The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will have to create hundreds of millions of new jobs over the next three decades. This challenge presents an opportunity for the region to transform its economies and harness both the creativity of its large youth population and the disruptive power of technology as engines of growth.
The World Bank Group in partnership with the government of Algeria and the Arab Monetary Fund, will bring together policymakers, entrepreneurs and academics from the region and beyond for a series of far reaching discussions on what it will take for MENA to seize this opportunity.
The Youth, Technology and Finance conference will focus on the building blocks of a new economy. This will include discussions on the role education systems play in changing attitudes toward and encouraging innovation. The region has a fast-growing population of university graduates, and widespread adoption of smart phones and social media, but few combine their skills with technology to become entrepreneurs.
The e-commerce site, Souq.com and the ride-hailing app Careem are powerful examples of what is possible, and the conference will host discussions on the environment needed to multiply these green shoots. There will be sessions on creating education systems that equip young people with 21 st century skills, and crafting smart regulations that promote innovation as a driver of private sector development and job creation. Discussions will also focus on the lessons learned in
establishing the necessary technical infrastructure, such as accessible and affordable high-speed internet and digital payment systems.
The new economy will be driven by technological innovation, which has broadened the reach and lowered the cost of training, revolutionized job matching and lowered the cost of incubating start-ups.
A number of the region’s most successful ‘unicorns’ will also be featured at the conference, with their stories of how they leveraged disruptive technologies to launch businesses and grow offering a glimpse of a potential future for the region.