World Economic Forum in the Middle East

I was lucky enough to go to last year’s World Economic Forum in the Middle East and I have posted from the region a couple of times. This year, client work meant I could not go, but my colleague Jere Sullivan was there and sent me this guest post.

As a first-time attendee at the World Economic Forum in the Middle East it has taken me a few sessions to get my head around the whole event. It is a combination of the ultimate networking experience for the region with the equivalent of a three day MBA emersion program. So far some obvious patterns have emerged in terms of key topics of interest. So let me see if I can provide a couple of key soundbites.

Wealth distribution not wealth creation. The region is in the midst of five year oil boom which in of itself is nothing new. However, some experts claim, while others warn, that unlike past booms, it is critical that money be reinvested in the region to create much needed jobs – 100 million to be exact by 2020.

Water is the next oil. Everyone from King Abdullah to leading venture capitalists have highlighted the need for clean water. Estimates are some $700 billion will be required over the next 30 years to address the regions needs.

Think beyond oil. As one speaker noted the stone age did not end because they ran out of stone. Similarly there has been a call on the region to find alternative sources of business. Technology specifically has been a singled out.

Educate for the future. With a population in the region of some 320 million people, one can’t help to be struck by the fact that 200 million are under the age of 25. This presents opportunities and challenges. All leaders have called for the need to educate the next generation which was highlighted by Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed’s announcement of a $10 billion foundation to inspire learning and leadership for youth.

The environment is not governed by political and cultural differences. The region is feeling the impact of environmental degradation such as the drying up of the Dead Sea. Governments have been called upon to work across differences to address the ecological challenges in the region.

The three T’s of Infrastructure – travel, tourism and technology. The need for broadband access, new roads, airports and energy and water infrastructure has been addressed throughout as both a way to improve the standard of living and the economy.

Some things never change. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict was front and center for every Arab, Israeli, European and American political speaker. The latest Palestinian on Palestinian conflict has exacerbated the call for action, but sadly it is a story we have all heard before. One can only hope the two major parties will come back to the table to negotiate a settlement.

Where are all the women. No that’s not a pick-up line, it’s a frank assessment of the forum overall. The majority of attendees are men, most prominent speakers are men and ironically one of the major assets in the region was for the most part overlooked – women. Their role in politics, business and the culture sadly was not an item of discussion at the forum. How can half of the population be left out of the debate on the region?

[tags] World Economic Forum [/tags]

Categories Technology

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