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MENA Economic Forum Sharjah 2013 Explores Mutually Beneficial Partnerships between Europe and MENA
Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah and President of American University of Sharjah (AUS), the MENA Economic Forum 2013 today hosted a series of panel discussions aimed at exploring areas for mutually beneficial partnerships between the MENA region and Europe. The discussions were in answer to His Highness' call for increased cultural and economic interaction and cooperation between the East and the West and for the emirate of Sharjah and UAE to play their due role in this multi-faceted exchange.
The first panel discussion was on 'Challenges and Opportunities in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring.' The Arab Spring brought about unexpected political change but left questions unanswered in its aftermath, especially in the field of economic governance and development. Panelists included Gilles Kepel, Professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po; Badr Jafar, President, Crescent Petroleum, UAE; Jean-Louis Reiffers, President, FEMISE, France; Jay Footlik, Founding President and CEO, Global Policy Initiatives, USA; Khaldoun Tabari, Vice Chairman and CEO, Drake & Scull; Faizal Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman, KEF Holdings, UAE; Jose A. Lopez-Monis Plaza, CEO and Managing Director, Habtoor Leighton Group; Sultan Abu Sultan, CEO, Barclays Bank, UAE; Varouj Nerguizian, CEO, Bank of Sharjah; and Fahad Al Othman, Business Development Executive, Zone Group, UAE.
Panelists were united in the view that increasing education levels and reducing the inequality of opportunity encountered by the youth in the Arab world were some of the key steps governments in the region could take to help bring a sense of stability and continuity among their people. The huge challenge of creating 50 million new jobs made it imperative that private sector be encouraged to expand and grow further and entrepreneurship becomes the engine of economic growth. It was felt that Europe could play an important role in facilitating both positive and long-lasting economic changes in the region, especially through building knowledge and skills related partnerships in the region.
Other plenary sessions featured a roster of prominent international panelists who spoke on a wide variety of topics, including 'Infrastructure and Energy: Building Resources for the Future;' 'Finance: In Support of Today's MENA Requirements;' and 'Education and Healthcare: Meeting Higher Standards.'
The panel discussion on 'Infrastructure and Energy: Building Resources for the Future' explored the need for railways, ports, pipeline, desalination plants or industries could create a real economic potential in the region. Panelists were of the opinion that US$4.3 trillion required to be invested in construction projects across the MENA region by 2020 needed to be raised at all levels and facilitated by a relaxation of procedures and business related policies by regional governments. Panelists included Jose A. Lopis-Monez Plaza, HE Salah Al Shamsi, HE Saif Al Ghafli, Dr. Adnan Al Shuaiby, Bora Yidiz and Regis Arnoux, Mazen Al Sawwaf, Patrice Fonlladosa, Ali Nouri, Simon Henderson and Walid Saleh. Franck Galland and Yahia Zoubir moderated the discussion.
High impact partnerships could be developed between the EU and MENA in the field of finance, as discussed in the panel discussion on 'Finance: In Support of Today's Massive MENA Requirements.' The EUs lead in financial knowledge, instruments, infrastructure and regulation could help the development of regional markets in Islamic finance, project finance and capital markets. These could further be tapped into by companies for regional as well as global expansion of operations and capacities. A healthy and dynamic financial sector would help in sustainable and efficient economic growth in the MENA region according to panelists that included Mishal Kanoo, Constantin Slameh, Jerome Droesch, Basil Al Ghayalani, Lionel Zinsou, Emmmanuel Limido, Romen Mathieu, Farid Masmoudi and Rabah Ghezali. Dr. Cleve McDaniel and Abderahmane Fodil moderated the discussion.
'Education and Healthcare: Meeting Higher Standards,' was discussed by Dr. Peter Heath, Fred Moavenzadeh, Bernard Paranque, Dr. Hala Taweel, Thami Ghorli, Sultan Al Hajji, Eduard Tetreau and Maurice Aboukrat. The moderators, Dr. Thomas Hochstettler and Silimane Zighidour asked searching questions on how to enhance research collaboration between Europe and MENA and to what extent could a partnership in higher education be positive for Europe and MENA.
On the sidelines of the conference, AUS announced a partnership with CAPMena and Le Groupe Euromed Management for the Euro MENA Chair of Management. A Partnership Agreement in this regard was signed earlier today in the presence of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah. The Chair will be a unique place of training, research and exchange for the benefit of students, entrepreneurs, executives and managers of European and Arab companies wishing to develop their skills, expand their network of influence and contribute to better mutual understanding. A key result of the MoU will lead to the development of knowledge resources and fundamental research that aimed at addressing key challenges faced by the Arab world. It will also help form a think-tank focused on issues related to the MENA region and training programs, development of social entrepreneurship and event organization that involves leading corporations and academics from the EU and the MENA regions.
Dr. Peter Heath, AUS Chancellor said: "The MENA Chair of Management hopes to respond to the fundamental challenges posed by the considerable need for qualified human resources in the Euro - Arab area. We believe it is the way forward to contribute meaningfully to improve the business climate and deepen Arab - Euro trade relations."
Dr. Bernard Belletante, Dean of Euromed Management said: "We have worked hard for the past 18 months to develop the terms of our partnership. We have not only addressed the means to a majority of the long term issues that are likely to exert pressure on Arab-Europe relations but also built a framework through which increased benefits of research could flow into both our regions. We are grateful to AUS for providing us a great platform that will help reach the best talent within the Arab world."
As per the MoU, CAPMena, American University of Sharjah and Euromed Management are founder members of the Chair for the duration of four years after this signing.