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Building The Future: How The UAE Is Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders Whether we are creating mentorship programs, collaborating with educational establishments, or putting forward strong entrepreneurial role models– there is much more we can do.

By Mohamed Hareb Al Otaiba

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Never underestimate the power of young innovators. This is an issue about which I am passionate, not least because the world of business was thrust upon me at such a young age. We know that the new generation of entrepreneurs will be the leaders of tomorrow, so what can we do to help them reach their goals and drive us towards a better future?

Whether we are creating mentorship programs, collaborating with educational establishments, or putting forward strong entrepreneurial role models– there is much more we can do. With that in mind, what follows is not only a look at the framework already in place but also some suggestions of my own around entrepreneurial education and creating a better future for the next generation of business leaders and the UAE economy in general.

Why is entrepreneurial education vital?

Business experts have previously noted that entrepreneurship is an essential ingredient in economic growth. Without young, innovative leaders, new ventures and enterprises would not exist. Every year, up to 10,944 new businesses are registered here in Abu Dhabi, according to national statistics. Startups play a major role in the ever-growing landscape of our economy.

It is, therefore, crucial that we, the present-day CEOs, are of service to fledgling entrepreneurs.

There are already systems and initiatives in place which aid in this very process. As one of the leading global business hubs, the UAE is certainly progressive when it comes to this matter. However, there is, of course, opportunity for us to improve and build on the current mode since there are doubtless some obstacles that still stand in a young entrepreneurs way.

So, let's first understand the excellent work which is being undertaken by the UAE government, the programmes and initiatives already in place, and then examine how we might add to this in the future.

UAE initiatives to encourage new entrepreneurs

Growing new business is at the very heart of the UAE ethos, and so it's logical that this is an endeavor which the government and independent entities support. In recent years, we've noted many initiatives which aimed to spark young people's interest in the world of business.

Some of the most notable ones so far have include:

Expo 2020's Youth Connect The annual Expo 2020 Dubai provides ample opportunity for the UAE to expand and nurture its business network. One of the most forward-thinking initiatives that this event has seen is Youth Connect. The scheme reflects the belief that "young people are the innovators and thought leaders of tomorrow," and consists of lectures and workshops. Over time, this initiative has grown and developed into a solid framework for young people. Last year, Expo 2020 Dubai also saw the launch of the Apprenticeship Program. The scheme, which would give recent graduates experience in the professional sphere, received thousands of applications and has so far taken the 27 successful candidates through a nine-month program.

UAE Government Leaders "UAE Youth" Targeting 21 to 30 year-olds, the UAE Youth program is a progressive initiative developed in cooperation with the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs. Once accepted into the eight-month long course, young people will be privy to a syllabus of workshops and support. The core features of this particular scheme include everything from "social skills" and "future thought" to "happiness and positivity" and "global challenges." The notion here is that the course will allow innovative young people to have a rounded education in business.

Young Arab Leaders (YAL) One of the most intriguing not-for-profit business groups registered under the Dubai Chamber, the Young Arab Leaders helps support and develop young talented people in our part of the world. In their own words, this means "unlocking the expertise and resources of a regional support network." The all-encompassing system offers everything from workshops to guidance which should help young people prepare themselves to enter "a culture of entrepreneurship and leadership."

The du Youth Council Launched in August this year, as part of the International Youth Day Celebration, the du Youth Council is perhaps the newest scheme offering help and education to young entrepreneurs. The initiative allows a board of young innovators to bring new ideas to the telecoms company du, and then provides a proper process for these ideas to be evaluated. The target is to "enhance their contribution towards the nation's development through ICT and the enormous potential this sector holds."

Related: The Struggle Is Real: The Middle East Has A Skills Gap Crisis

How can business owners support the leaders of the future?

So where do we go from here? As leaders of business in the UAE, we ought to consider the ways in which we too can support these young people in reaching their full potential and, in turn, help strengthen the region. Let's now take a look at what this might look like in practical terms:

Immersive internships One of the great challenges that this subject presents is that of proper education, training, and mentorship. While there is a wealth of financial aid for young people, such as the Khalifa Fund, there may be a sector we're neglecting here. In fact, many students fail to understand the processes and legalities which make up the DNA of business, according to a 2016 study by the University of Wollongong in Dubai. Through offering immersive internships and even apprenticeships, we may have the chance to teach the leaders of tomorrow these essential practices.

Presentations at educational institutions A large percentage of students could be simply unaware of the potential they have. According to research from the University of Lüneburg, many students may have the talents to be a successful entrepreneur without knowing it. It is therefore about unlocking this possibility for young people and showing them that this is a viable pathway for the future. It could be about reaching out to schools and universities in the local area and offering your services in this way. What's more, this method of outreach could also aid as a form of promotion too.

Entrepreneurial role models Having some form of role model who has entrepreneurial spirit or, indeed, runs a business may also serve to play a significant role here. Research in the Journal of Research on Adolescence found a positive correlation between young entrepreneurs and active role models within their lives. The results suggest that when these young people know someone close to them who is a business owner, they are more likely to consider working for themselves as an option. The suggestion here would be to embark upon some form of mentorship programme within our businesses. Actively showing young innovators how they may succeed could well be one of the best ways in which to serve them. Should business owners have the capacity for a scheme that supports them in this way, it could be both beneficial to the young people in question and also to the enterprise as a whole.

Tapping into international schemes As a general approach, business owners may investigate how international programmes can help them, looking for institutions with which a UAE-based firm could partner in order to create opportunities for the youth in our region.

Building a bright future together

As modern day business leaders, it's not enough to merely oversee our own business processes and affairs. We have a duty to our country to work hard and ensure the economy is strengthened year-on-year. As I've described here, one of the ways which we can build a secure future together is in supporting emerging business leaders in their goals and aspirations.

We must not mistake this process for a simple, one-time project. Instead, it is something that we ought to be doing every single day of our professional lives.

Related: INSEAD Chairman Dr. Andreas Jacobs On Executive Education, Entrepreneurship And The Middle East

Mohamed Hareb Al Otaiba

Chairman, Mohamed Hareb Al Otaiba Group

Mohamed Hareb Al Otaiba has been the Chairman of Mohamed Hareb Al Otaiba (MHAO) Group since 1995. Since taking over the family business, he has led the company with the focus and drive to further accelerate its upward trajectory of MHAO, securing additional big name brands for the company’s portfolio. Today, Al Otaiba has a wealth of experience in sales and operations management and boasts many prestigious and long-lasting business relationships with top global organizations, including Avis, Bosch, and Xerox. Looking to the future, Al Otaiba’s goal is clear: to make MHAO a household name synonymous with high-quality, throughout the UAE and beyond.
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