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Oct 01, 2014 / 0 Comments
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Case Studies from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia

By Jacques Van Der Meer*


For the Southern Mediterranean countries, the issue of the constitution of structural knowledge assets, in particular intellectual property will be critical to the deployment of a knowledge economy strategy. While the volume of patent filings of the region is low, this does not necessarily reflect the non-existence of potential, but rather the insufficiency of the capacity and infrastructure necessary to ensure the value of the upstream resources necessary (research conducted in the universities, public research centres outside universities, corporate research centres for small to medium size companies and major groups etc.).


The European Investment Bank, as a lead in the CMI’s “Innovation Capacities” programme, commissioned a study of the Intellectual Property assets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to assess the potential of developing a successful IP system. Coordinated by Professor Ahmed Bounfour othe University Paris-Sud, this study, “The market of patents in the South-Mediterranean zone and its potential for development Egypt, Morocco, Tunisiaevaluates the context of innovation in three countries (Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia) and, based on a “gap-analysis” with Turkey, South Korea, and Malaysia, subsequently evaluates possible scenarios and policy options to develop the Intellectual Property Rights system and market. Some of the highlights of the study are as follows:

  • Intellectual Capital in the region can be major drivers of growth and value creation, as well as a way to promote “hard” intangibles, like Intellectual Property Rights, Utility Models, Copyrights and Trademarks.
  • Some 80% of patent applications are characterized by non-residents demand in the Southern Mediterranean, and most of the remaining twenty per cent of resident applications are single applicants. Hence, both stimulating residential applications and looking closely into Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was recommended.
  • Although MENA countries made progress in updating their patent system to international standards and adopting innovation policies, there is a clear stagnation in patent registration from resident applicants. Hence, the necessity to identify causes and ways to stimulate local demand for patents.
  • MENA countries have little focus on industrial research, and Intellectual Property Rights regimes are based on academic research, which is not absorbed by the local industry. Turkey’s governance model marrying industrial and academic research is a good model to look into for MENA countries.
  • The region has a potential in innovation that has yet to be triggered.


Read the Study “The market of patents in the South-Mediterranean zone and its potential for development Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia” in Arabic (attached below).

Jan 22, 2018 / 0 Comments
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Photo credit: Mohamed Azakir / World Bank

The Syrian conflict has reached the grim milestone of becoming the largest displacement crisis since World War II, with over half of the country’s pre-war population having left their homes since 2011—a particularly sobering statistic as we observe International Migrants Day on December 18, 2017 today.


Continue reading this article on the World Bank's website 

Jan 15, 2018 / 0 Comments
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From “Hitists”[1] to Cyclists. Towards a “Bicycle Revolution” in Tunisia.

If you walk through Tunis you may make this astonishing observation for a capital city: at a first glance, bicycles are almost absent from the streets even though the Tunisian capital is faced with a crippled urban model consisting of a city saturated by congestion, the increase of diseases related to sedentary lifestyle (obesity, cholesterol, etc.), urban stress, pollution and a steady increase of fuel prices. These are daily realities for the residents of Tunis.


Being among the transport means that are soft, ecological and respectful of public space, bicycling is starting to gain new grounds. What local context must this alternative way of transport adapt to? What are the proposals of the mobilised civil society to claim cycling as a means of transport?


Traditionally, in the Tunisian society, cycling is a mode of transport used by men for short trips within the neighbourhood (going to the café or to the store) or by both men and women for daily trips in some small coastal towns such as Nabeul, it could also be used for facilitating trips in rural areas (such as high school students going to class in the island of Djerba). Bicycles are perceived as the mode of transport a blue caller worker who cannot access other means of transport, would use.


They also are very connected to childhood, children love to ride bicycles in their spare time but once they reach adolescence, few females continue to practice cycling. Such a limited and traditional use of cycling must be revaluated, especially considering the rise of the consumer society which has, in the 1980s, set cars as the ultimate sign of success. Which then meant that If you do not own a car, you have not succeeded in life, even if that entails being indebted for life.


However, today in Tunisia, cycling is being adopted by an ever-broader spectrum of society, despite remaining a minority practice; from a worker using a bicycle to get to work, a young executive practicing cycling for leisure, a student riding a bicycle to university to the retired sportsman relying on a bicycle for excursions. Thus, to each their own use of bicycles whether as mode of transport for going to work or school, late afternoon ride with friends, weekend excursion, daily trip and getaways from the urban stress or as a way to leave the city for a few hours[2].


Bicycles are becoming a genuine self-assertion tool among urban youth. You can customise your bicycle, wear related fashion and some even jokingly call their bicycles “my wife”. Bicycles are becoming a new self-border.


Furthermore, cycling opens new circles of social interaction (groups form around rides meetings). The current youth reclaim of cycling overlaps with the adventure movement that has been developing over the past few years around camping, hiking and cycling tourism. For this new urban generation, nature has become an alternative to the city and cycling is the means to reach it. Bicycles have become synonymous with challenge, surpassing oneself and a movement going against the image of youth sitting at the café, a very common leisure activity among young Tunisians.


[1] Literally “those standing against the wall”, an expression made popular by comedian Fellag to name young Algerians killing time at café terraces. This expression symbolises the tragedy of the inactivity and inaction of Maghreb youth.

[2] There are no figures to measure the share of cycling in Tunisia, except for the coastal city of Sfax where the modal share of cycling is of 0.8% in 2015. Source: H. Abid, ETIC, 2015



During the months that followed the revolution, bicycle fans launched several cycling movements that were essentially manifested through bicycle parades based on the international model of “critical mass”. These parades involved serval dozens of cyclists gathering for rides mainly in the city’s well-off neighbourhoods (La Marsa, Le Lac). In spring 2017, a group of friends living in Tunis and who were convinced of the need for a massive adoption of bicycle as an alternative means of transport to cars, created the “Vélorution Tunisie” association. As a primary mode of operation, the association calls for monthly “critical masses”.


The Starting point is usually set in one of the city’s historic sites such as the Porte de France at the entrance of the Tunis medina, the historic gate at the entrance of La Goulette, Marsa’s Saf-Saf square or Bir Belhassen rose garden in Ariana. Revisiting Tunisian heritage through cycling is also one of the objectives of the movement. Thanks to the dissemination and mobilisation potential of social networks, several hundred cyclists take part in each festive protest parade on pre-defined circuits of about 10 kilometres (parades take place in downtown Tunis, Bardo, Olympic City, La Marsa, La Goulette-Kram-Carthage and Ariana). Between April and May 2017, around a thousand bicycle fans and enthusiasts have taken part in such events.


Vélorution members include women and men from all generations -with growing female presence-, all professional categories and all neighbourhoods and regions. Youth often join parades from the cities of Nabeul, Hammamet and Bizerte which are more than 60 kilometres away from Tunis. Serval groups have formed out of these cycling gatherings and they organise urban bicycle rides on a regular basis.



The strength of such movement is rooted in its will to reclaim public space. Indeed, activists demand the State shares the infrastructure with them through the creation of bicycle paths. Few of the movement’s slogans are: “the streets are for all of us” (lkayes mta'na lkol) and “we own the streets”. Bicycles are becoming a medium for citizenship. They support the project of living differently in the city: breaking away from the dependency on insufficient public transports, from stress and away from wasting time and money on traffic congestion.


In the urban environment, bicycles thus represent a symbol of autonomy, independence and retrieved freedom. As for Vélorution, the association works to raise the awareness of citizens and authorities to consider cycling as the future of mobility. It aims at convincing the public that resorting to bicycle rides could be one of the solution to several issues facing the Tunisian society in terms of public health, economic crisis and ecology.


Civil society is bubbling with ideas, yet will the State be able to embrace this path and propose an actual urban reform capable of fully welcoming the new movement of Tunisian cyclists, the movement of a bicycle-led revolution?

Jan 15, 2018 / 0 Comments
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Once built and then later widened for private cars, the major arterial roads of Greater Cairo continue to suffer massive congestion due to bus infrastructure design issues and the huge increase in private car usage for personal daily trips. However, many of Cairo's buses continue to operate on these arterial roads despite the density of traffic. This article focuses on Salah Salem street, which is overlooked for its potential to act as a single 28 km stretch of public transport corridor, with buses currently using only specific segments of the road.


Salah Salem street extends all the way from the Airport to Monib Metro station and bus terminal, dissecting through several neighborhoods and iconic locations of Cairo including Heliopolis, the Giza square as well as both Haram and Faisal streets. It is one of the most important arterial roads and a major urban transport corridor of the Greater Cairo Region.


Despite that, Salah Salem street has no reliable bus services that connect both ends of the street. There are lines that run along reserved bus sections, however, never the entire street.


Several studies to build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system on Salah Salem street were made, including an Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and United Nations Development Programe (UNDP) Prefeasibility assessment on BRT in Greater Cairo (ITDP 2015) and a transportation master plan – CREATS – from the Japan Cooperation Agency (JICA 2012). The latter proposed creating Median bus lanes in specific sections of the road, along with bus priority signals and bus bays for mixed traffic sections (buses and passenger cars).


Figure 1- Screenshot from Google maps, showing map and directions from Cairo Airport bus station to Monib Metro station, passing entirely through Salah Salem st (screenshot by author – directions can be found via this link


BRT can be part of a positive all-inclusive solution of the urban mobility crisis in Cairo. Many local urban mobility experts refer to BRT system as being "the metro of the poor" explaining that future projects should be only BRT and no more metro-rail projects. They criticize the later transportation means as waste of funds as "more" BRT routes could have been done for "the poor" instead of building metro lines mostly serving “rich areas”.


While at face value that might be true within “spatially (in)just contexts” (Soja 2010), however, in Cairo, most metro routes are already serving poor and rich residents alike, spanning across neighborhoods of various socio-economic backgrounds, connecting them to each other and providing a high capacity mode of transport.


The problematic aspect of the BRT versus metro argument, is that buses - whether regular or BRT - are viewed here as vehicles to transport "the poor who cannot afford a car”, and not as part of a far reaching public transport network across the Greater Cairo Region that mixes both BRT and Metro rail to support the urban mobility rights of all citizens, regardless of their social class.


In a nutshell, Salah Salem street doesn't only need buses on its own. Other major arterial roads like Salah Salem street also need gradual yet significant interventions to accommodate a better bus service in the short and medium term, and then to set up BRT routes in the long term.


In Greater Cairo, roads are usually expanded to accommodate more cars, and at times sidewalks are removed or significantly reduced in size. Constructing a BRT in this context, would require a better planning of public space, with regards to sidewalks, pedestrian under paths & bridges, traffic signals, signs, etc.; and that would require a change of mindset for the authorities.


With such improved bus infrastructure and services, public transport (which includes metro & LRT as well) will attract more person trips conducted by private vehicles and encourage better access to urban mobility for all, as a right, not as a social subsidy.


Figure 2- CTA (Cairo Transport Authority) bus picking up passengers off the West side of Salah Salem at Azhar st/Hussein Bus Stop


Figure 3- Passengers hailing a bus on the East side of Salah Salem at Azhar st/Hussein bus stop


Figure 4- Picture taken aboard a CTA bus heading south, approaching the west side of Salah Salem – Azhar st/Hussein bus stop. 



Buckley, E. (2016). Plans, route unveiled for long-awaited Bogota Metro. The City Paper. Retrieved from

ITDP. (2015). Best Practice in National Transport for Urban Transportation: Part 2.

Sims, D. (2012). Understanding Cairo: the logic of a city out of control. Oxford University Press.

Soja, E. W. (2010). Seeking spatial justice (Vol. 16). U of Minnesota Press.

Tadamun. (2015). The Mustafa Al-Nahhas Corridor Development Project: A Lost Opportunity?. Retrieved from

Dec 19, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Food security may not seem a priority during current conflicts, but it is critical that the region seize opportunities to make better use of scarce water resources to address a longer-term challenge to the region’s stability.


Continue reading this article on the World Bank's website


This article was first published on the Arab Food and Nutrition Security Blog

Dec 11, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Silvia Marchionne moderated the discussion on “How can Mobility and Cultural Exchanges Promote Entrepreneurship and Regional Integration?” in the context of the regional conference on Youth and Employability in MENA: Better Skills, More Jobs” in Cairo in July 2017. In this article, she restitutes the discussion’s main takeaways.


The Southern Mediterranean region is facing a changing landscape characterised by a deep economic crisis and high youth unemployment rates, lack of skills, important gaps between the skills and the labour market, low employability rates of graduates and a growing demand for high skilled profiles and a global competition for talent.


Many MENA countries, especially Arab Mediterranean countries, face important and overlapping challenges. Youth unemployment rates in MENA (21 percent in the Middle East and 25 percent in North Africa) are higher than in any other region in the world. Young women and new educated entrants in the labour market are disproportionately unemployed. Moreover, young entrants to the labour market are more educated than ever before, but are unable to capitalize on the time and resources invested in their education because of a lack of good quality jobs in the respective labour markets.


There are many factors that influence economic growth, ranging from governance and overall macroeconomic and political stability, to productivity, innovation, and the quality of skills that education systems can develop. Skills development is a cumulative and dynamic process that occurs throughout an individual’s life cycle. Skills are acquired through many avenues: the formal education system, informal and continuing education, and on-the-job training.


Taking into consideration this challenging environment, there is a need to establish closer links between higher education and employability, between youth mobility and research, between governance of higher education and employability to promote the establishment of more cross-sectoral partnerships.

Universities are relevant institutions in promoting economic growth and civil society participation, not only for their capacity to create and disseminate knowledge, but also as organizations that attract talented people, inject new ideas, enrich cultural life, and encompass the whole social fabric of which they are a part.


In this context, interconnection between the need to increase opportunity for encounter and dialogue on one hand, and on the other hand to structure that encounter around the value set and interest of citizens such as good practices in the domain of creative enterprise and managing cultural diversity is a crucial aspect as well as the importance of mobility as a transversal dynamic of cultural relation, in terms of ideas and cultural works as well as people-to-people cooperation. Those are the main key messages of this session, as mobility exchanges could surely help increasing the citizenship and entrepreneurial skills of youth and their employability opportunities. However, mobility and exchange should be promoted not only from South to the North but also from North to South and South-to-South countries. This should lead us to working to stop increasing barriers to cultural mobility in Europe and the Mediterranean interconnected with policy approaches on security and migration, especially working more on facilitating the visa delivery.


In conclusion, we should work to empower individuals and preparing long lasting solutions in a long-term perspective to integrate youth in the society, by filling the gap in the lack of awareness and information for mobility opportunities (by increasing info days, dissemination and relations between university staff and students/youth regarding mobility) and through facilitating platforms and opportunities for cross-network actions, involving diverse civil society networks.




Dec 05, 2017 / 0 Comments
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The 23rd edition of the COP-UNFCCC took place at the Bonn World Conference Center from 6-17 November 2017. The CMI-facilitated Mediterranean Youth for Water (MedYWat) Network was represented by its core group members Antoine Allam and Hassan Tolba at a joint UNESCO/UNECSO-IHP side event, organized in collaboration with the World Youth Parliament for Water.


MedYWat is a community of young professionals, researchers and civil society members working in the water sector from around the Mediterranean. It was launched earlier at the CMI World Water Day youth workshop “Youth Innovating with Wastewater for a Sustainable Mediterranean” (Marseille, 21-22 March 2017) and has been growing ever since.


The “The role of Youth in Bridging Water and Climate Change” side event took place on Friday 10th as part of the 2nd Water Action Day at the UNESCO Pavilion, in the presence of the Deputy Director of the Division of Water Sciences at UNESCO, Dr. Anil Mishra.


The session was introduced by Dr. Mishra, myself and the other two speakers, Anaïs Vives, board member of (Generations Climate and the Water and Climate Initiative) and Hassan Tolba (World Youth Parliament for Water).


The session began with my own presentation on “Mediterranean Youth for Regional Water Security” which consisted of a description of the Center for Mediterranean Integration, the MedYWat network and a case study of climate change impact on Mediterranean watersheds.


Several reports mentioned the escalating situation in the Mediterranean involving water resources such as the Plan Bleu 2012 report (PlanBleu, 2012),[1] IPCC 2014 report (IPCC, 2014)[2] and Llsat’s 2013 study (Llasat, et al., 2013). [3]They all confirmed that climate change is deeply affecting the hydrological regime of Mediterranean watersheds.


Once again, the findings of a simulation research study on the evolution of Lebanese snow cover done in 2007 and later verified by measures in 2017 at the “Centre Régional de l’Eau et de l’Environnement” (CREEN) of Saint Joseph University in Beirut (Hreiche & Najem, 2007), [4]confirmed the impact of climate change on Lebanese water resources.


Researchers noticed that spring discharges between 2005 and 2015 were becoming more regulated, with a lower peak flow in spring season and higher flows in winter, compared to the period between 1965 and 1975 with 2°C lower temperatures. Another finding by researchers was the early snowmelt occurring 1 month earlier than before. Such impacts might affect the water management plans and have major consequences on irrigation, water supply and other water management applications.


Therefore, to anticipate major consequences on water management in Lebanon, we are working right now at CREEN on developing a low flow prediction model to support water authorities in management tasks.

As a Mediterranean youth, myself, I call on other young people to take part in the fight against climate change by: 


  • Volunteering in local and regional youth committees and networks promoting more sustainable development by raising awareness in several Lebanese universities, scouting activities and others
  • Working in the water sciences research field with several research projects involving water resources and climate change
  • Acquiring new personal healthy habits such as reducing waste production


At COP23, several UNESCO sessions stressed the importance of youth involvement in research studies on climate change, since access to data has become easier and several organizations such as G-Wadi, (, a UNESCO MENA platform) built online platforms for data collection and sharing. These research opportunities push youth and research communities in exploring the relations between climate change and natural resources.


This session was unique, it gave an opportunity to youth to contribute to the 2nd Water Action Day by presenting their work and achievements.

Indeed, youth are gaining ground when it comes to conceiving and presenting innovative solutions.


Through my participation at COP23 Water Action Day, MedYWat network seized another opportunity to gain visibility as a blooming and active network on an international level. MedYWat needs to keep making progress with a clear working plan for addressing climate change.


[1] PlanBleu. (2012). les demandes en eau toujours satisfaites en Méditerranée à l'horizon 2050 ? Les Notes du Plan Bleu, #25. Sophia Antipolis: Plan Bleu PNUE/PAM.


[2] IPCC. (2014). GIEC, 2014: Changements climatiques 2014: Rapport de synthèse. Contribution des Groupes de travail I, II et III au cinquième Rapport d’évaluation. Genève, Suisse: GIEC.


[3] Llasat, M., Llasat-Botija, M., Petrucci, O., AA, P., J, R., F, V., & L, B. (2013). Towards a database on societal impact of Mediterranean floods within the framework of the HYMEX project. Natural Hazards Earth Systems Sciences. doi:10.5194/nhess-13-1337-2013


[4]Hreiche, A., & Najem, W. (2007). Hydrological impact simulations of climate change on Lebanese Coastal Rivers. Hydrological Sceinces Journal, 1119-1133.

Dec 05, 2017 / 0 Comments
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The main aim of COP23 is to move forward with the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement by forging a grand coalition to speed up climate actions before 2020.


This includes negotiations on the implementation framework for transparent climate action under the Paris Agreement, as well as showcasing different actions around the globe to reduce green house gas emissions across different sectors, including on vulnerability and resilience of water resources in the face of climate change.


A "Water Action Day" thematic day was dedicated to water security during COP23, at the UNESCO Pavilion. The CMI Mediterranean Water Heroes presented Mediterranean youth-led solutions in the region including "The role of Youth in Bridging Water and Climate Change" and "Water Security and Climate Action from a youth perspective".


Water Security and Climate Action in Mediterranean region. In the Mediterranean region, more than half of most countries’ populations are under 30.Today, young water professionals are highly educated and aware of the challenges facing water and the climate in the region, and have the potential to make a considerable contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the region, particularly to SDG 6 which calls for clean water and sanitation.


Most Mediterranean countries, particularly in the Arab region, have been facing severe water insecurity including chronic water scarcity, lack of access to safe water and improved sanitation services, to hydrological extremes such as droughts and floods. Water insecurity is worsening due to population growth, unplanned urbanization, influx of refugees as well as climate change. These factors will all continue to exacerbate stress on socio-economic development and result in greater pressure on water resources and the environment.


Taking youth seriously is not an option but an urgent priority for many Mediterranean countries to achieve water security in fragile contexts. The Youth is the backbone of any society and the most dynamic & vibrant human resource that can take the society on the path of sustainability and inclusive growth. Engaging this vast untapped potential and dynamic energy will lead to a paradigm shift in the water sector. Actively engaging youth in conserving the water resources and promoting economic and social development will be essential to drive societies towards sustainable development.


Today’s water sector in the Mediterranean faces the fundamental challenge of trying to do more with less – not an easy endeavor due to intermittent water supply, ageing infrastructure, lack of information systems, weak institutions and strained human and financial resources. Moreover, water security is more complex in fragile contexts, which intensify water resources vulnerability and weaken the social contract between institutions and local communities as a destabilizing force and risk multiplier.


The status quo is not enough Water is pivotal to reach our SDGs and the Paris agreement, but for that, we need to have a paradigm shift from an infrastructure delivery approach to planning resilient services and nature-based solutions. We need to change how we collaborate, how we draft our policies and implement them in a more holistic way, and find new financing mechanisms for achieving the water SDG.


Youth led solutions for water Cutting-edge youth solutions in solving the multiple challenges of sustainable development have the potential to push the water sector to scaling up, in the face of economic, political and cultural obstacles. In terms of holistic solutions, the role of young water professionals can be summarized as follows:


  • Diversified collaboration:  It is important to build inclusive approaches and to ensure that no one is left behind, through creating platforms for intergenerational dialogue, communication and exchange to share knowledge, expertise, experiences and youth initiatives across the region to learn from one another. We want our voices to be heard and our opinion to be taken into consideration in the decision-making processes. A proactive, structured and continuous communication between young water professionals, different stakeholders and various communities will be key in building resilient societies and developed economies in the face of water challenges and climate change.


  • Raising awareness and Capacity-building: It is crucial to raise awareness around water challenges among young people and to inspire them to get involved in strengthening the resilience of communities to water-related hazards. They will need knowledge to understand the state of water resources and to stimulate behavioral change towards a new ‘water culture’.


  • Innovation and Collaborative leadership A sustainable water future for all depends on collaborative leadership. Leadership and innovative ideas can significantly contribute to resolving water challenges and providing holistic and innovative solutions to harness untapped resources such as non-revenue water, wastewater reuse and recovery with a new approach towards financing the water sector.
Dec 01, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Women collecting water in Al-Minsalah district, Haddjah province, Yemen. Photo: ECHO/T. Deherman

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.


Continue reading this article on the World Bank blog 

Oct 06, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Most global warming was caused by developed countries, but combatting it is now the work of both developing and developed countries.  This fundamental inequality, and how to resolve it, is at the core of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  And of every climate change agreement since then, including of course the Paris Agreement of 2015 and the Marrakech Agreement of 2016.


In those various agreements, developed countries agreed to provide substantial – and subsidized – financing for climate change mitigation projects in developing countries which decide to be pioneers and champions of climate change mitigation, whether in renewable energy, transport, or other sectors.  In that context, the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), including their climate change mitigation components, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP), were launched in 2008.  The CIFs were a precursor to the much larger Green Climate Fund (GCF) launched in 2015.  To date the GCF has more than US$10 billion in contributions.  It provides grants and highly-subsidized loans for public and private sector projects.  And both the public and private sectors need to become much more familiar with how it works and how to access it.


One of the key investment principles behind such financing is that each dollar should have maximum effect.  This means that projects should be transformational, i.e. not business as usual, and should have such a clear demonstration effect that the projects can be expected to be replicated elsewhere.  There is a well-known phenomenon in the development of a technology in which the technology has not yet crossed the “Valley of Death”.  In other words, the demand for that technology is low because its costs are high, and its costs are high because its demand is low – demand, and hence production, is not yet high enough to create economies of scale in the manufacturing of the technology.


Renewable energy technologies have faced the Valley of Death, and demand for some of them has been sufficiently stimulated by policy incentives (e.g. high feed-in tariffs and investment subsidies).  Examples of this are solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power, which were transformational for the energy sector.  Subsidized financing, and other policy instruments, have taken PV and wind to the scale at which they no longer need substantial policy support.  They have crossed the Valley of Death and are going far beyond the other side.


However, the revolutionary transformation in the energy sector still to be completed is the one which provides continuous clean energy reliably 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.  That’s how fossil fuel-fired electricity generation can be fully replaced.  PV works only when the sun is shining, and wind power when the wind is blowing, even if they are now low-cost options when they are available.  They therefore need to be complemented by clean technologies which can store energy to use when the sun and wind can’t provide it directly.


One such option for storage is to generate heat from the sun, store the heat, and use it to generate electricity.  That is what solar thermal – or concentrated solar power (CSP) – does very effectively.  CSP can provide clean electricity 24/7/365, using thermal storage (e.g. storing heat in a salt solution).  Its costs are falling as its use scales up, but – at only 5000MW of CSP currently in operation globally – it’s not yet safely on the far side of the Valley of Death.  Policy incentives are still needed to scale up demand, and achieve those full economies of scale in manufacturing of the equipment.


One region of the world where CSP is particularly productive is the large, dry, cloudless and sunny deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  Therefore, that’s the region where any global subsidies can achieve a particularly substantial scale up of the use of CSP technology.  For that reason, the CTF adopted a US$5.6 billion CSP Investment Plan for MENA in 2009, which resulted in the successful 500MW Noor CSP plants in Morocco (a 10 percent increase in the global capacity of CSP).


The CTF subsidized funds catalyzed a package of other concessional and non-concessional financing from public and private sources, and led to a weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of only about 4 percent for those projects.  A WACC as low as 4 percent would have been impossible to achieve otherwise, and the scale up of CSP in sunny MENA would therefore have been much slower to happen without the CTF.  CSP would have stayed on the wrong side of the Valley of Death for longer.


Recent CSP prices in Dubai, Australia and Chile, and China’s large scale-up of CSP, suggest that grid competitiveness for CSP is not too far away, but there is still some distance to cover.  Fortunately, the availability of concessional financing for climate change mitigation in MENA is still substantial.  There are some funds remaining in the CTF and SREP, and even larger funds in the GCF, which has been barely tapped for MENA so far, and not at all for energy storage or CSP.


The GCF is the story waiting to happen for CSP and energy storage in MENA. For example, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya or Lebanon could propose CSP projects to the GCF, and benefit from comparable WACCs to those which enabled the Noor CSP plants.  There are plenty of GCF-accredited financial institutions active in MENA that could support such projects: for example, AFD, KfW, FMO, JICA, EBRD, AfDB, the World Bank, and IFC. Which will be the first one to bring low WACCs from the GCF to MENA to enhance the regional and global scale-up of CSP?  Maybe governments, utilities, and the private sector just need to ask….