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The Fourth Industrial Revolution and MENA

There is no doubt that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is now upon us; advances in AI, high-speed internet connections (5G), the Internet of Things (IoT), and automation in most sectors, highlight the rapidity with which the 4IR has already influenced our home and work environments.

As the impact of the 4IR begins to be recognized across the globe, many in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have begun to question how it will affect the livelihoods and development of over 300 million people who reside in the region.

This blog discusses the implications for MENA based on a recent executive briefing issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) which suggests that adequate investments in “education and learning which hold value in the labour market” should be a priority for MENA’s “policymakers, business leaders and workers”.

 

MENA’s Young Population

The MENA region boasts one of the youngest populations in the world, with youths under the age of 25 constituting almost half of MENA’s population.

However, the WEF report also states that more than a quarter of these youths are unemployed.

The obvious gap between these two figures must be addressed in order for the region to reach its full potential in the coming years. The report suggests that “the region needs to ensure that both the younger cohorts and those already in the workforce have the right skills to succeed in tomorrow’s jobs”

Training, education, upskilling and re-skilling are likely to become vital elements in the success of the MENA region achieving its full potential within the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ensuring that the younger population are prepared for the global transformations in the coming transition period.

 

Training, Upskilling and Education in MENA

The report highlights the investment made in education in the MENA region, particularly in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt where “the pool of working-age adults holding tertiary qualifications is above or near the global average (17%)” which is likely to pay dividends in the coming years.

However, MENA was identified as having “skills gaps” in its current workforce which includes skills such as, “creative and independent thinking, problem solving skills and soft skills, as well as in sector-specific and functional skills, due to low levels of technical and vocational education and training”.

These soft skills are achievable through work-based training courses, independent education, and continuing professional development, and should now be a high-priority across all sectors within the MENA region, if we are to keep up with the rest of the world, as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes a greater grip on our workplaces, societies and cultures.

There are a number of recommendations made by the report which they believe will help create a stronger education system within MENA. These include:

1. Expanded access to early-childhood education
2. Ensuring the ‘future-readiness’ of curricula
3. Investing in developing and maintaining a professionalised teaching workforce
4. Early exposure to the workplace and career guidance
5. Investing in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills
6. Providing robust and respected technical and vocational education and training (TVET)
7. Creating a culture of lifelong learning
8. Openness to education innovation.

The region would benefit immensely from implementation of these measures, especially if they are wide-ranging and inclusive to all people (no matter their previous education level, gender, age, and so on).

A rapid up-skilling/reskilling of the workforce, which shifts towards a more holistic approach will benefit corporations, government and inhabitants in MENA.

In order to build a more resilient workforce employers might consider introducing innovative, impartial work cultures, multigenerational workforces, and work-based training and education courses.

Learning which occurs within the workplace can offer employees the opportunity to refine key skills, adapt to new techniques and technologies, build their talents, and cultivate an aptitude for increased knowledge. All of which will be an advantage to employers as it can give them the relevant skills needed for their business, maintains a relevant workforce, and increases employee productivity and resilience.

 

As we move completely into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, prospects for the MENA region are somewhat divided and dependent upon a number of factors.

According to the research completed by the World Economic Forum it has been estimated that “41% of all work activities in Kuwait are susceptible to automation, as are 46% in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 47% in the UAE, 49% in Egypt, 50% in Morocco and Turkey and 52% in Qatar”.

Whether the automation of these jobs means an actual decline in employment, or a shift in roles, training and skills, comes down to businesses, governments and societies recognising the need for education, re-training and upskilling.

The huge potential that lies within the MENA region for creating “high value-adding formal sector jobs in a number of sectors, skills levels and work formats” should not be overlooked, and likewise, the importance of soft skills training with a more ‘human’ approach should be emphasised and embraced.

If you would like to know more about training your workforce in readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, please contact Creative Word Training.

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