The world has started 2019 in a turbulent mood. While global companies have enough cash to weather the economic winter and reinvest for growth, small businesses and entrepreneurs are much more vulnerable and survival will be a priority, especially in the region of the Middle East.
Looking through the exhibit, what struck us most was both the immense potential for technology to help underprivileged people and the youth of the Mena region, and how many more lives are still waiting to be touched.
As children in some parts of the world learn and prepare themselves for a better and brighter future, there remain more than 262 million children and young people around the world who are out of school, not because they do not want to be there, but because they are simply not afforded the chance. These children and youth are being denied not only their right to education, but are also denied opportunities such as a fair chance to get a decent job or being an entrepreneur, to escape poverty, to support their families, and to contribute towards the development of their communities.
In today’s world, especially in the Middle East, as conflicts, poverty, natural disasters and epidemics are becoming more frequent and complex, children and the youth are often denied their right to education. Never before in humankind’s history, has the urgency for education and skills been more important.
Education in our opinion is one of the essential pillars of sustainable development. Without substantial investment in human capital, countries cannot achieve sustainable economic development. Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and their surrounding world. It improves the quality of their lives and leads to broad social benefits to individuals and society. The right education increases people’s productivity and creativity and most importantly promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances. In our opinion education is a right for all children and youth. Education is a passport to a prosperous future and enables children and young people to make a difference in their communities.
These all are reasons why Inventive Ventures is currently developing its knowledge and skill platform “open-mind.ae”, dedicated to the 4th Industrial Revolution. We at Inventive Ventures certainly believe, that without a strong and united front for change, a collective and articulated vision, significant financial commitments and a sense of urgency to prioritize education – especially in the Mena region with a high rate of unemployment and underemployment of the youth – the world will continue to see generations of children and youth missing out on an education they so desperately need.
In our opinion, education is not a privilege; it is a fundamental human right. Therefore, we should do our utmost best, to leave no one behind.
Today, global technology continues to advance at a dazzling pace – from the increasing availability of faster internet to artificial intelligence and quantum computing. There are also growing calls in various countries of the Mena region to look inwards. That has brought about a chill in global co-operation and trade in these countries, for example the United Arab Emirates.
Even within the developed world, there are increasing concerns of how a growing “digital divide” can hurt underserved populations. Recent research in the US revealed that nearly one in five teenagers are not always able to finish their homework because they lack access to a computer or the internet. There are for sure no easy solutions in our opinion, but one area that bears looking at is how technology can improve access to knowledge, basic financial products and services, such as business and education loans, investments for savings, and health insurance. We must make these more accessible and affordable for small businesses and individuals around the world.
In this area, Calvin·Farel with its crowd funding platform “fundraiser.ae” and Inventive Ventures with its platform “open-mind.ae” and “jumpstarter.ae” (a freelancer platform) as well as through its “MembersClub.ae” are defining the future of entrepreneurship and are following partly in the footsteps of giants: the late Jing shuping founded the privately owned China Monsheng Bank, which has grown over the years by focusing on lending to underserved small and medium enterprises, and Muhammad Yunus, another Nobel laureate whose Grameen Bank pioneered microcredit in Bangladesh. About 2 billion individuals and 200 million small businesses in emerging economies lack access to formal savings and credit, the consultancy McKinsey estimates.
A funding gap which Calvin·Farel intends to reduce with its crowdfunding platform “fundraiser.ae” and by entering into the regions of the Middle East, India and Africa. The funding gap is existing because many traditional financial institutions still fear the higher risks that these small borrowers represent and therefore are blocking the development of entrepreneurship, which these regions urgently need to provide their high youth rates with future employment possibilities.
Responsible technology companies can help by sharing their innovations with banks and other institutions, to ease their concerns about underserved customers. By applying tools from the 4th JR like artificial intelligence and risk management technologies, for instance, companies can help banks reduce loan default rates down to levels that are many times lower than the global average. There are also many other ways that technology companies using tools of the 4th Industrial Revolution can work directly with small businesses to help them harness innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain to their advantage. For example, small retailers that cannot afford the high costs of setting up call centres could use well-trained AI chat bots to handle some customers queries. And food manufacturers can deploy blockchain through low-cost QR codes that track products through the supply chain. Guaranteed provenance and purity would allow them to charge premium prices. Some small entrepreneurs are already taking matters into their own hands, with available technology. By tapping technology in creative ways, we can work together to benefit more small businesses and individuals worldwide. Doing so in our opinion will bring significant benefits not just for local communities, but to the wider global economy. And that’s something in our opinion our world urgently needs today.
Together, Towards Tomorrow