Young minds of UAE help solve tomorrow’s problems
ABU DHABI // A hearing aid that works underwater, a car service centre operated by women, for women and a digital wristband that communicates a patient’s health history and medical needs. These were just three of the top 15 competition entries presented on Monday at the inaugural Emirates Award for the Arabian Gulf Youth hosted by the Emirates Foundation.
The competition launched earlier this year and invited youths between the ages of 18 and 35 to come up with a viable business solution to a social problem. More than 500 entries were received from across the GCC and the best 15 teams were flown to Abu Dhabi this week to present their plans in front of a panel of six judges and an audience of about 100 people.
“We know, and our leadership knows, that youth are a really powerful resource for contributing to the development of this country, now it is a question of how we can enable them to give their best, to give back to the country through ideas, through enterprises,” said Maytha Al Habsi, chief programme officer for the Emirates Foundation.
“This is just one of the initiatives that allows for this to happen – empowering youth, guiding them and mentoring them so they can give back to their own country and participate in the development.”
Three teams came from the UAE, four are from Saudi Arabia, five from Bahrain, one from Oman and another was an international team with Emirati, Omani and Kuwaiti members. One team was unable to attend the event.
Intesar Al Hajri, a 25-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi, worked with colleagues Ahmed Al Blooshi and Maha Al Dhaheri to come up with a fashionable wristband that digitally stores a person’s medical history and needs.
She said the idea came to her after her father became ill on a trip and was issued medication that adversely affected his health.
“If they can not speak, the bracelet can speak if they fall down or something,” said Ms Al Hajri. “We will solve this problem by having this flash USB that has the medical history, what kind of medicine he can take, if he has any allergies, so we don’t have to take papers. We don’t have this in the Middle East.”
Emiratis Saeed Al Nazari and Mashaal Al-Marzooqi proposed a crowd-funding website called Factory of Dreams designed specifically to help low-income young entrepreneurs. Their idea came from their own experiences facing difficulties making their own professional dreams come true, said Mr Al-Marzooqi.
“We know there are existing sites for crowd-funding here in the UAE and around the world but the difference between us and them is we are really focused on Islamic finance and we are looking for people who really need the funds, we are not giving the funds for everyone,” the 23-year-old said.
Fatma Al Hashimi, a 32-year-old Dubai businesswoman, hopes she impressed the judges with her idea to set up a mobile beauty centre for children with special needs.
“Salons in the UAE are not equipped to welcome the special needs and the people working in the salons are not specialized for special needs for doing the haircut,” said Mrs Al Hashimi, noting her proposed mobile salon would essentially be a modified ambulance.
The top three winners will be announced at a special ceremony on Tuesday night. The first-place winner will take home Dh100,000 and one-year of mentoring services, the runner up will win Dh70,00 and the third-place winner will get Dh50,000 toward making their plan a reality.
Judge Muna Al Gurg, director of retail for the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, said the winning team must have a plan that is innovative and self-sustaining.
“At the end of the day, it has to be something sustainable, you need to be able to run without having to sort of rely on other people’s means,” said Mrs Al Gurg. “Another thing that we look at is innovation and passion for the idea – it sort of has stood out that a lot of these candidates are predominantly very passionate about their ideas. That’s a very positive thing to see.”