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. The Duke GVC Center has been researching such topics since 2010.

In terms of food security in the region, the rising costs of wheat contributed to the Arab Spring in Egypt and other countries. To illustrate this most poignantly, one man at Egypt’s Tahrir Square demonstration wore a bread helmet with three rolls wrapped around his head in plastic to protest. Duke GVC Center studies on various 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 global value chain (GVC) in Jordan.

Another study analyzes the impact of the tariff preference levels (TPLs) for apparel in the U.S. – Bahrain Free Trade Agreement over the past 10 years and provides policy makers with perspective on the prospects for the future of the industry in Bahrain if TPLs are 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: Agro-food (wheat, maize), Services (tourism, call centers, employment), Manufacturing (apparel)
Sponsors: Minerva Research Initiative, RTI International, Embassy of Bahrain

The Minerva Research Initiative has been 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. The five key findings from the report 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.

GVC Analysis of Food Security and Food Staples for Major Energy-Exporting Nations in MENA

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.

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.

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.

Global Value Chain Analysis of Food Security and Food Staples for Major Energy- Exporting Nations in the Middle East and North Africa: Russia Focus

Duke GVC Center researchers gave this overview of food security in the wheat industry with implications for the MENA region and Russia. This is part of an ongoing stream of research with the Minerva Initiative.

Ghada Ahmed – IAI at Expo2015: Food Security and sustainable agriculture

Interview with Ghada Ahmed – Senior research analyst, Center on globalization, governance & competitiveness, Duke University, USA. During the conference “Linking food security to sustainable agricultural policies in the Mediterranean. Organized by IAI at Expo 2015 in Milan.

The Wheat Value Chain and Food Security in the Middle East and North Africa

Duke GVCC researcher Ghada Ahmed gave this 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. This is part of a multi-year research project with the Minerva Initiative. View an interview on YouTube

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.

Middle East Dialogue 2015 Food Security and Water Policy

Food Security and Water Policy session at Middle East Dialogue 2015 in Washington DC., 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