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May 2019

The latest Hammamet conference in Tunisia focussed on digital tech. With North Africa once again witnessing real instability, Insight hosts a debate on the implications of this disruptive technology for the region and for the UK.

North Africa is seeing more turmoil, with recent popular uprisings in Algeria and Sudan, and intensified fighting in Libya

North Africa is seeing more turmoil, with recent popular uprisings in Algeria and Sudan, and intensified fighting in Libya. The region’s large and under-employed youth population is often cited as a driver of political instability and potential radicalisation, and all too often talked about as a problem. With high levels of education and connectivity to the outside world, this generation of young people has high ambitions and aspirations. Yet they are finding it difficult to earn a decent living in economies which are not generating enough well-paid jobs. 

Can the opportunities presented by digital tech help to solve the region’s underlying challenges, or could they in fact exacerbate them? And what can the UK do to help? 

In response, policymakers are looking to private entrepreneurship and new knowledge-based sectors such as technology. Can the opportunities presented by digital tech help to solve the region’s underlying challenges, or could they in fact exacerbate them? And what can the UK do to help? 

Following up from the British Council’s Hammamet Conference, Insight examines both sides of a debate whose repercussions are potentially vital for North Africa and for the wider world. Claire Spencer, Middle East expert and Hammamet Co-Chair, makes the positive case for the huge power of digital to transform lives and prospects across North Africa and accordingly argues for a change in the UK’s policy priorities. Khaled Diab, Belgian-Egyptian writer, journalist, and the other Hammamet Co-Chair, takes a more sceptical approach, highlighting the economic and political dangers inherent in the disruptive new technology and arguing that underlying inequality must be addressed if the region is to succeed in the future.

Alison Baily, Senior Policy Analyst, British Council

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