17 August 2020 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo UFS Photo Archive
Prof Hussein Solomon’s new book, which provides a comprehensive overview of the crises facing the Middle East North Africa region, will hit the shelves in 2021.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a region plagued by various crises in governance, gender relations and identity politics as well as environmental challenges.  These crises, viewed from a COVID-19 perspective, is placed under the spotlight in a new book by Prof Hussein Solomon, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies and Governance at the University of the Free State (UFS) and Prof Arno Tausch, associate professor at Innsbruck University in Austria. 

In, Arab MENA Countries: Vulnerabilities and Constraints Against Democracy on the Eve of the Global COVID-19 Crisis, the authors offer critical insights into the region and explore their different facets and how policymakers have responded to them and what alternatives there are in overcoming them.

Existing literature does not speak to a post-COVID MENA

“As someone who follows current developments in the region via news media, one obviously asks oneself: what is the political, economic and social implications of the pandemic,” says Prof Solomon.

One of the main reasons for writing the book was that existing literature does not speak to a post-COVID-19 world. “My co-author and I felt it imperative to work on this book and get it out so policymakers can take cognisance of these new developments and academics can re-assess the current literature extant on the region,” says Prof Solomon

The book also examines regional trends whilst being conscious of the situation in each country. It also aims to bring an understanding of the regional trends and country specific peculiarities.  

COVID-19 made the MENA region even more vulnerable

The title of the book is quite a mouthful but Prof Solomon explains: “The MENA region is awash with crises; their heavy dependence on fossil fuels, their closed political systems and social fragmentation. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic their vulnerabilities and constraints are exacerbated.” 

With the lockdowns imposed by governments worldwide and the decreased demand for fossil fuels in the MENA region resulted in huge fiscal challenges for the governments. This as well as nepotism and, appointing people without the required expertise also constraints these states in adopting and implementing effective strategies.

Prof Hussein cautioned that “the impact of COVID-19 is still a novel and new area of research” but by framing the book within the context of the pandemic, the book provides the most comprehensive account on the region.

The book will be published by Springer for distribution in 2021.

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