During his participation in the Arab Economic Forum that was held at the InterContinental Hotel Phoenicia in Beirut, Mr. Mohammed Johmani, CEO and Founder of O2 Network, stressed on the importance of supporting young leaders through government leadership as well as structuring laws that will help entrepreneurs achieve their aspirations while contributing to the region’s social and economic growth.
Johmani called for the formation of an Arab Investment fund worth USD 1 billion as a support for 1000 elite Arab entrepreneurs. The program will be led by business leaders to ensure its success and is expected to play a major role in solving the unemployment and poverty issues throughout the Arab region. Also the suggestion states that those entrepreneurs should be granted easy access to all the Arab countries to market their thoughts and create valuable opportunities.
Johmani’s speech was heard during the final session of the forum titled The Role of Young Leaders in the Coming Phase, where he highlighted the need to boost investor confidence in young leaders and pump funds into projects that are currently facing challenges because of investor’s reluctance to take on additional risk in “uncertain” economic times.
Johmani also discussed the unemployment percentages that are rising in the region. “With the UAE as an exception, most Arab countries have dangerous unemployment figures amongst their youth, with 27% in Bahrain, 26% in Saudi Arabia, 17% in Qatar, 23% in Kuwait, 12.8% in Jordan and 9.4% in Egypt.” Johmani encouraged international investors to take serious actions in order to give the youth community and young leaders a chance to excel.
“Our young leaders need support, trust and encouragement in order to achieve their goals. Such confident will then serve to aid our communities in the future as young people continue to seek jobs and start on a professional career in which they can move their talents in the right direction,” added Johmani.
Research and development was another topic that Johmani considered to be one of the weakest areas in the Arab economic landscape. “In many Arab countries, only governments are spending on research and development with a humble participation from the private sector. This spending still dwindles behind the rest of the work, and if you compare for example the average amount of GDP spent on scientific research in Egypt, 1%, with the world’s average at about 1.62%, the evidence is clear. Despite the fact that we have over 200 leading universities and about 10 million graduates, the results of research and development are not comparable to other countries like China and Malaysia.” Johmani also addressed universities in the region, asking their officials to actively pursue their “constructive role” in cultivating talent and promoting innovation through advice and expertise. This kind of mentorship is essential in providing support and role models that can help create future young leaders that are respected and appreciated in the Arab world.
“The aspirations of young leaders in the Arab region need great encouragement and support so that they can astound the world,” Johmani noted in his final remarks. “We have the potential and the creative ideas to forge ahead globally, but we lack the trust of governments and the confidence of investors. Our universities and educational institutions must prepare young people to play a role in business leadership, although it is the responsibility of us all to nurture young talent in the region.”
The Arab Economic Forum was held under the auspices of the Lebanese Prime Minister Mr. Saad Hariri. The two-day forum witnessed a large participation of leading business personalities from the Arab world including ministers, parliamentarians, banks directors, financial and economic executives, and banks governors from different Arab countries.