Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

For many countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, issues like food security, workforce development, trade policies and gender equality are key to improving competitiveness.

In terms of food security in the region, the rising costs of wheat contributed to the Arab Spring in Egypt and other countries. GVC Center studies on MENA countries’ wheat value chains and food security shed light on some of the underlying issues to instability in the region.

How can workforce development strategies enhance the upgrading efforts and competitiveness of developing countries in global industries? The Duke GVC Center offered insights to this question based on a study of the tourism GVC in Jordan.

Another study analyzed the impact of the tariff preference levels (TPLs) for apparel in the U.S. – Bahrain Free Trade Agreement over the past 10 years and provided policymakers with perspective on the prospects for the future of the industry in Bahrain if TPLs were not renewed after they are set to expire in July 2016; while a 2013 book entitled Global Value Chains, Economic Upgrading, and Gender includes a case study on the call center industry in Egypt and the relationships among upgrading, trade and gender.

Reports: 2
Publications: 10
Countries: 9 countries (Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates)
Industries: Agrifood (wheat, maize), Services (tourism, call centers, employment), Manufacturing (apparel)
Sponsors: Minerva Research Initiative, RTI International, Embassy of Bahrain

The Minerva Research Initiative was the primary sponsor of the Duke GVC Center’s research in the MENA region. Here is summary of the Minerva Research Initiative project.

Challenge: If future food price spikes last too long, social unrest in MENA could be exasperated, leading to regional conflict and widespread malnutrition and starvation. To help avoid such a scenario, the client wanted to understand the complexity of wheat markets and their underlying chain governance structure that determines food security outcomes in five MENA countries.
Approach & Outcomes: The interdependencies between global trade and local access to wheat and wheat products can be best understood through the GVC lens. Duke researchers used the GVC framework to first understand the industrial organization of the global wheat industry and then how the chain operates in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. Five key findings are as follows:
1. Five major firms dominate the global wheat industry in these markets.
2. The MENA region uses a variety of approaches to achieve food security.
3. Several issues, such as environmental distress and water shortages, cut across different country cases.
4. Institutional legacies are very strong in all five countries studied in this report.
5. The countries are diversifying their supply base.

As a follow-up, Duke GVC Center researchers studied the increasing role the Black Sea region (Russia and Ukraine) has on food trade into the MENA region. More information about the Duke GVC Center’s work in the Middle East can be found at the following link.

Syria Wheat Value Chain and Food Security

Wheat has traditionally been a major driver of the Syrian economy. The country has maintained wheat self-sufficiency since 1994, though recent droughts have reduced yields significantly. Additionally, the 2013 civil war created disruptions that cut the country’s projected harvest in half, making it the worst harvest in over 30 years and posing a serious threat to the country’s immediate food security. The escalating food crisis can be intractable unless innovative solutions are developed that address current value chain challenges. This research brief discusses the wheat value chain in Syria and points of disruptions in the chain leading to acute food insecurity in the nation.

Subsidized food is a hallmark of food systems in MENA. Many citizens depend on government supported food for their livelihood. Consequently, volatility in global production and prices have significant implications for social unrest in the region. A Duke GVC Center research team has been investigating this topic using the GVC framework to map the role of various public and private actors at the global, regional, and country level, as well as identifying major bottlenecks to wheat flows in the region and potential policy interventions. Researcher Ghada Ahmed presented some of the findings at the MINERVA Annual Meeting on September 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Moroccan Food Security and the Wheat Value Chain

Morocco’s high dependence on food imports exposes it to international price volatility which puts its food security at risk. This brief examines food security challenges in Morocco, policy responses, the wheat value chain, and the potential for disruptions in the chain, and suggests several policy action areas to address these challenges.

Bahrain’s Position in the Global Apparel Value Chain: How the U.S.-Bahrain FTA and TPLs Shape Future Development Options

This report analyzes the situation and potential future outcomes of Bahrain’s apparel industry in light of the upcoming TPL expiration in July 2016.

Role of Private Firms in the Egyptian Maize Value Chain

Maize impacts both caloric intake and diet quality of the Egyptian population. Such importance is mostly driven by a shift in diets. The private sector, which relies on imports to cater to its maize needs, is the lead actor of the maize value chain. This brief first analyzes the importance of maize to Egypt’s food security. In a global context where maize prices are high and volatile, this brief describes the strategies adopted by Egyptian lead firms to secure supply and meet growing demand. Such strategies range from diversification to vertical integration and upgrading. Research Brief authors: Marie Veyrier, Ghada Ahmed, and Danny Hamrick.

Hubs and Communities: A Structural Analysis of MENA’s Wheat Network

Since the mid-2000s, many MENA countries have shifted to an import-based strategy to meet their food security needs, making the region more dependent on global food trade networks. This brief examines wheat trade trends and potential implications through a series of social network analyses. We limit our focus to wheat, a critical crop for food security in many MENA countries. Our analysis reveals that many MENA countries are importing more and they tend to form new ties with established exporters, resulting in distinct communities of export hubs and their importing partners. We also find over time a trend towards consolidation in the region, with Russia increasingly acting as a lead exporter for the entire region. We also find evidence that sub-regional differences (e.g., the degree of dependence on major export hubs) are shrinking.

Shifting Sources of Wheat Supply for MENA Countries: the Rise of the Black Sea

The Black Sea countries of Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan play an increasingly important role in supplying wheat to the global market, and to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries as well. This policy brief shows evidence of this trend in the wheat GVC and explores its implications for food security in MENA, which appear to be important.

Comparing Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s Wheat GVC

Wheat is one of the most important commodities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the region is the largest importer of wheat and other grains. While there are many challenges in terms of securing stable wheat supplies, like storage capacity and water reserves, sub-regional differences exist in the organization of the wheat industry and subsequent challenges. This brief sheds light on these differences through a comparison of Egyptian and Saudi Arabian wheat value chains. We conclude that while many issues, such as availability of currency reserves, span the region, other issues are country or sub-region specific.

Ghada, Dayne, and Gary presented “Shifting Governance Structures in the Wheat Value Chain: Implications for Food Security in MENA” at the GVCs and Trade Policies for Food and Nutrition Security workshop at Roma Tre University in Rome, Italy on September 26, 2014.

Global Value Chain Analysis and Food Security

Current food security paradigms often examine food availability in a manner that focuses exclusively on global factors or local institutional arrangements without critically examining the links between the two. The Global Value Chain (GVC) framework allows for a holistic approach to studies of food security by allowing researchers to examine commodities through production, distribution, and retailing activities. The approach demonstrates not only the importance of firms and other actors involved in commodity lifecycles, but also investigates the various governance structures that impact trade and food systems. This brief compares the GVC approach to understanding food security with more traditional approaches and identifies how GVC analysis allows researchers to identify and investigate important food security challenges facing MENA, particularly the issues of governance and international trade.

Wheat Value Chains and Food Security in the Middle East and North Africa Region

This report focuses on the wheat global value chain in the energy-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with particular emphasis on Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE. This is part of a multi-year research project funded by a grant to Duke from the US Department of Defense’s MINERVA Initiative. https://sites.duke.edu/minerva/

Ghada Ahmed gave a presentation at the Seminar on Linking Food Security to Sustainable Agricultural Policies in the Mediterranean at the International Affairs Institute (IAI) Expo in Milan on June 20, 2015. View an interview on YouTube

Ghada Ahmed and Danny Hamrick gave a presentation at the Policy Studies Organization and Digest of Middle East Studies event entitled “2015 Middle East Dialogue: Glorious Past, Uncertain Future” in Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. Food Security and Water Policy session at Middle East Dialogue 2015. Chair: Whitney Shepard, Policy Studies Organization; Water and War in the Modern Age: the Enduring Hydro-Politics of The Nile, Justin D. Leach, Troy University; Food Security and the Wheat Value Chain in the Middle East and North Africa, A panel with Ghada Ahmed and Danny Hamrick of Duke University (View YouTube video)