The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa concluded today with strong expressions of hope for Jordan and the region, as well as recognition that investing in educating young people is critical.
Mirek Dusek, Head of Regional Strategies, Middle East and North Africa, and a Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum, pointed to the “amazing potential of young people and young companies” across the region who have had such a strong presence during the meeting. “We have seen pockets of excellence, but we feel a new economic model is emerging of entrepreneurship.”
Dusek noted that many of these young start-ups have succeeded despite their environment. “How can we help them to be more sustainable and put them at the core of what this region is about?” he asked.
The Forum has been working for many years facilitating dialogue on the crises facing the region to ensure the right stakeholders are sitting down to address fragility and humanitarian catastrophes and deal with the political picture, Dusek added. Leaders from different faiths also discussed the future of Iraq after the liberation of Mosul from Daesh, as well as the role of clerics in society.
Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, said he took away ideas about how to continue creating hope for the young people in the region. “We need to show them examples of success and that we are taking the right action to create the right environment for them to stay in the region … and succeed,” he said. “The region is in turmoil and facing political, economic and social challenges,” he added, but young people are a bright light shining. “We want to give them hope by taking proactive action on the legislative and regulatory side, but also on the encouragement and support side, he said. Hasbani praised the Forum’s Global Shapers community, a network of Hubs developed and led by young people with exceptional potential who want to make a contribution to their communities, and the more than 100 Arab start-ups represented at the meeting.
“We need to keep focusing on entrepreneurship at all levels,” he added. “We need to move forward with supporting entrepreneurship and encourage bigger enterprises to be more socially responsible.”
Start-ups face many challenges in the region, but Ambareen Musa, Chief Executive Officer of Souqalmal, United Arab Emirates, said they struggle with two main areas: talent and regulations. “It is extremely hard to find local talent. We need a real investment in education. It is about educating from a young age about entrepreneurship,” she said. “There are new careers coming on board. Education is key to creating sustainable environment now and for the next generation of start-ups.”
The next challenge is regulations. Investors want to know how big the regional market is, Musa added. “There have been a lot of changes, but I would like to see them faster. The dream is one currency, one region and no borders from a talent and regulatory perspective. That will make the expansion of the region for us much, much easier. It will also attract foreign direct investment.” She pointed out that the region has been built on entrepreneurship. Musa noted that the meeting’s common theme was “reform” and a mindset that it is time to move forward and create a sustainable environment.
Sana Hawasly, Chief Executive of Daraty, Syria, works with children in the education sector. “We want education to empower young people to create a lifelong learning opportunity with no restrictions around their educational experience,” she said. “The best way to create this content is make kids feel free to express themselves and do the work they like to do.” Daraty started with electronics to prepare them to build technology. In 2020 and beyond, people will require technical skills. “We are giving them the tools for the next marketplace that will replace what we are facing now,” Hawasly added. “We were amazed at how kids were enthusiastic to do this.”
Hawasly’s main takeaway from the meeting is the enthusiasm venture capitalists and investors expressed and their interest in the Syrian people. “We should bridge the gap between how much technology is going into Syria and the excitement of investors. We have a powerful workforce in Syria and are strong in technology. We have a great lack of opportunity. I will go back with a great hope that the world is waiting for talent from Syria. We have to track the opportunities and do the hard work to get there.”
Khadija Idrissi Janati, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KMK Groupe, Morocco, and a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, told participants that digital transformation is here and we need to adapt. But with increasing use of digital, society needs checks and balances. Children need to be exposed to digital technologies and the internet, but there must be trust and the engagement of parents.
“Trust is one of the challenges of the use of society media,” she said. Responsibility is critical. It is also critical to verify the veracity of the information on social media. Idrissi Janati pointed out that Facebook just hired 3,000 people to verify information. “We are aware of the benefits [of digital media], but we also must be aware of the risks,” she said.
Seyed Salih Al-Hakim, Director of the Hikmeh Center for Dialogue and Cooperation in Iraq, pointed to the need to keep religion out of politics and the role of clerics in fostering values. “Today, people have recognized that religion cannot be pushed into politics. It has its own place and cannot be part of the political bazaar,” he said. Although religion is an integral part of people’s lives, “People want to have a civil state. We do not want a religious government; we want a civilian government that respects religion … we have tried political Islam and it was not helpful. In history, when the sacred came into politics, it ruined our politics.”
In post-conflict Iraq, there will be a need to create “a country of citizenship” as there is a need for true reconciliation. A dialogue among a group of clerics called for a review of religious and education institutions, as well as of religious curricula. It is time to pay more attention to youth and the role of women in the region. Al-Hakim called on entrepreneurs starting out to pay attention to values in addition to setting objectives and goals.
Beijing: Getting to know Chemical Leasing
Experts from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have introduced the circular economy business model, Chemical Leasing, to stakeholders in China, and are encouraging companies to take advantage of the approach to achieve economic, social and environmental benefits.
More than 60 participants from government institutions, companies, and industry associations participated in a training session, jointly organized by UNIDO and the Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Centre, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China.
Chemical leasing is a business model in which the chemical company supplies a substance for a specific service, but retains ownership of the chemical. It shifts the focus from increasing sales volume of chemicals towards a value added approach
The training in Beijing addressed the general concept and policy perspectives of Chemical Leasing and introduced some of the best case studies showcasing the results of the approach at a global level. The training, which was part of a three-day mission to China, also showed participants how to establish a Chemical Leasing business case and how to quantify the benefits.
Representatives of the Government and of the private sector expressed huge interest and discussed potential ways of applying the Chemical Leasing approach in China.
The fourth Global Chemical Leasing award ceremony will take place in Vienna, Austria, in November 2018. It will be part of the Green Chemistry Conference 2018 in connection with the Council of the European Union (EU) programme, “Smart and Sustainable Europe”, held during Austria’s EU Presidency. Companies and individuals are invited to submit applications for the award in three categories: case studies (for companies), research, and special innovation. The call for applications is open until 15 August 2018. More information can be found here.
UNIDO to work together with the International Solar Alliance
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has signed an agreement to work together with the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The joint declaration was signed on the first day of the Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa taking place in Kigali, Rwanda from 19-21 March. The Forum has brought together key players within the sustainable energy sector to discuss challenges and opportunities for the sector within the wider East African Community.
The declaration was signed by Tareq Emtairah, Director of UNIDO’s Department of Energy and Upendra Tripathy, Deputy Director General of ISA.
UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations promoting and accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development. UNIDO helps countries, among other things, to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.
The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a treaty based international inter-governmental organization which was launched on 30 November 2015, with headquarters in India. The ISA has been established to collectively address common key challenges to scale up solar energy and take coordinated action to aggregate demand for finance, technologies, innovation, reseach and development,and capacity building.
At the signing ceremony, the two parties agreed to cooperate in a number of areas including developing knowledge networks to raise awareness of the benefits of solar energy in member countries; and to jointly collate and provide evidence-based advice to member countries on policies and practices to create a favourable environment for solar energy.
They further agreed to work with other parties, and to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of the global network of sustainable energy centres, which includes the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. The centres provide policy support, capacity building and technical assistance on solar energy applications and energy efficiency.
Business leaders and policy makers engage at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit
Business leaders from ASEAN and Australia attended a series of engagements with policy makers at the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
These engagements provided them with opportunities to share insights into regional market dynamics, as well as exchange views on opportunities from the fast-growing technological advancement and enhanced economic ties between ASEAN and Australia.
Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi, who was in Sydney to participate in the Special Summit, also took time to engage these industry leaders and leading CEOs from ASEAN and Australia.
The business segment of the Special Summit saw the convening of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Conference and a CEO Forum.
At the SME Conference on 16 March, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, and his counterpart from Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, highlighted the importance of SMEs as the engine for growth, and the opportunities for SMEs to benefit from closer economic linkages between ASEAN and Australia in the digital era. On this occasion, Prime Minister Turnbull announced the launch of an initiative on digital trade standards.
Opening the CEO Forum on 17 March, Prime Minister Turnbull highlighted the importance of receiving practical feedback from businesses in progressing regional economic initiatives. He also underscored the value of sharing experiences and expertise in areas such as sustainable and smart city development. To this end, Prime Minister Turnbull launched a new AUD30 million ASEAN-Australia initiative on smart and sustainable cities. Speaking at the same forum, Indonesian President Joko Widodo highlighted the immense opportunities from economic growth and digital technology advancement in ASEAN. The one-day forum addressed key topics related to ASEAN-Australia economic partnership, including on tourism, digital transformation in services, advanced manufacturing, Industry 4.0, agri-food and energy supply chains, and infrastructure.
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