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Key Takeaways from the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa 2017
By admin May 23, 2017

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Some 1,200 global leaders recently convened in Jordan at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) 2017. The themes of this year’s conference touched on Syria, President Trump, jobs, and a possible post-oil economy. In addition, these global leaders discussed means of supporting the burden of refugees as well as ways to end regional conflicts, achieve stability, and maintain peaceful societies. The opening speech this year was delivered by Hussein bin Abdullah II, the Crown Prince of Jordan, only 22 years old. The following are seven key overviews of the topics discussed during the conference, in accordance with the World Economic Forum summarization.

  1. Dealing with E-Extremism

Internet and the expansion of social media has become an open forum in recruiting a new generation of extremists in nearly every corner of the globe. Jordan’s ICT Minister, Majd Shweikeh, spoke on keeping up with cyber criminals and ensuring security on online systems. Others, such as Omezzine Khelifa and Suleiman Bakhit, take on other preventative approaches either through art or music or portrayals of other sets of role models outside of extremist groups.

  1. President Trump in the Middle East

The role of the US in ongoing Middle East conflicts was a main point of discussion during the conference. German Defence Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, made her point clear that Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense would ensure military defeat of Daesh. Norwegian Foreign Minister, Borge Brende, saw “surprisingly positive” signs from the Trump administration on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

  1. The Arab Start-Up Scene

Over 100 start-ups were invited to the conference, spotlighting an emerging Arab tech scene, and highlighting potential in the future for further innovation and exploration in the next generation. Even though regulatory restrictions in the region make it difficult for start-ups to hit the ground running, strategies to overcome these bottlenecks and challenges were discussed at length by government actors and start-up leaders. All 100 start-ups are listed here.

  1. Young People Need Skills

There are many highly educated young individuals in the Middle East, however there are not enough jobs in the area to support them. Unemployment will rise if the jobs remain unsustainable for the upcoming generation. There is more background on this discussion, here. One solution that was considered during the conference was Omar Al Al Razzaz, Jordan’s Education Minister, who spoke on taking students out of traditional learning.  

  1. The Iranian Election Result

During the conference, news of the Iranian President Rouhani’s re-election was announced. German Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke of a “positive sign, positive for the nuclear deal because it’s necessary that all sides meet the requirements.” Norwegian Foreign Minister, Borge Brende, spoke of his hope for a stronger relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  1. Economic Reform

Economic reform in the MENA region highlighted the collapse in oil prices as well as switching gears to an energy-based economy which was analyzed here. Economies at this time are trying to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a focus of a combination of new technologies. The leaders also discussed the importance of growth as inclusiveness between economies.

  1. The Refugee Crisis

King Felipe VI of Spain spoke on the way Jordan paved a way for other countries to follow in the number of refugees it intakes. Jordan’s Minister for Education, Imad Najib Fakhoury, said, “Europe would have had to welcome 100 million refugees and been 50% poorer to do what Jordan has done for Syrians.” Camps around the Arab region have been a catalyst of social innovation, with “bricks made of plastic bottles to humanitarian impact bonds.”

Read More:

1,200 global leaders just met in Jordan. This is what they discussed

World Economic Forum – MENA kicks off in Jordan on May 19

Meet the 100 Arab start-ups shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Future of Jobs and Skills in the Middle East and North Africa: Preparing the Region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution  

How Saudi Arabia can become a post-oil economy

It’s not just NGOs tackling humanitarian crises. Banks have a role too


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