Photo: GIES 2016 panel (L-R): Axel Threlfall (moderator), Tirad Mahmoud, Chiara Appendino, Ali Al Nuaimi
Today’s youth want to be challenged and not spoon-fed; they know what they want and they need to be part of the decision making process, speakers at the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) said today.
The plenary session, “Today’s youth, tomorrow’s leaders: scalable solutions to empower the next generation”, saw three experts discuss whose responsibility it was to empower the youth and what approach should be taken.
“80 percent of the responsibility falls under the private sector and institutions, and not the governments,” Tirad Mahmoud, group CEO of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) addressed the GIES audience.
“Our program [at ADIB] is focused on creating talent for our own needs. We’re not an incubation centre to create entrepreneurs for the market, but we definitely are an incubation centre for the banking sector,” he said.
ADIB, which employs about 6,000 people in the UAE, another 3,000 in Egypt and is present in six countries, has defined digital banking as youth banking.
On that basis, the bank created a taskforce of young talented people, whom Mahmoud described as the “Mark Zuckerbergs of the UAE” to run this initiative.
“We didn’t give it for the technologists to design digital banking for us,” said Mahmoud.
“Institutions have to take responsibility for their own career and youth development. If every institution does that, the whole country will move forward,” he said.
CONNECTING STUDENTS WITH INDUSTRY
Chiara Appendino, Mayor of the City of Turin in Italy, said that her government has dedicated the economic resources to help youth join the workforce and start-up businesses, but that money alone was not enough.
“We must have an environment that helps youth to develop. That means the private sector, institutions and universities. As an administration, it is our responsibility to put all these subjects together.”
“We have young people with skills and capacities but the challenge is that they don’t believe they have opportunities,” said Appendino, who at 32, is Italy’s youngest mayor to date,
University students can get such opportunities by being in close proximity to large companies, she said.
The Polytechnic University of Turin for example is located about 50 meters from automobile company General Motors and this has helped develop the capacities needed for such a multinational corporation, she said.
“When a city puts these two elements together it can be really successful,” said Appendino.
“Every decision we take is related to youth, and we have to think of its impact in the next five or 10 years, not just tomorrow. I decided two days ago to start a strong policy against gambling. For me, this means taking care of the youth in the future.”
A VOICE IN POLICY MAKING
Ali Al Nuaimi, a senior nuclear energy professional and member of the Emirates Youth Council (EYC) said that the UAE’s initial strategy was to give youth a seat on the table so they could be part of the decision-making process.
This, in turn, would make them feel a sense of responsibility.
“Our leadership keeps emphasizing that we trust our youth not only with their own future but with this country’s future. When young people see youth leaders who are only a few years older them, their mindset changes,” said Al Nuaimi.
Less than 3 percent of the UAE national youth are entrepreneurs, he highlighted, saying that it was an alarming rate especially in a country where people come from all over the world come to start businesses.
“Our youth should now be leading not falling behind. We’ve just launched the National Entrepreneurship Plan (NEP) and it involves 36 public and private sector institutions all collaborating to support the youth. We didn’t ask for more money; we’re just leveraging what’s already there.”
The NEP is part of the National Youth Agenda that was launched last week. It was announced during the National Youth Dialogue retreat at Dubai Design District, where officials heard ideas from young people on how they could help unleash their potential.
“The youth of the UAE are one click away from the minister, they’re one click away from influencing policy,” said Al Nuaimi.
Going forward, he said, any policy that will be passed in the UAE, which will directly or indirectly affect the youth, will have to be seen by members of the EYC to get their opinion.
“What we’re doing now is finding a network of mentors. Because the more you see young people succeeding as entrepreneurs, and the more access you have to them for advice, the less fear you’ll have regarding failure”.
At the end of the day, said Al Nuaimi, governments must instil hope in young people. Otherwise, he warned, the future will be at risk.
(Reporting by Heba Hashem)
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