Media, an absolute core of equitable development

What is media? Why is it important? Can we live without it? What is its role in development?

In its simplest form, media is defined as the main means of mass communication (television, radio, and newspapers) regarded collectively; but I would say it is a functional organism that carries out specific roles in a society; the easiest and fastest way to get something done and without it, a nation can never survive!

No one can deny that media shapes our lives nowadays, since it spreads and disseminates information to a wider audience in no time. Egypt is undergoing a process of cautious transition in the media sector especially after the 25th of January revolution. The media, with specific reference to newspapers, radio, television, Internet (social media) and mobile platforms, play a crucial role in national development, which particularly aims at improving the political, economic and social lives of the people. These different forms of media have gained more popularity in the Egyptian market, but when referring to Upper Egypt, the case is not the same.

To elaborate more, the media depends on the societies in which they operate, and the audience they reach in order to have an impact and a role in development. However, none of these factors are the same everywhere, at all times, or under all conditions since every medium has a message and a target audience; aiming at influencing a change, attitudes, perceptions and decision-making.

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From a craftsman to a well-rounded strategic decision maker

Today, women and youth are ruling over the world and making their mark in various fields with their dedication and hard work to excel in their area of expertise, especially that the youth are the future, and one day will control the nation, but is this the case in Egypt? Well, a major area of concern in Egypt is the youth representing about 20% of Egypt’s total population, whereas rural youth account for 59% of Egypt’s total youth and representing 85% of Egypt’s poor youth (2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt – SYPE).  Further, female participation in the Egyptian labor market is among the lowest in the world since it is a highly gender-discriminated market, in which young women (aged 18 – 29) represent only 18.5% of the Egyptian workforce.

ENID is implementing a set of four highly integrated programs, each of which has the potential to impact on job creation and poverty reduction in both the medium and longer term. The first group of beneficiaries targeted by ENID programs is the youth and women segments of Upper Egypt society. We had the chance to interview Engineer Ayat Abdel Mooty, who is the Manager of Program A “Empowerment of Women and Youth”, during ENID’s first annual conference.

But what does “women empowerment” really stand for?

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Unemployment rate is a misleading indicator to the labor market, conventional or not?

As we know, the number of people at work is generally related to whether an economy is growing or not. In other words, unemployment can be thought of as a double-edged sword; when economic activity is high, more people are needed to produce the higher amount of goods and services. Thus, it is very important to measure different aspects of the labor market in order to get a better feel for the health of the economy. The unemployment rate is probably the best-known labor market measure and certainly one of the most widely quoted.

The last session of the ERF’s Conference “The Egyptian Labor Market in a Revolutionary Era: results from the 2012 survey (ELMPS)” was a panel discussion on the labor markets in Egypt; we had the chance to interview Ragui Assaad (University of Minnesota), who was one of the panelists.  He argues that the unemployment rate, while useful, does not take into account a number of important features of the labor market, for example, it doesn’t show how the economy is doing during economic crisis and its effect on the labor market.

But is the unemployment rate really the most accurate indicator to the health of the labor market?

While the unemployment rate may be considered as the most informative labor market indicator reflecting the general performance of the labor market and the economy as a whole, it does not say anything about the type of unemployment; whether it is cyclical; not having enough demand for labor to employ all those who are looking for work, or structural; a longer-lasting form of unemployment caused by fundamental shifts in an economy, such as workers’ lack of requisite job skills or inability to move out of their regions. Moreover, it does not take into consideration the informal sector which constitutes a large share of the Egyptian labor market.

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ENID: A Call for developing Upper Egypt

The Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID) is a five-year initiative to develop viable and sustainable development and employment opportunities in South Upper Egypt, where levels of poverty and unemployment are high. ENID is holding its first annual conference today December 14th 2013 at the Marriott hotel in Cairo, Egypt. The opening session was a very fruitful one with lots of guest speakers; Prof. Heba Handoussa (Managing Director of ENID), Ms. Anita Nirody (Resident Representative of UNDP), H.E. General Adel Labib (Minister of Local Development), H.E. Dr. Ashraf El Araby (Minister of Planning), H.E. Dr. Ziad Bahaa El-Din (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Cooperation), Ali Gomaa (Egypt’s former Mufti and Head of Board of Trustees in Misr El Kheir) and Abdel Hamid El Haggan (Qena Governor).

ENID's Opening Session - Pannelists

ENID’s Opening Session – Panelists

ENID work is intended to be of use for both policy formulation and program development in each of its program areas. The first point of focus is the Governorate of Qena in South Upper Egypt. One of the things ُENID should be accredited for is that a lot of the participants are from Upper Egypt; and outside the conference hall, they are presenting and selling some of the handmade products made by Upper Egypt residents.

Ali Gomaa was the first speaker, he highlighted that Misr El Kheir (charity organization)  allocate 80 percent of its donations to Upper Egypt since it is under-developed and always neglected, while 20 percent is allocated to the rest of the country.

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Is the Egyptian labor market post-revolution in a weaker position?

Egypt’s young people have enormous potential to drive the economic and social revitalization of their country, yet this critical sector of the population represents the vast majority of Egypt’s unemployed and underemployed.  Overall unemployment reached 13% in the fourth quarter of 2012 (CAPMAS 2012); in which youth market labor force (ages 15-24) grew 3.1% per year 1998-2006, whereas it  contracted to 4.2% in 2006-2012.

The second session in the ERF Conference on “The Egyptian Labor Market in a Revolutionary Era: Results from the 2012 Survey” focused on the main labor markets trends in Egypt. Two papers were presented in which they complement each other; Dr. Ragui Assaad presented the first paper “The evolution of labor supply and unemployment in the Egyptian Economy: 1998 – 2012“.

This paper analyzes the evolution of labor supply and unemployment in Egypt in the period from 1999 to 2012, focusing on the impact of the demographic phenomenon known as the youth bulge and the impact of the world financial crisis and the marked economic slowdown following the January 25th 2011 revolution.  It was found that the female share of the unemployed has increased from 54% in 1998 to 63% in 2012 despite the fact that they are only 23% of the labor force

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Building the capacity to produce policy relevant research

As development and the global economy evolve in the direction of knowledge, the ability to communicate research effectively is essential; one of the means to ensure that, is the connections between researchers and policy makers from one side and between researchers themselves from the other side. Policy makers turn primarily to international organizations to obtain credible information, even though, local organizations and southern researchers may have the capacity but are often not able to engage in cooperation with policy makers. GDNet gathers the views of members of the development community who either have first-hand experience of overcoming the barriers faced by southern researchers or that working towards promoting southern knowledge.

Professor William LyakurwaAERC former Executive Director, stresses on the urgent need of conducting the researchers’ work to policy makers since they are considered as the end users. Further, researchers should get engaged into policy making to better understand the output of the research papers to apply it effectively in the policy content.

Watch Professor Lyakurwa’s interview and learn more about the work GDNet is doing to support Southern researchers and help their research travel further to reach policymakers; through capacity building programs.

A leap for generations!?

When senior researchers and younger ones work together they complement each other; since the latter have the enthusiasm, energy and the skills, whereas the senior researchers have greater experience which they can share with the young. Young researchers do not have the eye that can catch on the most important issues that society faces.

According to Wafik Grais (Viveris Mashrek), there is a need to foster these connections between both generations to make use of the strong points of each. In addition, combining between the skills, enthusiasm and expertise will deliver the best outcomes, and he stressed that this connection can be promoted by GDNet.

Are “South-South” interactions geographically restricted?

Southern researchers experience particular barriers to having their knowledge influence global debates on development. Publishing in international journal, in addition to putting together and sharing research ideas is often harder for them. Southern research institutes are less likely to have the communications capacity and budgets of their equivalents in the North so their voices can get lost online and at international events. GDNet’s own survey data also points to the dominance of northern academic practices making it harder for southern research to be seen on an equal footing.

In this video, Nader Kabbani (Silatech, Qatar) sheds light on some of the challenges facing researchers in the Middle East and the South in general. He argues that research clubs located in the South do not interact with each other, but with northern organizations instead.

Besides, the “South-South” interactions are much more elusive, in which people attending conferences in English or Arabic do not interact due to geographical restrictions, so there is a need to address different audience.

Learn more about the GDNet Connect South Campaign and watch this video

Interested to join us? Sign up to the Connect South Charter of Commitment and pledge how you will help southern research have a greater impact on LinkedIn

The challenges facing southern researchers in the Arab world

Development experiences from many Arab countries show that the achievement of development in different sectors depends on the practical level of knowledge and skills of the labor force available to those countries.  That’s why it is crucial to encourage southern research that can help the developing countries cope with the developed world, since it is the cornerstone in development where work force is trained to lead the social, economic, political and cultural changes.

Southern researchers experience numerous barriers to have their knowledge influence global debates on development. Thus, GDNet is focusing on solutions and ideas that help the development community to Connect South; it calls on development actors to pledge their support and re-establish their own commitments to southern researchers. Accordingly, the GDNet’s Connect South Campaign aims to advocate the value of southern research as well as promoting southern voices.

In this interview, Jamal Haidar (University of Paris I, Pantheon-Sorbonne, Paris) draws our attention to the three main challenges he has been experiencing as other southern researchers. First, it is extremely hard to access data from southern countries especially Arab countries. Second, there is a lack of funding in the Arab world to PHD students as well as young researchers to attend international conferences. Last but not least, he expresses his concern towards the issue that most southern researchers focus on the quantity rather quality of the research. Thus, he suggests that there should be some supervision on the quality of southern research in order to have more sound policy implications.

Related posts: Why do researchers struggle to communicate their research for evidence-based policymaking?


Southeast Asia, the new rising star in the global market

We have been referring to the developing economies in Asia as the “Asian Miracle” since they not only witness very high rates of sustained growth, but also underpinning that growth, rapid increases in labor productivity and the import, adoption, use and development of technologically sophisticated processes for generating high-value goods and services.

Southeast Asia's Labor Force By Flickr User Robert Scoble (CC).

Southeast Asia’s Labor Force By Flickr User Robert Scoble (CC).

According to some analysts, Southeast Asian economies are forecast to grow at an average of nearly six percent per year throughout this decade, despite the slowdown in other regions of the world. Based on the analysis of Eric J. Wailes and Eddie C. Chavez in their paper “ASEAN and the Global Rice Situation and Outlook“, the region is projected to account for 53% of net exports, 14% of net imports, 29% of harvested area and 25% of total production.

The region, home to nearly nine percent of the global population, is also home to a large and growing pool of highly skilled, low-cost workers, shaped over years of domestic and foreign capital investment. Moreover, the Southeast Asia region has a strategic location since it sits at the crossroads between China and India in Asia and USA, Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific which grants it a competitive advantage over other regions in the world.

Joshua Aizenman, Minsoo Lee and Donghyun Park shed light in their paper “The Relationship between Structural Change and Inequality: A Conceptual Overview with Special Reference to Developing Asia” on the reasons behind the economic success in Southeast Asia. They explain that an indispensable core ingredient behind developing Asia’s remarkable economic success has been the explosive growth of trade with the rest of the world and with other countries within the region. Equally important to the region’s rapid growth has been the large inflows of FDI and other foreign capital into the region. The region has now become a globally significant exporter of capital, in addition to its technological progress, which has steadily shifted the region’s technological level toward the global technology frontier.

Southeast Asia’s economic, political, and market factors, combined with a landscape focused on attracting capital and development, have created an environment ripe with opportunity, but one still fraught with challenges. For example, transmission of HIV/AIDS, transnational crime including drug trafficking, human trafficking, piracy, labor migration, political instabilities including ethnic conflicts, financial market volatility, geographic challenges especially natural disasters and trans-boundary pollution are some threats facing the region.

By jointly taking action on issues that transcend national boundaries, countries can maximize their development prospects and increase their capacities to alleviate poverty, promote regional peace and security, and achieve sustainable development. Cooperation that further integrates the region expands opportunities to realize faster and more equitable economic growth and higher achievements of human development for South-East Asia.

It is important to reduce cross-country inequalities so that the whole of South-East Asia can compete on even footing with the rest of the world. Any lag or bottleneck in one part of the region could drag the rest, thus special attention, assistance, and cooperation within the region are highly recommended!

Cultural barriers to collaboration in Latin America

By Luis Ordonez

If we want to go beyond cooperation and start real collaboration among partners, we must be aware of the cultural aspects involved. While businesses recognized this a long time ago, the collaboration movement has only recently begun to catch up, learning some painful lessons along the way .

Some of the critical areas that hamper effective collaboration concern information handling, which is different in authoritarian and equalitarian societies; or the uses given to a certain technology (ITCs for example) in a verbal society, rather than an instrumental (written) one. When considering biases and perspectives, these cultural differences may help explain the success or failure of projects, even to the level of inhibiting collaboration among researchers.

Connect south Campaign

Connect South Campaign

Furthermore, in an increasingly technological and web-driven world, many matters regarding technology transfer and cultural in-breeding among the people involved must also become issues for analysis if we want to interact successfully. A culture for collaboration has to be developed through education and other socializing institutions for example, ‘family’, ‘neighborhood’ and so on.  But in order for those ‘new’ behaviors to be accepted as successful, they must show advantages when using them, as compared to results obtained through other channels in solving specific problem is specific settings.

How much we know about interactions among scientists in academic institutions, or between them and their institutional settings in the South as opposed to the North, and how these interactions are affected in authoritarian societies, like the Latin-American, may have a profound effect on our approach to knowledge management, and explain why, even when all parties involved are willing to achieve success, failure arrives i.e. from the lack of  understanding by part of the group of the need to comply with figures of authority by  the other participants, raised in an authoritarian milieu, when approaching ITCs as information “optimizers”. This also applies to the interactions between scientist and decision makers, who have to re-learn to socialize among participants when the team members come from different cultural environments.

In my opinion, and within the context of the Connect South campaign, these cultural barriers should be among the first issues to be raised, since they affects matters as simple as “who translates what”, or as complex as the way to present information to decision-makers that must “save face” in front of their constituencies, and therefore hampering success. An event on Cultural Barriers to Collaboration, preceded by team work on cultural characteristics of the research community, the decision making community and the “think-tanks” or similar “knowledge broker” organizations existent in the North-South extremes could be of great interest, if we are to advance to a better collaborative environment in order to mobilize knowledge from the academic community to the political world.

Luis Ordonez is President of  Fundación InterConectados in Venezuela.  Watch him discussing these issues in more detail (in Spanish).