What Is MENA?

MENA is an acronym for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The region includes approximately 19 countries, according to World Atlas. The MENA region accounts for approximately 6% of the world's population, 60% of the world's oil reserves, and 45% of the world's natural gas reserves. Due to the region's substantial petroleum and natural gas reserves, MENA is an important source of global economic stability.

With war and turmoil afflicting the MENA region, economic growth is forecast to improve to an average rate of 2.6% in 2019 to 2020, according to the World Bank.

Understanding MENA

Many of the 14 OPEC nations are within the MENA region. While there is no standardized list of countries included in the MENA region, the term typically includes the area from Morocco in northwest Africa to Iran in southwest Asia and down to Sudan in Africa. The following countries are typically included in MENA: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, and Yemen. Ethiopia and Sudan are sometimes included.

Key Takeaways

  • The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) includes approximately 19 countries, according to World Atlas.
  • The region has vast oil, petroleum, and natural gas reserves.
  • Due to these reserves, MENA is an important source of global economic stability.
  • The region is afflicted by persistent civil war in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, with the United States and Russia supporting opposing sides and providing military resources.

​The MENA region has grown in geopolitical importance since 2011 when a number of the regions long-time dictatorships were overthrown in an event known as The Arab Spring. Following this event, oil supplies from Libya, for example, have been extremely volatile, influencing the price of oil on international markets. Additionally, civil war in Syria has brought the U.S. and Russia into direct military competition in a way not seen since the Vietnam War in the 1960s, 1970s, and the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Each country backs different sides and provides military assistance.

Fast Fact

According to World Bank estimates, due to civil war in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, "Fifteen million people have fled their homes, many to fragile or economically strapped countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Djibouti, and Tunisia, giving rise to the biggest refugee crisis since World War II."

A Troubled Region

​The term MENA is also used in discussions on the deteriorating relations between Arab states in the region. For example, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are engaged in a diplomatic standoff that has resulted in banking sanctions and no-fly zones between the two countries. Yemen is also feeling the pressure of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia that has pitted these two regional powers against each other. According to the World Bank, the MENA region,"is in turmoil. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen are in civil war, causing untold damage to human lives and physical infrastructure."