Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Omar K. Alghanim Headshot

Investing in Our Youth and Making a Difference

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Kuwait City, Kuwait -- The eyes of the business, political and developed worlds were focused on the Swiss town of Davos recently when leaders in each of these fields gathered for the annual World Economic Forum. I was fortunate enough to attend this impactful gathering and participate in various discussions addressing issues which we all need to have on our radar screens here in Kuwait and beyond: youth unemployment, reforms in education, and frontier markets.

Here's why these three issues are so important for us. First, the Arab world has some of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Second, almost 65% of our population is below the age of 25. These numbers are alarming. So now it's time for us to create a common understanding of the youth unemployment challenge and find ways to explore policy interventions to increase the number of youth employed in the private sector. As CEO of Alghanim Industries, it's something I am fully committed to doing as look to build a more robust economic future for our youth. We cannot effectively create a more prosperous society for the next generation without securing social stability and having young nationals participate in private sector jobs.

Thankfully we are already seeing some tangible impact of that, through a regional NGO - Injaz - founded in 2004. Operating in 15 countries across the Middle East, over one million Arab youth have participated in the program to date. As we know, entrepreneurship is key to success, so the organization helps connect the youth with business leaders who in turn provide them with skills and understanding to be competitive in the work force. With such high unemployment in Middle East, there is need to create jobs and fill them, so this platform is one we can already see working with great effect.

Here's an example. Two months after the Egyptian Revolution, entrepreneurs Bassem El-Hady and Bahy Aboelezz started Kijamii, a Cairo-based social media company that counts Coca Cola, UN Women and the British Council as clients. With 12 employees now on the payroll, Bassem continues to explore new opportunities outside of the business world too. He founded TEdX Cairo, and spoke at the world renowned Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford.

Examples like this show the effectiveness of continuous feedback, coaching and mentoring. It shows the importance of being committed to investing in human growth and potential. But we can't stop there. Let us also make a conscious effort to integrate greater female participation in the workforce particularly in the Arab world.

To participate in private sector jobs, we need to rethink education and address key skills needed by our youth to succeed in a competitive environment. We need to engage educators in a dialog and explain the need to invest in training to develop relevant competencies required by the private sector. Simply put, talent underpins everything. People are the platform for growth, industrialization, and competitiveness. So how do we go about making this happen? Let's have some facts speak for themselves.

For instance, corporate giving to global health is sixteen times what it is to global education. Shouldn't we all think about investing more in our youth so their futures are launched from a more solid educational and job relevant background? Knowledge is power. Our world today is more connected than ever. We are living in a so called "24/7" world, but a world when we are more informed than ever before. Yet there in lies our challenge. I plan to rise to this challenge, invest more in our youth, encourage entrepreneurship and participate in making education more relevant. I strongly believe that a competitive labor force will also encourage more competition in the private sector, which in turn will make our private sector firms stronger and prepare us for global competition in an innovation driven economy. It's time we all started to make a difference, have an impact, and all emerge as leaders.

Omar Alghanim is CEO, Alghanim Industries and Chairman, Gulf Bank