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World Bank: Economic Digitalization in Middle East Can Generate $1.6 Trillion in Gains

World Bank: Economic Digitalization in Middle East Can Generate $1.6 Trillion in Gains

Wednesday, 16 March, 2022 - 11:30
The World Bank said that the adoption of digital technologies in MENA countries would achieve enormous social and economic gains. (Photo: Reuters)

The World Bank said the full digitization of the economy in the Middle East and North Africa could raise GDP per capita by at least 46 percent over 30 years, or long-term gains of $1.6 trillion.


In a new report entitled, “The Upside of Digital for the Middle East and North Africa, How Digital Technology Adoption Can Accelerate Growth and Create Jobs,” the World Bank said that during the first year of digitization, the region’s GDP per capita could reach $300 billion.


According to the report, this increase will be more pronounced in lower-income countries in the region, which will witness a minimum of 71 percent increase as the gains are driven by closing the gap in access to digital technologies.


The World Bank added that the adoption of digital technologies in MENA countries would achieve enormous social and economic benefits amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, emphasizing that extensive use of digital services, such as mobile services and digital payments, would boost economic growth.


Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The gains from increasing the transformation to a digital economy are enormous, and governments should do everything they can to remove the obstacles to this transformation.”


He added: “The sooner and faster this push, the greater the gains...Digital transformation would provide job opportunities in a region where unemployment rates are unacceptably high, especially among young people and women. With coordinated efforts, this situation can change.”


The World Bank report said that the Middle East and North Africa region suffered from a “digital paradox”: the region’s population uses social media more than expected for its level of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita but uses the internet or other digital tools to make payments less than expected.


For example, digital payments in the MENA region’s developing countries (i.e. countries that are not members of the Gulf Cooperation Council) account for 32 percent of total transactions, compared to 43 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Moreover, the report presented evidence that the socioeconomic gains of digitalizing the economies of the region were huge: “GDP per capita could rise by more than 40 percent; manufacturing revenue per unit of factors of production could increase by 37 percent; employment in manufacturing could rise by 7 percent; tourist arrivals could rise by 70 percent, creating jobs in the hospitality sector; long-term unemployment rates could fall to negligible levels; and female labor force participation could double to more than 40 percent.”


The bank underlined the necessity to adopt measures to strengthen the regulatory framework of e-commerce transactions, including electronic signatures, data privacy protection and cyber security.


“Targeting underserved populations and areas can accelerate the achievement of universal access, while fostering competition and improving the functioning of financial and telecommunications sectors can encourage the adoption of digital technologies,” according to the report’s summary.


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