highlighted the possibilities for economic growth across North Africa. He identified agribusiness and the fertilizer industry as particularly promising sectors, noting with cross-sectoral integration, North Africa could become the world’s lowest cost fertilizer producer, potentially a significant profit-making business.