The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is home to nearly 600 million people spanning three continents. The ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious make-up of the region is highly diverse, but together the region has an enormous opportunity to accelerate innovation and close the gap in learning and upskilling.
MENA boasts over 100 million school students, the future of the region. If we commit to innovating education, this generation of learners has the potential to transform MENA, breaking longstanding cycles of poverty and inequality.
This week, HolonIQ joined the World Bank at the Education 4.0 initiative to deep dive the MENA education technology and innovation ecosystem and critically assess the learning outcomes and impact public and private initiatives were having on transforming education in the region. This research note shares some high-level analysis from our Intelligence Platform, very briefly profiles the region’s challenges alongside 700+ optimistic EdTech teams who have embarked on a mission to improve MENA education through various technology-led and enabled solutions.
We follow our Open-Source Global Learning Landscape Taxonomy to map the MENA learning and talent innovation landscape. Follow the sector breakouts through this note.
Accelerating education innovation across MENA is perhaps one of the region’s single most important initiatives to drive stability, growth and prosperity for all.
By 2050, over 270 million children, adolescents and youth (0-24 years) will live in the MENA region. For the 100 million school children in the region today, the 2018 PISA results revealed the reading performance of 15-year-old students was 2 to 4 years of schooling behind the OECD average. Change takes time in education but the region needs to move deliberately to close that gap and set the next generation up for success.
Today, youth unemployment (15-24 years) is the highest in the world. Pre COVID, almost 30% of adolescents and youth in North Africa and just over 20% in the Arab states were unemployed. For young women, the unemployment rate is even higher, just over 40% in North Africa and over 35% in the Arab States.
If that wasn’t enough, many of the most vulnerable adolescents and youth are marginalized, particularly young women, poor, refugees or those with disabilities, impacting their ability to realize their full potential.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the global economy and exacerbated MENA’s underlying structural issues. The combination of the pandemic and the collapse in oil prices has affected all aspects of MENA’s economies. Oil prices have recovered somewhat. However, they remain far below levels prior to the first COVID-19 outbreak in the region in February 2020.
As of October 1, 2020, gross domestic product (GDP) in the Middle East and North Africa was expected to contract by 5.2% in 2020, which is 4.1 percentage points below the forecast in April 2020, and 7.8 percentage points worse than that of October 2019, reflecting an increasingly pessimistic outlook for the regional economy. The region is expected to recover only partially in 2021.
The outlook for MENA’s current account and fiscal balances also has deteriorated sharply. Driven largely by lower oil export revenue, a drop in fiscal revenue, and the large increase in fiscal expenditure required to respond to the health crisis, the region’s current account and fiscal balances in 2020 are forecast at -4.8% and -10.1% percent of GDP respectively, much worse than the forecasts in October 2019. Public debt is projected to rise significantly in the next few years, from about 45% of GDP in 2019 to 58% in 2022.
The expected costs of the COVID-19 pandemic are about 3.7 percent of the region’s 2019 GDP—roughly $100 billion.
Sources: World Bank national accounts data, and OECD National Accounts data files.
Around the world, we are seeing a greater focus on early childhood education and learning. For MENA, the Pre-K focus in education technology is spread across digital learning resources, games and mobile apps, STEAM and language learning.
Highlighted in red on the platform, we can see however that Pre-K makes up a very small part of the overall education technology landscape, less than 5% of all companies founded and headquartered in the region.
K-12 makes up a much larger share of EdTech companies founded and headquartered in MENA, nearly 40% overall.
We see continued focus on digital resources, education management systems such as LMS (Learning Environments) and SIS (Education Management), Language Learning and Tutoring, Games and Simulation with some advanced technology as XR/AR/VR and assessment.
Higher Education has greater representation than Pre-K but not by much, approximately 10% overall.
We see innovation spread across many different clusters with some concentration in UpSkilling, SIS (Education Management) and Discovery of Higher Education Programs across MENA and around the world for international students.
Workforce and Corporate Training innovation represents almost half of all education technology founded and headquartered in MENA.
The single largest segment by far and across all sectors is D2C and B2B adult up-skilling. Language Learning is very strong as are workforce-focused capability development and talent acquisition technologies. We see a solid focus on management systems again such as LMS (Learning Environments) and SIS (Education Management) with more depth in advanced technologies such as XR/AR/VR as well as Coding Bootcamps and Career Planning.
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