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Agents Of Change: Supporting Arab Youth In Reshaping The Narrative Around Climate Change Here's why PepsiCo has signed a strategic partnership with the Arab Youth Centre to develop initiatives that empower the youth and nurture future changemakers in the MENA region.

By Eugene Willemsen

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PepsiCo MENA
The Arab Youth Hackathon, PepsiCo MENA

In a world that is currently home to the largest generation of youth in our collective history, it is often said that the 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24 are victims of the devastating effects of climate change brought about by generations before them. But that statement is only partially true. As the United Nations points out, the youth of today are also critical players in making positive climate action happen, be it as agents of change, entrepreneurs, or innovators.

We at PepsiCo have been witnessing the increasingly important role our youth are playing in the fight against climate change, and while they have already made great strides in this regard, it's clear that they stand to achieve more if they are empowered to build on the narratives they have in mind for a better future. This is especially true of young people in the MENA region- after all, the most recent edition of the ASDA'A BCW Arab Youth Survey pointed out that nearly three-quarters of Arab youth said that climate change is now affecting their everyday lives.

This leads into why we at PepsiCo have signed a strategic partnership with the Arab Youth Centre to develop initiatives that empower the youth and nurture future changemakers in the MENA region. The first initiative that we are rolling out under this banner is what we are calling the Arab Youth Hackathon #HackforChange, a regional entrepreneurial program that will be funded by PepsiCo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PepsiCo, and implemented by the internationally renowned innovation platform, Plug and Play Tech Center.

Related: Intersectional Impact: Dana Co-Founder And CEO Zada Haj Is Tackling The MENA's Needs For Sustainability And Gender Inclusion With Her Enterprise

The Arab Youth Hackathon is welcoming youth across the MENA region to create smarter solutions for solving climate challenges around agriculture, circular economy, water security, and renewable energy, with the Arab Youth Centre taking the lead in enabling these young minds to leverage regional opportunities. Meanwhile, Plug and Play Tech Center will leverage its technical expertise and global network of mentors to provide content that supports the participants in building their business models.

Slated for launch early next year, the Arab Youth Hackathon will invite applicants from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordon, and the UAE to be part of a three-day ideation bootcamp, following which they will mentorship to fine-tune their ideas. They will then pitch their offerings to a jury that will decide on the winners of the hackathon, be awarded with seed capital to bring their nascent sustainability ideas to life, while also being and be incubated by Plug and Play Tech Center to seek to turn their startups into sustainable businesses.

Launched at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) held in Egypt this year, the Arab Youth Hackathon is aiming to announce its winners at COP28 in the UAE next year. As for us at PepsiCo, this initiative serves as yet another indication of how we are doubling down on our commitment to sustainability, and we are are delighted and proud to support our youth in advancing our climate change initiatives.

Related: A Leadership Roadmap for Sustainability Success

Eugene Willemsen

CEO – PepsiCo Africa, Middle East, and South Asia (AMESA)

Eugene Willemsen is CEO – PepsiCo Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. 
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