Middle East has a crucial role in the global talent war, says Heidrick & Struggles

Published May 21st, 2008 - 01:51 GMT

Middle East has a crucial role in the global talent war, says Heidrick & Struggles

 The region has to focus on education, investment, engagement and imaginative initiatives
 280,000 more jobs need to be generated every year to employ the region’s fresh graduates

Middle East must harness its abundant talent and align it with the demands of demographic and economic growth, according to Ayman Haddad, Managing Partner (Middle East & North Africa) of the global executive research firm Heidrick & Struggles. Speaking recently at a session on ‘Managing mobile talent’ at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Mr. Haddad also said that countries in the region need to focus more on education, enhance their engagement with the rest of the world, attract more investments and launch imaginative initiatives if they are to empower their own people and win the global talent war.

“Talent is the ‘new oil’ in the Middle East. In spite of disparities in population and distribution of wealth among countries, the region as a whole maintains an equilibrium between the working population and the non working population. This will make the Middle East and its talent the envy of aging countries like those of Northern Europe, Japan and the United States,” Mr. Haddad stated.

Mr. Haddad pointed out that 65% of the region’s citizens at present are under the age of 25. “The region needs to generate 280,000 more jobs every year to employ its fresh graduates. So, enough work exists to harness the economic potential of talent. The challenge is to make talent manifest itself. The best means to achieve this is, of course, education.

“The region’s educational infrastructure needs to be improved and there should be a positive change in our attitude to life long learning. As long as our brightest and our best people are leaving our shores to be educated abroad we are intrinsically at a disadvantage. There should be more initiatives like Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology so that we can educate our next generation of talent on native soil.”

Education will naturally lead to constructive engagements with the rest of the world and thus help to cut through stereotypes and prejudices about the region as well as the noise created by dissent and violence, said Mr. Haddad. It will also convince the world to take serious note of the region’s promising talent.

“Investment is another requisite for talent to bloom and it matters for two reasons - investment equals money and money equals talent. Talent follows the money and money comes with big ideas. Currently the Middle East attracts only 2% of the direct foreign investment in circulation today; this should increase dramatically.”

Mr. Haddad said that the region’s sustainability rests on its ability to diversify and to create alternative wealth streams through new industries, new micro economies, and through greater exchange of ideas, and the creation of competitive opportunities. Saudi Arabia is showing strong progress in this regard, privatising telecoms, liberalizing airlines and opening up financial services. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute of Science and Technology also show promise with its commitment to renewable and alternative energy streams.

“If we can integrate imagination in the boardrooms and classrooms of our region then we are well placed to deliver on the potential of our people over the next three decades. The new generation in the region has big ideas and we should allow them to dream. Otherwise petro dollars and oil will smother our attempts to diversify,” concluded Mr. Haddad.

He was the scenario champion at the session on ‘Managing Mobile Talent’ which included Omar K. Alghanim, Chief Executive Officer, Alghanim Industries, Kuwait;
Akil Beshir, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Telecom Egypt, Egypt; Subhash Dhar, Head, Communications, Media and Entertainment Business, Infosys Technologies, India; Tarek Kamel, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt; Gary Long, President and Chief Operating Officer, Investcorp, Bahrain.

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