Hero image Arab States

The Arab States

Despite their socio-economic differences, The Arab States (chapter 17) share common priorities. With water scarcity, soil erosion and environmental degradation presenting serious challenges, more governments are embracing science-based solutions, such as indoor vertical farming, desalination and large-scale solar plants.  

Countries are investing in high-tech, sustainable urban centres. Egypt, for instance, has outlined a set of sustainability principles for its new cities which include a minimum threshold for land per capita and the installation of solar panels.  

Arab countries are seeking to develop their manufacturing sector, including in high-tech fields such as aeronautics, agricultural biotechnology and the space industry. They remain reliant on technology imports, however, and partnerships with leaders in space technology. 

Harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution has become an explicit policy priority. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have adopted national AI strategies and at least Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia have plans to do the same. Morocco has established a research programme in AI.  

Gulf states were among the first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks. Saudi Arabia has opened a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the UAE is striving to integrate blockchain into government services and transactions.  

One challenge will be to ensure that education systems can deliver an endogenous skilled workforce, including a critical mass of technicians for Industry 4.0. There are signs that secondary school systems are not delivering as effectively as in neighbouring countries.  

The past five years have witnessed a significant expansion in higher education yet, despite generous public funding for universities, the proportion allocated to R&D remains low in most countries. Consequently, innovative technologies are not being developed or exported by Arab countries. Even the region’s most prosperous economies rely massively upon the purchase of packaged technology inputs from abroad. There even appears to have been a regression in technology transfer in recent years. This suggests a need to prioritize building endogenous research communities whose output is determined by societal demand. 

  • Figure 17.1: Socio-economic trends in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.2: Trends in human resources in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.3: Trends in research expenditure in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.4: Trends in scientific publishing in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.5: Trends in innovation in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.6: STI policies in the Arab States 
  • Figure 17.8: Trends in publishing on cross-cutting strategic technologies in the Arab States 
  • Box 17.1: Yemen embracing solar power for survival 
  • Box 17.2: Engage: funding innovation for sustainable development 
  • Box 17.3: SESAME: a ray of unity 
  • Box 17.4: The Charter of Ethics of Science and Technology in the Arab Region