Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Misk partners with UN to bridge opportunity gap for world’s youth

The organisation wants a high profile for issues around the $2.5 trillion youth economy

Challenges facing those aged under 35 are shaped by a dividing line between those excluded from the workforce and those confident they can master the future, a Saudi not-for-profit said at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s Misk Global Forum has developed a worldwide agenda to bridge the opportunity gap between the under 35s in an initiative that has been embraced in a strategic partnership by the UN.

Now in its third year of using the annual General Assembly gathering in New York as a platform for the rapid evolution of the Saudi economy, Misk wants a high profile for issues surrounding the $2.5 trillion youth economy.

A panel at the Bloomberg Business Forum organised by Misk heard that employing youth creates its own dynamic to innovate with technology.

According to Josh Geigel, the founder of Virgin Hyperloop, the transit firm has a workforce with an average age of 34 with a “bulge” of employees a decade younger.

“I will change the world through the technology I build,” he said. “We look at places like Saudi Arabia or India that don’t have the infrastructure yet and ask why bring something that’s 150 years old when you bring in something that’s tomorrow now.”

Technology creates a challenge of adaptation, according to Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen, a non-profit investor in poverty stricken areas. “Who are the people who too often the world throws away?” she asked. “We find the entrepreneurs who are helping those people.”


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The changing nature of the workforce places the onus on youth to use different career tactics from the previous generation. “The one soulmate mentor concept is dead, you got to get a circle of mentors,” said Linda Rottenberg, co-founder of Endeavor Global.

“Role models are really underestimated. We’re not hearing the story for example that 50 per cent of the high growth individuals in the Middle East is women, for example.”

Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive of Uber, took issue with the view that technology and labour were competitors.” We have really smart AI (Artificial Intelligence) algorithms and our diver partners are way smarter than our algorithm,” he told the meeting.

“The superior entity [in the future] is a melding of machine and human. The blockages to traditional work are too high, technology can provide more on-ramps. I’m confident we will get to a point where work on demand with all the protections that you need will be the norm.”

It is just these sort of exchanges that Misk now plans to organise under a UN umbrella after entering a partnership with the office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth in New York.

“The Misk Foundation is committed to helping as many young people around the world realise their potential in the future economy and to encourage active global citizenship,” said Bader Al Saker, the Misk chairman.

“The strategic agreement that we are signing today shows our commitment to this mission. Partnering with the United Nations will greatly enhance its vital work around the world to help young people from all backgrounds to realise their potential and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The partners aim to create multiple initiatives to directly reach and mobilise 50 million young people globally by the year 2030 so that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved from the grassroots.

The Misk leadership said its mission is to discover, develop and empower young people to become active participants in the knowledge economy both globally and in the reforming Saudi Arabian economy.

Misk plans to launch the finds of a global survey of 25,000 young people that assessed future skills needs in November. Conducted across all regions, the Global Youth Index examines the needs differences and similarities between Africa and America. It places an emphasis not just on digital skills but also the creative and design skills needed to thrive.

Updated: September 26, 2018 08:42 PM