Despite wars, now is the time for more Arab start-ups

When all we do is report about war and injustice, we believe that it is the only thing we can focus on

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

Start-up companies are hubs for entrepreneurs. It gives them an opportunity to be creative; to network, to develop, and to grow their companies and businesses in a way that they feel is necessary.

The Middle East needs more start-ups. Despite the civil wars, the clashes and the instability that, contextually speaking, puts many people off staying in the region, let alone investing in it, it’s about time we made sure there is a comfortable social space for minds to develop and distract from the mess that is the Middle East.

Young people need a distraction from war and despair

There is no denying that the region is in turmoil, but it has been in turmoil as long as I have lived. If we were to stop every entrepreneurial idea, thought and action and wait until the region is politically, economically and socially stable, we will be waiting for many years to come.

When all we do is report about war and injustice, we believe that it is the only thing we can focus on

Yara al-Wazir

The fact of the matter is, we are losing many great minds amid these challenges – both physically and mentally. When all we do is report about war and injustice, we believe that it is the only thing we can focus on, and we lose bright, young minds to the likes of ISIS. Instead, we need to create a safe-haven for young people to explore their talents and find their own calling in the form of self-expression. This means businesses, art galleries, websites and even social media and online businesses. Young people need a distraction from war and despair, and there’s no better distraction than self-immersion into a passion.

We need to retain our potential

At a time of instability, many people jump at the first opportunity to leave their home countries. This includes both families and young people. When people leave, we don’t just lose economic potential in the region, rather more importantly, we lose creativity and intelligence.

The region needs to retain the bright minds to create a much-needed balance. Brain drain is very much an issue that affects us all, when we lose our bright minds; we lose entrepreneurs, thinkers, scientists and writers.

Some people, myself included, have every intention of returning to the Middle East with due time. In 2012, at the time of the end of the jasmine revolution in Tunisia and the Mubarak uprising in Egypt, Middle Eastern brain drain showed signs of reversing. We’re all responsible for making sure this trend continues.

We can’t continue to rely on governments for jobs

The Arab world is home to the world’s highest youth unemployment rate, reaching as high as 30 percent in Saudi Arabia. In the GCC, 70 percent of citizens rely on the government’s creation of employment opportunities in the public sector. Employment in the public sector must be as competitive as it is in the private sector in order to ensure high calibres of employees are taken to serve the public.

Our reliance on the public sector is unsustainable and ultimately leads to a mundane lifestyle. Public sector, however, can create opportunities that allow young people to go on with their lives and create their own opportunities.

The Middle East is messy, but so are the beginnings of start-up companies. The two go hand-in hand together. It’s time we rethink employment.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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