A Tunisian vendor poses as he sells white truffles at a market in the town of Ben Guerdane, 40km west of the Libyan border, in February 2016.
4. Conclusion and Recommendations
North African countries tend to operate in silos – particularly regarding their security responses and economic planning – often opting to look outside of the region for a solution to a problem before considering working with their neighbours.
While the five countries in the region differ in their approach to various challenges, there are also a number of occasions where they follow noticeably similar policies, which could be the basis for greater cooperation. Engaged outside parties, such as the UK and the EU, can play an important supporting role in encouraging cooperation.
For example, North African countries could develop synergies on security at the level of CVE through more regional security cooperation, religious reforms and deradicalization programmes. Striking a balance between civil society-led action and state-led initiatives is an important element in designing comprehensive policies for CVE across the region. Such a concerted approach would also encourage the countries to share their learning experiences and help their neighbours avoid policy pitfalls, such as the fact that an over-reliance on security measures has weakened non-security attempts to tackle CVE.
Cooperation is even more necessary with respect to complex challenges that require a holistic approach, such as smuggling and human trafficking, which require extra-territorial intervention, including raising awareness in source countries, and actions to deal with the root drivers of migration, rather than simply sealing borders or arresting migrants and smugglers.
North Africa’s diverse economic development and sectoral preference can be used to tailor new collaboration approaches. Regional value chains – essentially production systems from input provision to commercialization that spread beyond national borders – can allow countries to identify and exploit complementarity in their activities. By considering their economies’ different needs, resources and levels of access, North African countries can coordinate incentives, shared infrastructure development and services for particular sectors to develop the existing production capacity in the region and serve global markets. The automotive and solar energy industries are prime candidates for this. Foreign partners can also contribute to the elaboration of economic policies in specific areas drawing on the positive and negative experiences of governments in the region.
- The EU and the UK should, in their dealings with North African governments and security agencies, emphasize the important contribution that civil society organizations can play in CVE. This message is not universally welcomed across the region, particularly in Egypt. Advocates should collect evidence to support their arguments using both positive and negative examples from Europe and North Africa.
- International partners should consider a mixture of incentives and penalties to persuade authorities in North Africa that human rights abuses and restrictions on basic freedoms are potential drivers of unrest and that they are unacceptable. At present, the EU and European governments make periodic criticisms of human rights abuses but take no further action. Incentives could include enhanced training programmes for officials in security agencies and the judiciary. While restrictions on arms sales as a penalty should not be ruled out. More resources should be channelled into information campaigns that present the reality of the experience of migrants on their journey from and through North Africa heading for Europe. Such campaigns should not solely focus on deterrence. They should also present clear information about the possibilities for legal migration.
- North African policymakers would benefit from improved experience-sharing from wider sources, most notably as they often work with the same multilateral partners to address economic challenges. Areas of knowledge and experience-sharing could include exchange rate policy, subsidy reform, social protection, healthcare, public–private partnerships (PPPs), education and pension reform. These conversations could include development finance institutions (DFIs), as well as partners across the Mediterranean.
- Most industrial integration in the region is between partners in Europe and individual North African countries. Efforts should be made to extend such integration horizontally, in consultation with European companies, allowing for greater North African participation across borders.
- Developing and strengthening regional value chains could enable countries to explore the creation of SEZs and clusters near their borders. Coupled with the appropriate mix of legal and fiscal incentives, they could become an important catalyst of cross-border cooperation. Obtaining advantageous access to export markets could support the development of SEZs, as happened in Egypt with its Qualifying Industrial Zones.
- PPPs could boost the development of infrastructure projects in the region but remain underutilized by policymakers. Limited government capacity, insufficient project preparation and investor risk are viewed as the primary obstacles to the development of PPPs in the region, all of which could be addressed with political will and international support.
- The UK is in a privileged position to take advantage of its economic and cultural links to North Africa. There are potential advantages to stepping up training in English language and English law and regulation, particularly in the Maghreb, where the prevalence of French as the main foreign language is sometimes seen as a drawback. UK legal firms have much to offer the region by way of regulatory support for buoyant sectors in North Africa, such as crowdfunding, fintech and blockchain.
- University cooperation across the region, which aims to pool research resources around technical fields such as energy and water security, will provide benefits for academic and policy stakeholders.
- Increasing educational and cultural exchanges is a low-hanging fruit that can increase business and economic synergy creation.