Investing in youth the only path forward, say Arab League and GCC chiefs at WGS 2023

Arab League and Gulf Co-operation Council heads speak at the World Government Summit in Dubai

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the Arab League, speaks at the World Government Summit. Antonie Robertson/The National
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Investing in the future of the youth and joint work with a clear leadership vision are needed for a prosperous future, the heads of both the Arab League and Gulf Co-operation Council said on Tuesday.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, speaking during a session of the World Government Summit in Dubai on Arab prosperity and development, spoke on the importance of leadership, comparing the GCC's path to that of Libya.

“With the six Gulf countries that we see as part of the GCC, we’re seeing leadership that prioritises the making of the person who can contribute meaningfully back to his or her country,” Mr Aboul Gheit told the audience.

“Yes, there exists natural resources that help them, but what is more important is the leadership that has placed a vision for their people looking at the long-term development of their country.

“Compare the GCC to Libya as an example, where it had a lot of oil resources compared to a smaller population but that was wasted over 50 years and we see the difference now.”

Libya is reliant on oil for about 80 per cent of its gross domestic product and had been exporting about 1.3 million barrels of oil per day before the civil war that broke out in 2011.

Other potential sources of wealth — a neglected tourism industry and unexploited mineral reserves in the south — have taken years to develop as the country delved into further violence, with two rival governments controlling the east and west of the country.

“In Libya, there’s not just been a civil war, but prior to that, there was a theft of the country’s resources that contributed to the situation we’re seeing now,” Mr Aboul Gheit said.

The Arab League chief also spoke on the increasing population growth in the Arab world, especially in Egypt where the country of 104 million people, now growing at a rate of one million every 10 months, has struggled with overpopulation for decades.

“We must plan for this population growth increase from now. This includes putting in place inclusive economies to ensure we are giving these young populations thousands more schools, thousands more jobs, but also focus on building hospitals and clinics to cater to them in the future,” he said.

“The challenge is immense.”

Egypt’s population grew by another million over 221 days, and climbed over 104 million last October, with a baby born every 19 seconds, or 4,525 births a day.

Following Mr Aboul Gheit’s session at the World Government Summit, GCC Secretary General Jasem Al Budaiwi said creating a generation of young people equipped with skills is paramount for the region.

The World Bank estimates that reducing the birth rate from 2.9 per woman to 2.1 in Egypt would result in a cumulative gain in gross domestic product between 2020 and 2030. AFP

“Leaders of the Gulf developed their methods of foresight, supported research and development, and created a generation of young people with skills and capable of understanding and shaping the future,” Mr Al Budaiwi said.

“The GCC countries developed long-term national visions aimed at in essence, it aims to accelerate development, governance and build a better future for its citizens and residents.”

He added, for example, that discussions had restarted over a much-delayed project to connect all six countries of the Gulf with a 2117-kilometre railway.

Mr Al Budaiwi officially began his term as GCC secretary general this month, taking over from departing chief Nayef Al Hajraf. His appearance at the World Government Summit was his first public address as secretary general.

Updated: February 15, 2023, 3:43 AM