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Long way for Middle East sustainable development

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises
Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises

Published: Sun 31 Jan 2021, 12:42 PM

Last updated: Sun 31 Jan 2021, 2:44 PM

Governments across the MENA region have been adopting strategies to reduce their reliance on oil and gas and diversify their economies. The UAE, for example, has set clear national goals for a more sustainable future through numerous initiatives, including a focus on the digital economy, boosting SME participation, and the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which sets a target of 50 per cent clean energy by 2050.

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises and managing director of the Crescent Group, has emphasised the critical role that businesses must play in this transition, and its responsibility to generate the urgently needed opportunities for youth towards a more sustainable and inclusive future for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Speaking in a keynote session titled 'Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism in MENA' at the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021, alongside Rania Al-Mashat, minister of international cooperation of Egypt, Alain Bejjani, CEO of the Majid Al Futtaim Group and Mohammed Jaafar, chairman and CEO of the Kuwait Danish Dairy Company, Badr Jafar said, "Businesses have no other choice but to be at the forefront of addressing our region's social and environmental challenges. It is not just a moral imperative, it is a long-term commercial one, and the inextricable link between long-term economic success and positive societal impact is becoming increasingly clear for all to see."

The creation of new opportunities for youth is an increasingly urgent imperative, with an estimated 10 per cent of working hours in the region wiped out in 2020 due to Covid-19, the equivalent of 24 million full-time jobs being lost. The Global Risks Perception Survey published last week by the World Economic Forum, clearly highlights youth disillusionment and erosion of social cohesion as critical short-term threats to the world.

"A single-minded focus on job creation prevents us from seeing the true challenge and opportunity that lies ahead, and that is instilling a strong sense of purpose, and a feeling of belonging within our youth. Therefore, we urgently need to deploy all the tools at our disposal to strengthen the fabric of our local communities, including through community service and volunteerism," Jafar added.

Addressing environmental sustainability, Jafar commented that the Middle East is especially vulnerable to climate shocks, and faces a host of environmental risks such as water scarcity, high levels of pollution, and biodiversity loss. "If you argue that economic considerations trump everything else in a crisis, or you really think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money," he remarked.

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