Encouraging youthful talents

Unrest in much of the Arab world stems from lack of opportunity for youth, an area in which the UAE is well served

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The unrest that has blighted several countries in the Arab world since December 2010 has put into sharp focus the great frustration and lack of opportunity endured by many of the region's young people.

In parts of the region, unemployment rates are among the highest in the world. A coordinated and sophisticated effort will be required to significantly reduce the ranks of the unemployed.

Fortunately in the UAE there are some promising initiatives to tackle this issue, not the least of which are the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, both government-sponsored organisations that offer a range of services, including seed-funding, training and support for the young and the ambitious.

Since it launched in 2007, the Khalifa Fund has provided almost Dh650 million in financial support to more than 360 start-ups. Meanwhile, several organisations, including the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, have organised workshops and awareness campaigns targeting young people.

The Arabreneur initiative, as The National reported yesterday, is a good example of a fund that may eventually stimulate jobs and economic development right across the region. Abdul Malek Al Jaber, the Palestinian businessman who heads the fund, is planning to provide training, connections, office space and grants for technology start-ups throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

His initiative focuses on training young entrepreneurs to be ready to deal with venture capitalists, and helps them to acquire the relevant skills needed to be successful in the business world.

While the project's headquarters are in Amman, Arabreneur also has offices in Dubai and is about to open a branch in Ramallah to engage with young Palestinians.

According to a 2012 report by the World Economic Forum more than 75 million young people in the Middle East are "in dire need of an economic future". Additionally, Mr Al Jaber believes 100 million jobs will need to be created in the Arab world in the coming years. In that context, his fund (and those available elsewhere) are vital in the quest to solve the region's complex problems.