Arab governments must make the fate of the 180 million young people in the region their top priority, members of the Arab Business Council (ABC) of the World Economic Forum said in a communiqué issued at the close of its second Annual Meeting. "The most urgent issue is reform of education systems to provide young people with the skills required by modern economies," the ABC stressed. "If equipped with these skills, young people can be the driving force of an Arab economic resurgence that will create jobs to sustain growth in future generations." ABC members called on the business community to work with education authorities to improve curricula, develop better vocational and technical training, encourage entrepreneurship, and help young Arabs shape their identity and values.
The communiqué will be delivered to the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the G-8/BMENA (Broader Middle East and North Africa) Forum of the Future that begins Friday.
The ABC also issued the following recommendations:
Arab governments should increase transparency, accountability and the rule of law in public institutions, with budgeting and public procurement as priorities.
Steps should be taken to develop an independent, commercially strong Arab media. The World Economic Forum’s Arab Media Initiative will focus on developing an honest and effective ratings system to help create a robust media market.
All those genuinely committed to a democratic process should be included in the political system. Moderate Islamic leaders should engage extremists in religious debate.
More Arab governments should recognize the value of measuring competitiveness as a tool for boosting accountability and transparency, and support the development of National Competitiveness Councils.
Arab governments and the private sector should enhance regional integration through trade liberalization and not rely on bilateral trade arrangements. "The key is clearly youth and education," said Ged Davis, Managing Director, Centre for Strategic Insight, World Economic Forum. "To unlock the great potential of Arab youth requires competitive economies in the region. What underpins competitiveness is the transparency and accountability of institutions, a vibrant media, a liberal trade regime and a modern education system that prepares students appropriately and ensures they have the right skills. These are the priorities for Arab countries – for both government and business in the region."
Added ABC Chairman M. Shafik Gabr, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Artoc Group for Investment & Development, Egypt: "Arab governments should realize that the existing education systems don’t work. I would like to see in the next 24 months a true revolution in the whole Arab education system." Gabr underscored the need for Arab countries to eliminate illiteracy.
The ABC, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, is composed of 80 top Arab business leaders who are committed to the mission of "enhancing the competitiveness of the Arab world." The two-day ABC annual meeting brought to Bahrain more than 180 senior business, government, media and academic leaders.