Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT today announced it will be increasing its work and presence in the Middle East and North Africa as part of its commitment to helping improve lives and alleviate poverty in the region.
Hosting an event in Dubai co-organized by Community Jameel and attended by government officials, NGOs, and representatives from the private sector, J-PAL also announced new studies to support youth employment and private sector growth in the Middle East. This includes improving the effectiveness of job fairs and job training for young people in Egypt – a nation where one-sixth of the youth population is unemployed, and an additional third is not in education, employment or vocational training.
J-PAL conducts impact evaluations of programs and policies designed to tackle poverty. These evaluations seek to learn what works, what does not work, and why, on issues related to health, education, youth employment, and financial inclusion. J-PAL is already involved in projects and partnerships across the Middle East, including work in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. These partnerships support the development of policy-driven research, the results of which could inform policymaking in Middle East and other regions facing similar challenges.
Speaking in Dubai, Abhijit Banerjee, Professor of Economics at MIT and Director of J-PAL, said: “Our plan is to focus on the Middle East and wider region and play a key role in improving lives and alleviating poverty. It was especially valuable to hear from thought leaders today about how evidence from the region can play a key role in addressing some of the major challenges it is facing. “
Fady Mohammed Jameel, President of Community Jameel International, said: “The work of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT touches on key issues such as youth employment, heath, and education. So MIT increasing its focus on the Middle East and North Africa to help improve lives in the region is welcome news.”
Founded at MIT’s Department of Economics in 2003, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) has since grown to include more than 140 affiliated professors from more than forty universities across the world.
J-PAL works closely with governments, donors, and nonprofits to help design and evaluate innovative social programs, scale up the most cost-effective interventions, and build a culture of policymaking informed by evidence.
To date, J-PAL affiliated researchers have conducted more than 826 evaluations in 78 countries, and more than 300 million people have been reached by programs tested and found to be effective through J-PAL evaluations. The organization has been instrumental in increasing the number and quality of randomized evaluations on development interventions.
Dr. Adam Osman, and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign, and co-Chair of J-PAL’s MENA Research and Policy Initiative said “I’m very excited about J-PAL’s commitment to increasing its work in the region. The Middle East and North Africa is filled with opportunities that will allow us to improve our understanding of how to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. There are many partners we are working with like the Sawiris Foundation and Egypt’s Industrial Training Council who are excited to push forward the boundaries of knowledge together.”
The projects in Egypt include:
- Improving job matching through job fairs in Egypt: The Industrial Training Council (ITC) of Egypt serves as the human resource development and training arm of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, with a focus on improving youth employment. As part of its regular activities, the ITC organizes job fairs that are designed to serve firms in industrial zones. In partnership with the ITC, J-PAL affiliated professors Bruno Crepon (ENSAE, École Polytechnique), and Adam Osman (University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign), will be working with Professor Mona Said (American University of Cairo) to design a randomized evaluation to study ways to improve the attendance and effectiveness of jobs fairs and evaluate any subsequent impacts on employment and firm growth.
- Job training and capital provision for youth in Egypt: The Sawiris Foundation for Social Development has awarded J-PAL funding to conduct three large-scale randomized impact evaluations in Egypt. One evaluation will examine the impact of providing youths with loans, cash grants, or in-kind grants on firm investment and growth. A second evaluation will examine the impact of providing youths with vocational training, on the job training, or job counseling on firm incentives and youth employment. A third evaluation will examine how NGOs respond to demands for greater accountability to beneficiary satisfaction. The research team includes J-PAL affiliated professors Bruno Crepon (ENSAE, École Polytechnique), and Adam Osman (University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign), in addition to Professor Mohamed El Komi (American University of Cairo) and Professor Reham Rizk (British University of Egypt).