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Ruler of Sharjah Graces MENA Economic Forum in Marseilles, France
His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah and President of the American University of Sharjah, graced the third convocation of the MENA Economic Forum in Marseilles, France, with his presence as a keynote speaker on November 7. Held under the high patronage of H.E. Francois Hollande, President of the French Republic as part of the Semaine Economique de la Mediterannee, the MENA Economic Forum celebrated Marseilles as the Cultural Capital of Europe (2013) as well as the selection of the Emirate of Sharjah as the Cultural Capital of the Islamic World (2014).
The MENA Economic Forum 2013 explored solutions in the post-recession aftermath of laggard growth and mutual collaboration for building the human infrastructure and creating employment opportunities for the MENA youth. High on the list was the purpose of stimulating economic development in MENA to integrate youthful workers as well as exploring avenues of fruitful cooperation and partnerships. Strategic decision-makers from both regions considered ways to finance start-ups, enhance "targeted education", and high-tech ways to disseminate new business models throughout all levels of society.
As in previous years, the Forum's main objective continued to be the development of capacity-building foundations for an enduring stability and prosperity in the region through the building of local and regional partnerships in such strategic arenas as culture, education, and capacity-building training for new generations.
Pursuing avenues of mutual collaboration between Europe and the UAE, the Forum drew 500 decision-makers from business, education, and government ministers of trade and economy from Europe and the GCC. Graced with the presence of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, who delivered the keynote address as the Guest of Honor for the event, the Forum welcomed a high powered delegation from the Emirate.
The delegation comprised H.E. Sheikh Khaled bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, son of His Highness the Ruler, and H.E. Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, President of Sharjah Art Foundation, and AUS Trustee Hamid D. Jafar, Group Chairman of Crescent Petroleum Company, H.E. Ahmed Midfaa, Chairman of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; H.E. Hussain Al Mahmoodi, Director General of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; H.E. Abdullah Al Owais, Head of the Sharjah Department of Culture and Information; H.E. Hisham Al-Mazloum, Director of Sharjah Arts Directorate; H.E. Mohamed Ali al Noman, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; H.E. Marwan bin Jassim al Sarkal, CEO Sharjah Investment and Development Authority; H.E. Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Beeah; Badr Jafar, President of Crescent Enterprises; Abdulaziz Al Musallam the Director of Heritage and Cultural Affairs at the Sharjah Department of Culture, and Ali Al Merri, Director General of Dr. Sultan Al Qassimi Center of Gulf Studies.
In the Forum's inaugural Guest of Honor keynote address on the opening day, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi highlighted the many contributions of Marseilles to the rich course of history in France during the World War II and earlier, and its current status as the European Capital of Culture for 2013 with key enriching accomplishments in manifold domains. His Highness reviewed with great precision the major undertakings of this ancient gateway and the exceptional cultural and artistic achievements it witnessed and generated through the centuries. He emphasized Marseilles' pivotal role in the development of culture, education, modern economy, and the arts. In his concluding remarks His Highness accentuated the vital role of intellectualism and education in the enlightenment and marching forward of any society. Without education and cultural enrichment, darkness prevails, His Highness concluded.
His Highness also attended the signing ceremony of an agreement between AUS and KEDGE Business School, aimed at forging an educational and academic partnership between the two institutions, in particular in the fields of economics and business administration. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by AUS Acting Chancellor Thomas Hochstettler and Francois Pierson, President of Kedge Business School who announced the creation of the Euromed Chair of Management. The chair will be jointly housed at AUS and at the Kedge Business School in Bordeaux and Marseilles, France. Research and teaching will focus on building grassroots economic capacity in the Middle East and in Southern Europe.
His Highness also attended together with H.E. Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister of Industrial Renewal, the signing ceremony of the agreement between the Sharjah and Marseilles chambers of commerce and industry, which was signed by H.E. Ahmed Al Midfa and H.E. Jacques Pfister, Chairman of the Marseilles-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
At the conclusion of the addresses by ministers from Europe and North Africa, His Highness inaugurated along with Minister Jack Lang, President of the Institute of the Arab World, the Sharjah Cultural Days in Marseilles. The exhibition celebrated the UAE's culture, history, heritage and traditions. The show exhibited His Highness's private collection of historic maps of the Arabian Gulf region, geographic documents, calligraphy works by UAE and Arab artists, as well as different types of traditional ships of the UAE.
AUS Trustee and Chairman of the Crescent Petroleum Group, Hamid D. Jafar suggested "two collaborative avenues for the long-term solution of the most critical problem facing both the MENA region and Europe", namely "severe youth unemployment" through "targeted education and industry cooperation." "Both Europe and the MENA Region are facing headwinds currently. The Mena Region is already embroiled in a major upheaval driven by social and economic dismay, while Europe now risks losing its global economic competitiveness to the US and China" noted Hamid Jafar. However, "we can help each other though far-sighted and strategic cooperation and this illustrious forum presents a unique opportunity to act as launchpad for such cooperation between our two regions."
"The MENA region has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, and is slated to reach 600 million people by 2050 according to the World Economic Forum," and "the old paradigm of relying on governments to be the employer is no longer sustainable," Hamid Jafar remarked. "According to the World Bank, 85 million new jobs will need to be created in the next 10 years just to catch up with the global average youth unemployment rate of 12 % equal to as many jobs that were created in the whole of the 20th Century!"
"The solutions need foresight, definition, and concerted action. The underlying solution for resolving our problems in the medium-to-long-term is undoubtedly by utilizing two essential tools targeted education and industry cooperation, working hand-in-hand. Targeted education needs vision and action." "I have extremely fortunate added Mr. Jafar, to have witnessed first-hand, our Forum's Guest of Honor, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi's incredibly successful and highly acclaimed vision of establishing our Region's most successful higher education hub the Sharjah University City..."
"The general reality elsewhere in our Regions is that not all educational establishments are as focused and many of their graduates do not readily find jobs, owing to the lack of necessary skills. That's where industry comes in, to bridge the gap. We have to appreciate that industry and business are not charities...they will not employ unqualified people. But they do need and will employ talent and skill to rejuvenate, sustain, and improve their competitive edge. And where industry can be of immense support to our endeavor is to bridge the gap that often lurks between incomplete or not so-well-targeted education, and skill."
"With the right education, training, mentoring, and support, our youth, our future both in the MENA Region as well as in Europe will be able confidently to enter into the increasingly competitive job market. And in doing so, help to resolve the host of long-term social, economic, and political challenges facing us." concluded Trustee Jafar.
Ministers and economic experts advocated sustainable growth through having the private sector finance "smart cities" in water and energy and invest in human capacity-building as the combined top priority focus of all involved. Moulay Hafid El Alamy, Morocco Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy, sought a second electronic transformation to unify MENA. Arnaud Montebourg, French Minister of Industrial Renewal, emphasized the willingness to enhance strong ties with the UAE and the Emirate of Sharjah across a wide range of domains and industries.
From AUS, the co-organizers of the MENA Forum were Acting Chancellor Dr. Thomas Hochsettler, Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Affairs, Dr. Nada Mourtada-Sabbah, Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs, Mr. Salem Al Qaseer, and Interim Dean of the School of Business, Dr. Hashem Dezhbakhsh.