Jean Abi Nader via Fair Observer | The challenges of sustainable economic growth and meaningful employment are common throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, at the recent opening of a workshop on the digital economy, pointed out that “digitization is one of the primary building blocks for national prosperity.” He added that “a digitized nation is simply more intelligent and we all need to work together, cooperate and coordinate on this issue.” His words echo realities from Tunisia to the Gulf, that to empower a nation’s entrepreneurs, create valued jobs and launch sustainable entities, it is critical to not only incorporate new technologies and business practices, but to build a new consciousness of the role of entrepreneurs in the transformation of their countries.
At the same event, the World Bank’s regional director of the Middle East department, Saroj Kumar Jha, added: “We are very concerned that unemployment in the country is increasing and in my view, technological transformation creating more enabling conditions for the businesses, more investments to come to the country, will really create the opportunities so that more Lebanese minds can be really at work. And that is good for Lebanon but also for the region and globally.”
The challenges of sustainable economic growth and meaningful employment are common throughout the Middle East and North Africa, yet available programs centered on subsidies and grants seldom build sustainable businesses. What is needed is to incorporate digital transformation as a tool to both redefine transactional relations and create a values-centered approach that considers relationships with the customer, community and employee as central to the company’s mission, not an intellectual leap for societies built on group identities.
Ongoing disruptions in Tunisia and Algeria are symptomatic of the reality that young people are not wedded to older business models, nor to the ways in which generations and communities have interacted. While interested in making profits, many have a broader vision of gaining and serving, ironically a strong theme in both Islam and Protestantism. Both emphasize that God blesses the fortunate so they can assist those in need. In fact, the building of many US public libraries, schools and community centers during the 1880s-1920s were largely driven by affluent practitioners of “do unto others…”
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