The UAE is a clear favourite country for Arab youth, reflecting not just the success of the Emirates but also the shortcomings of many other Arab nations.
Young Arabs seek to emulate UAE’s success
In a region where many countries remain sadly mired in political and economic upheaval, it is perhaps not surprising that the UAE is seen as a beacon of hope for Arab youth, an island of stability, tolerance and economic prosperity. For the third year in a row, Arab youth have cited the UAE as the country they would most like to live in and a model for their own countries to emulate, ahead of the United States, France, Turkey, China and 16 others. As The National reported yesterday, 39 per cent of 3,500 people people aged 18 to 24 across the 16 counties polled in the Arab Youth Survey 2014 by ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller expressed a desire to live in the UAE, up from 31 per cent last year.
The vote is flattering, but it reflects two elements: not merely the success of the UAE’s model, but the slowness of other countries in the region to respond to the needs and desires of their young people.
To see why, note that the survey highlighted that confidence over the outcomes of the Arab uprisings has decreased during the last three years. The Arab Spring, which swept through five countries, but also affected other North African nations like Algeria and Morocco, was a reaction to decades of stagnation.
The governments of the republics had failed to curb corruption, to offer stability but not stagnation, to rein in the excesses of the police states of Syria and Iraq, and to create enough prosperity so that young people could believe they could forge a career and start a family. Today, the survey found, young Arabs viewed the rising cost of living and the national economy as the biggest challenges facing their countries, followed by corruption in government and public life.
Those things that young Arabs feel is lacking in their country exist in the UAE, which is why they wish to emulate it. The UAE’s strong economy provides many opportunities for young people to find work, and offers a good place to set-up businesses. The survey found a high entrepreneurial spirit among Arab youth, with two-thirds agreeing that people of their generation were more likely to start businesses than previous generations.
There is little corruption in public life. The cost of living, while high, is matched by wages. And the country is safe, even in the biggest cities.
It is always flattering to find your neighbours wish to emulate you. But the UAE does not seek to be the exception, it seeks to be a model for a prosperous Middle East.