The Arab world must “create nationals for jobs rather than create jobs for nationals” by nurturing ambition, optimism and self-belief, said Mohamed Ali Alabbar, Director General of the Department of Economic Development and Chairman of Emaar Properties.
Alabbar made his comments during a panel discussion on the ‘Global Talent of the Future’ at the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The forum was held with the support of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin AbdulAziz AlSaud and organised by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority.
Alabbar said unless the Arab nations make a concerted and sustained effort to develop their human capital, the region will be a bystander to the global economy. The Middle East as a whole, he said, has one of the fastest-growing and youngest populations in the world, with around 65 per cent under the age of 25 – 200 million young people.
“If we can nurture this enormous resource we will enter into an era of peace and prosperity; if we cannot, we face a future of dissatisfaction, unrest and economic decline,” he said.
Alabbar said the key to progress is the participation of Arab youth. “We have large reserves of young talent in the region, a pent-up spirit of creativity and productivity. The extent to which we can tap into our most precious resource will determine our future success.”
Alabbar, part of a five-member panel, added that recent advancements in GCC economies have not always been matched by innovations in education, training and job creation. “This has led to a situation where a great opportunity is beginning to look like an impending crisis,” he said.
“In today’s information-driven global economy, a company’s biggest assets no longer consist of buildings, machines or even financial reserves. Today, brainpower is every business’s most important asset, human capital its most vital investment.”
Governments must first make investments in schools, universities and research facilities, while also creating the economic conditions for entrepreneurship to flourish, he said. “Small and medium-size enterprises are breeding grounds for grass-roots talent, the leadership of tomorrow.”
Improvements in education and training, meanwhile, must be matched with societal changes. “We must encourage shifts in attitudes,” Alabbar said, “a spirit of dynamism and enthusiasm.” The place to start with this drive, he added, is in the private sector. “There must be an effort to foster not only efficiency in employees, but creativity and flair, a willingness to take risks – the elements needed for original ideas and innovation.”
GCF is an annual meeting of international business executives, political leaders, intellectuals and academics. This year more than 1,000 delegates attended. ?
Alabbar: Human capital is our most valuable asset