MENAP’s youth do have a future - GulfToday

MENAP’s youth do have a future


Photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

Middle East McKinsey and Company’s report “Opportunity Youth” for Middle East North Africa and Pakistan (MENAP), released in August lays out the challenges and opportunities before the region. The configuration of the region is interesting because the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its World Economic Outlook reports conjoins the Middle East with Central Asia.

The MENAP displays a certain unity because the countries stretching from Morocco to Pakistan are Muslim countries by and large, and except for Pakistan, they are Arabic-speaking countries. A common language and a common religion can serve as unifiers to a great extent. But the challenges facing the region are formidable and the opportunities are immense. The report has identified seven of the challenges and opportunities, and if each of these challenges is met, then the result could be a vibrant and prosperous MENAP.

The first of these challenges which can be turned into an opportunity is that of demography. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the 350 million people living in this region are below the age of 30. A major segment of the population then is young and holds out great promise. But the challenge is that most of them are not educationally equipped to grab the opportunity that youth can grab. It is estimated there about 29 million jobs will be lost by 2030 due to automation. This would require that majority of the young should be holding a university degree to be able to take up the skilled jobs that the future economy dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced technological sectors like space research and exploration.

There is also the suggestion that there should be greater movement of both capital and people within the MENAP to create more jobs and spur economic growth. And the most important aspect of the job market potential is that more women should join the work force. This would require flexible working hours so that women do not have to drop out of jobs when they start families and bring up children. The fourth issue is that of better health facilities for the whole population because those above the age will go up from 27 million today to 60 million in 2040.

More jobs can be created only if there are more companies in the economic system. These require two things. First, capital should be available for start-ups. The ecosystem for access to capital can be improved if the capital flows within the region are integrated. This will help in job creation and also prosperity of the region. This will also help more superstar firms to emerge because global experience shows that it is the big corporations that create jobs and profits that buoy up the economy. There then must be a conducive atmosphere to facilitate the emergence of the big players in the economy.

To build a prosperous society, based on a growth-oriented company, requires two political preconditions. The governance system has to be transparent, where not just the rules are easy to follow, but there is also the need for governments to show to people what it is they are doing and how they are doing it. The need is for regular report cards of governance. Second, the conflicts in the region, whether it is Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Libya have to be resolved because the impact of wars and disruption entails a huge price in terms of social development and economic growth.

The large number of refugees, the displaced people, and the disruption this causes in the education of the young leads to incalculable losses in terms lives lost and economic opportunities foregone.

Related articles