As a Young Global Leader, I am fortunate to be participating in a number of meaningful sessions and workshops at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia, taking place in Istanbul.
My area of interest is the issue of job creation, and I will be taking part in a mix of private and public sessions focused on three themes:
- The role of large employers in the challenge of job creation
- The youth unemployment crisis
- The importance of enabling small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to thrive vis-à-vis these issues
I have read from many sources and heard through various discussions different numbers in terms of how many jobs are needed in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to tackle unemployment. According to the World Bank, 100 million jobs are needed by 2020. That is a huge number to digest.
Zooming in on Jordan, I read a draft report on unemployment and job creation, indicating that the country needs to create at least 30,000 jobs a year just to keep the unemployment rate from rising. That might not seem like a huge number when compared to 100 million, but with a population of around 6.5 million, no natural resources and with 70% of the population under the age of 30, that is a big challenge.
The public sector has been working with the private sector and NGOs to create an ideal environment for SMEs and entrepreneurs to thrive in, such as securing loan guarantees from international agencies and launching initiatives such as Oasis500; a focus on ICT start-ups incubates, trains, invests in and provides a platform for entrepreneurs to present to angel investors.
Generally, both SMEs and entrepreneurship are expected to generate jobs, though some argue that one is more effective than the other in terms of the number of jobs created. I believe it’s a combination of both, and I would like to add to that the element of innovation is an important driving force.
Though the meeting sessions will be beneficial in putting forth the issues and some suggested solutions, I believe that true partnership throughout the region, as well as strong local partnerships formed between the public, private, NGO and civil society, will be the key in addressing not only the job creation challenge, but also many other common and critical issues.
Dina Shoman (@dinashoman) is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Executive Vice-President of Branding and Member of the Board of Directors at Arab Bank and a participant at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia 2012.
Picture: Unemployed Afghan workers sit as they wait for jobs in Kabul. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic