Spotlighting the role of targeted investment and innovation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special focus on ‘Harnessing the Potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Digital Economy,’ the World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum kicked off on Tuesday in the Bahraini capital, Manama.
The Forum will aim to promote investment in entrepreneurship and innovation amid the digital revolution in the Arab world. Participants will also discuss the challenges and opportunities resulting from the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and its impact on the public and private sectors, and highlight best practices and international policies needed to ensure the financial inclusion of youth and women, with emphasis on the Arab region and Africa.
Speakers at the opening session included Fatou Haidara Managing Director, Policy and Programme Support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Sheikh Faisal bin Rashid bin Isa Vice-President of the Supreme Council for the Environment of Bahrain, Yousef bin Ibrahim Al Bassam Chairman of the Arab Bank for Economic Development and Dr. Hashim Hussein, Head of Investment Promotion Bureau, UNIDO, Bahrain.
Addressing the opening session, UNIDO's Ms. Fatwa Haidara, spoke about the implications of the SDGs, which include, among others, sustainability, inclusiveness and partnership, noting that women account for half of the world's population, and questioned the overall ability of achieving the global goals without women. She explained that UNIDO's work was focused on the inclusiveness and sustainability of industrial development.
“Today was an opportunity to shed light on UNIDO's work in the area of women's empowerment and put it in the context of the Industrial Revolution,” she said, stressing: “There is a gender gap. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, if we do not [implement] the right policies and measures, the gap may widen further, and this is the last thing we want to happen. We want to work collectively and in different aspects.”
Speaking to UN News, Dr. Hashem Hussein, head of the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Bureau, said the idea of the Forum started with “what the UN should do about the economic empowerment of youth and women”.
He pointed out that the lack job opportunities for young people today is a problem in all countries, especially in the developing world, and pointed out that the SDGs are suffering from an ‘investment gap’ of more than $250 billion annually, through 2030.
“We cannot achieve SDGs if the private sector and financial institutions did not play their parts. Humans are the main focus of development for the United Nations, they are the entrepreneurs in this field; a person who establishes a small- and medium-sized enterprise, creates jobs for himself and other young people”, he added.
Dr. Hussein said that the United Nations plays a role in helping countries, private sector actors, civil society institutions and individuals representing entrepreneurs to establish prosperous and sustainable projects.
According to Dr. Hashim Hussein, this is the first time that the Arab region has hosted the Arab Business Owners and Investors Summit, in conjunction with the Global Forum for Entrepreneurs and Investment Summit. Holding the two events conjointly showed the organizers belief in the need to have a common network linking investors and entrepreneurs.
Today's sessions at the Forum included several panel discussions that hosted international experts in the fields of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the First Digital Revolution, the role of entrepreneurs and the possibility of benefiting from the results of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In addition, the sessions included bilateral meetings between entrepreneurs, investors and entrepreneurs.
On the sidelines of the Forum, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an Entrepreneurship Summit with the participation of 56 countries, where a so called ‘Business Hub’ – an online virtual content – was launched to support entrepreneurs in the OIC countries.
The importance of education in promoting the Fourth Industrial Revolution was also highlighted through an event on the role of education and universities in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship with the participation of more than 60 universities from all over the world to showcase their projects and programs.
The participants also discussed the role of investment in green technology and how entrepreneurs can benefit from technology in green projects.
Arab Universities Compete
An ‘Arab Rally for Innovation’ competition took place at the Forum.
The competition targeted university students in the Arab region and featured 18 teams from 18 Arab countries. Students and university professors worked hard to find innovative solutions for many challenges facing the Arab region, in areas such as water, agriculture, renewable energy, environmental pollution and recycling environmental waste.
At the end the sessions today, the three winners were honored with the support of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry which offered $ 100,000 to the three winners. The ceremony was attended by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
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