Youth must ‘transform’ Saudi Arabia, Misk global forum hears

Three-day gathering hears lessons and messages of inspiration from across generations

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More than 15,000 people gathered at the 2022 Misk Global Forum in Riyadh this week to discuss ways to a bridge generation gap and unlock the talent of youth.

The three-day forum, organised by the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation, brought together Saudi ministers and businesspeople, along with best-selling authors, speakers and entrepreneurs from around the world.

Dr Badr Al Badr, chief executive of the Misk Foundation, called on youth to “transform” the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“How can we bridge the generational and cultural divide? We start with dialogue, intergenerational dialogue,” he said during the opening address.

Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said that giving the youth the chance to prove themselves was key, as is giving them the right ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

Misk Global Forum 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Mariam Nihal / The National

“You have to enable an economic environment that gives them ownership. You cannot have youth work meaningfully today unless you give them a feeling of ownership of that success,” he said.

Meanwhile, Economy and Planning Minister Prince Faisal F Alibrahim celebrated the youth for helping the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am continually amazed by what the youth can do when given the opportunity. The energy we see today is inspiring. This is the future,” he told the audience.

To be “willing to be surrounded by smarter people” is very important.

“Growing up, we always wanted to be the smartest person in the room, but now I would worry if I was,” he said, introducing a note of levity.

“It was refreshing to see young professionals from all ministries talking about policies based on science and evidence.”

Princess Haifa Al Saud, Vice Minister of Tourism, brought tears to her mother's eyes as she spoke about her inspirational upbringing.

“Flexibility is necessary to be part of the change. Continuing to learn from everyone and find inspiration in all that surrounds us helps us to succeed and grow personally and professionally,” Princess Haifa said, adding that people should remember everyone is “just human”.

She said it was important to be self-aware and patient, as these are critical to personal growth and overall success.

Guests said they were impressed by the exhibition and talks.

“This is so exciting for every member of our society as it not only showcases the progress of the kingdom but also gives us hope to achieve more,” said Alanoud Alsayed, 25, a Saudi marketing student.

“The opportunities are endless. I am learning how to start up a company while learning about Manga anime and music production at the same time all in one day with these workshops, it's amazing,” she said.

Others agreed.

An interactive piece of art at the Misk Global Forum made from coloured dots that represent the answers to questions asked to participants. The final image will be made into an NFT. Misk Foundation

“I didn't realise how important this intergenerational dialogue was,” Shaima Nasser said, adding that the panels had opened her eyes.

She added that she had been excited to see bestselling author John Sanei and podcast star Jay Shetty, who, she said, “I absolutely love.”

“I listen to his podcast every morning and I am so happy he is in my home country,” she said.

With the theme of intergenerational dialogue on the agenda, Dr Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, 77, the first Saudi to lead a UN agency, said “ageism is out”.

“The fact that Misk adopts that, means now there is a realisation in our country that development is across all ages,” she said.

She said that while the youth make up the majority of Saudi Arabia’s 35 million strong population, the future generation needs the older generation as they lack “the two C’s — context and consequences”.

“You bring new ideas to a context that you may not yet understand, and you don't yet understand the consequences of your decision, we can help you with that,” she said.

But the summit was not just about talks, it also allowed expression and displays of art.

Dr Ahmed Mater, one of the most prominent Saudi artists, said art is like a thermometer for cultures.

“It's a mirror of society. Art will give us an image of the future,” he said.

Jay Shetty at Misk Global Forum 2022 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Misk Foundation

Award-winning health and wellness podcaster Shetty said discussions around generational divides were key as research suggests millennials have become more disengaged at work while Gen Z is changing jobs 134 per cent faster than two years ago.

He said it is important for everyone to help find a purpose in life and to follow that to the best of their ability.

“Purpose equals passion plus strength and impact. Your purpose is what you love, what you’re exceptionally good and skilled at. Using that to serve and impact other people creates purpose,” he said to cheers from the audience.

Author Sanei said he used the world’s largest platform on youth to highlight the cracks in global education.

“The education system and structure we have is all about efficiency, but tomorrow is about adaptability and creativity. This is what transformation is about,” he said.

Entrepreneur Aljohara Mohammed, 32, said she was excited to see American-Palestinian comedian Mo Amer.

“I loved his show and his story about his roots, it is the most authentic show I have seen done by an Arab,” she said.

Amer, who was also cast in Dwayne Johnson's superhero blockbuster Black Adam, said that it was a great experience as he continues to honour and share his Arab values and Palestinian heritage with the world.

He encouraged artists to follow their vision and passion regardless of the rejection and challenges. He said it is important to be authentic and true to yourself and your roots.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 6:04 PM