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The Middle East and North African (MENA) region is at a turning point. It is highly diverse and home to some of the wealthiest and fastest growing economies, largely owing to an abundance of natural resources. However, the region also includes conflict-affected countries, emerging economies and societies with particularly low average incomes.

Despite historic tensions and ongoing conflicts, which can contribute to regional instability, there are positive signs of economic and social development. Recovery and reconstruction efforts are underway in Iraq, while countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia have undergone major economic and social reforms. With support from the international community, Syrian refugees in Jordan and other nations continue to show remarkable resilience.

The World Bank estimates that by 2050 more than 300 million young people will enter the job market in MENA. This means that by 2050, MENA countries will need to create approximately 10 million jobs per year. This level of growth represents a tremendous opportunity.

Many new jobs will have to come from a competitive private sector. This will necessitate quality educational systems designed to support this next generation with the skills and competencies for the future job market. This presents a distinct opportunity for the accountancy profession. Ultimately, for the MENA region to thrive, governments, businesses, and the overall financial infrastructure will need to be underpinned by robust financial information preparation and reporting, analytical thinking, business advisory services, and creative problem-solving. Professional accountants will be uniquely placed to fill these needs.

Now more than ever the MENA region needs strong professional accountancy organizations (PAOs) serving as key partners to governments, regulators, and businesses in driving development. Only when PAOs are equipped with the resources and capacity to function properly can they develop the capable and competent accountancy professionals the region needs. In turn these professionals, when adhering to strong professional, technical, and ethical standards, can engender trust and credibility that fortifies government, business and the financial system.

Well-functioning PAOs are also essential to support the continuous learning and development of these professionals, review the quality of work, and enforce disciplinary measures where necessary.

In the MENA region this is especially significant as many of PAOs’ development has been hampered, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected jurisdictions. As development accelerates, national PAOs have the opportunity to take on these roles and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government—to the benefit of their countries and societies.

Presently, donor resources are spent on maintaining costly parallel systems to ensure money is allocated and spent as intended. With stronger PAOs in the region, those resources can be better directed to the true objectives of assistance—improving health, education, and livelihoods.

The significance of identified trends and needs in the MENA region is driving IFAC’s development of a report on challenges specific to the MENA region and PAOs. Leveraging data from our Member Compliance Program, the report will provide a deeper analysis on the data included in the International Standards: 2019 Global Status Report. The report will also identify challenges and spotlight successful practices that could be replicated throughout the region.

These trends and needs have also spurred the IFAC PAO Development Committee to form a MENA Working Group. This working group strives to increase the understanding of and advocate for solutions to the obstacles PAOs in the MENA region face. When the report is final, the MENA Working Group will work to raise awareness and advocate for partnerships and innovative support for the region. Meanwhile, the MENA Working Group welcomes comments, ideas, and solutions implemented from other regions in the spirit of global collaboration.

The future of the MENA profession is bright and IFAC looks forward to seeing its growth.

Stay tuned in 2020 for report launch!


Jamal Milhem

Jamal Milhem joined the IFAC PAO Development & Advisory Group in January 2018 for the first term 2018-2020 and was reelected for second term 2021-2023. He was nominated in 2018 by The International Arab Society of Certified Accountants (IASCA) and has been a member of the PAOD&AG since then. Mr. Milhem was also elected by the PAOD&AG as the chair of the MENA Working Group.

Mr. Milhem is currently the Executive Director and partner of TAGI in Palestine and a member of the TAGORG executive Management Council (TAGI is an International Audit firm, Member of FOF and one of TAGORG firms with more than 100 offices worldwide). He has more than 28 years of experience in public accounting and advisory services in different countries in TAGI and TAGORG. In addition, he has more than 7 years of experience in higher education in different universities in Palestine related to teaching and development of accounting education programs.

Mr. Milhem has joined the Palestinian Association of Certified Public Accountants (PACPA) in 1997 (PACPA is a national PAO and an IFAC member), and he has been serving as a board member since 2003 and was elected as vice-president of PACPA from 2010 to 2016 and reelected as a vice president since 2018. He also chaired Code of Ethics Committee and Quality Assurance Committee in PACPA. Furthermore, he has been elected as a board member of IASCA since 2011, (IASCA is a regional PAO and an IFAC member). Mr. Milhem was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, AICPA – Montana State (USA) from 2000 till 2011. Mr. Milhem also served as a member of many other national professional committees, e.g. National team for AML risk assessment, National Palestinian WTO Accession Team, steering committee for National Team for Transparency and licensing committees in the Palestinian Capital Market Authority i.e. (financial analyst), (financial consultant), (investment consultant) and (IPO manager).

Mr. Milhem has earned his Bachelor’s degree in accounting and auditing in 1992, and Master degree in business administration in 1994 from University of Poona, Symbiosis College, India. He has obtained the CPA certification from Montana State Board of Public Accountants – USA in 1998.

Dana Jensen

Regional Manager, IFAC

Dana Jensen manages the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Caribbean regions under the IFAC Member Compliance Program, as well as the IFAC Membership Program, to support the adoption and implementation efforts of international standards and best practices amongst IFAC’s member organizations as well as non-members. Prior to her time at IFAC, Dana was a Policy Coordinator at the United Nations (UN) in the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. She holds an MSc from Columbia University (2011); she is currently Prince Sultan University-Banque Saudi Fransi’s Fellow in Islamic Finance (2021-2023) and is also pursuing a Diploma in Islamic Finance from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants® (CIMA®) (2023).