Tour of the Middle East- Part 1: Jordan
– The following series of posts will take you on a country by country tour of the Middle East, showing how economic development occurs in one of the most unstable regions in the world.
With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 coming and going, it is easy to make comparisons to where the United States was then, and where it is now. Certain comparisons are natural to make: homeland security, number of troops enlisted, and economic benchmarks to name a few. An interesting statistic that has not drawn much attention is our country’s non-government, charitable foreign aid. U.S. citizens are giving at an all-time high to organizations that provide better lives to the impoverished and war torn citizens of nations around the world. However, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, only 5% of all philanthropic flows are sent to the Middle East region.
Some organizations and companies have realized that stereotyping the entire Middle East population as one entity is both wrong and can lead to unrealized business opportunities. Coca-Cola started a venture in 2010 with the Jordan River Foundation (JRF), an organization led by Queen Rania of Jordan. Since its creation 15 years ago, the JRF has become one of the leading domestic groups advocating a better life for all Jordanians. Coca-Cola saw the progress being made in Jordan due in large part to foundations like the JRF and decided to play a part in the development. The Youth Volunteer Program, a sub-group of the JRF, is the largest volunteer project of its kind. For Coca-Cola, the partnership is not only supporting a meaningful cause, but also creating brand loyalty among the younger generation in Jordan.
While corporations like Coca-Cola can offer time and money to help with economic development, companies like Microsoft are in a unique position to use their products and industry knowledge to spur progress. In its third year of existence, the Innovative Education Forum (IEF) in Jordan is raising the bar for education in the Middle East. Microsoft will attempt to duplicate their efforts in all corners of the Middle East, hoping to match the success they have seen in Jordan.
Since September 11, 2001 many people living in deplorable conditions throughout the Middle East have had their development goals hampered by connotations surrounding their government or by third party extremism. These two public private partnerships demonstrate the value in promoting development in the Middle East despite the region’s touchy reputation in the U.S. The shift from using government dollars for foreign aid to strategic development alliances that teach skills that will have a long lasting effect is a move that companies like Coca-Cola and Microsoft are spearheading. While this can lead to an improved life for many people abroad, it can also help to build a stronger connection between the East and the West.