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MENA’s big bet for a sustainable and inclusive future


Stakeholder capitalism: 10 per cent of working hours in the region, equivalent to 24 million full-time jobs, were wiped out in Q2 2020 due to Covid-19



Governments across the MENA region have been adopting strategies to reduce their reliance on oil & gas and diversify their economies. A number of countries in the region have set clear national goals for a more sustainable future through numerous initiatives, including a focus on the digital economy, boosting SME participation, and promoting clean energy alternatives.

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and Managing Director of the Crescent Group, has emphasised the critical role that business must play in this transition, and its responsibility to generate the urgently needed opportunities for youth towards a more sustainable and inclusive future for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Speaking in a keynote session titled “Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism in MENA” at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021, he said: “Businesses have no other choice but to be at the forefront of addressing our region’s social and environmental challenges.

It is not just a moral imperative, it is a long-term commercial one, and the inextricable link between long-term economic success and positive societal impact is becoming increasingly clear for all to see.”

The creation of new opportunities for youth is an increasingly urgent imperative, with an estimated 10 per cent of working hours in the region wiped out in 2020 due to Covid-19, equivalent of 24 million full-time jobs being lost.

The Global Risks Perception Survey published last week by the World Economic Forum clearly highlights youth disillusionment and erosion of social cohesion as critical short-term threats to the world.

“A single-minded focus on job creation prevents us from seeing the true challenge and opportunity that lies ahead, and that is instilling a strong sense of purpose, and a feeling of belonging within our youth. Therefore, we urgently need to deploy all the tools at our disposal to strengthen the fabric of our local communities, including through community service and volunteerism,” Jafar added.

Addressing environmental sustainability, Jafar commented that the Middle East is especially vulnerable to climate shocks, and faces a host of environmental risks such as water scarcity, high levels of pollution, and biodiversity loss.

“If you argue that economic considerations trump everything else in a crisis, or you really think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money,” he remarked.

Despite transformative technologies and economic and reforms that offer unprecedented opportunities for progress in MENA, the World Bank has estimated an annual financing gap of over $100 billion to realise the sustainable development potential of the region.

“Every sector has an important role to play in this endeavour, and we will fail if any one of us chooses not to take action. Governments, businesses, the academic sector, and even media, can all do more together than any one of us can do on our own. And we must not make the mistake of forgetting young people in this partnership model — we need to ensure feedback loops with the ultimate beneficiaries, our youth, are in place from the beginning, so the solutions that we are working towards are actually relevant to our societies,” Jafar added.

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