By Aby Sam Thomas / Entrepreneur Middle East - Image Credit: INJAZ Al Arab
Hearing INJAZ Al-Arab President and CEO Akef Aqrabawi talk about the organization’s goal to have its education and training programs reach one million students annually in the Arab world by 2022, I’m struck by two things: first, the ambitious nature of this particular objective, and second, Aqrabawi’s resolute belief that this target can indeed be achieved- if provided with the requisite support. As a non-profit entity, INJAZ -which is the regional operating center of the global Junior Achievement (JA) Worldwide network- is reliant on its partners both in the private and public sectors to not just provide it with financial support, plus also provide them with their resources to act as volunteers to conduct its programs for students across the region.
INJAZ’s programs, which fall under the domains of financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship, aim at equipping youth with the skills they need to succeed in today’s world of work- these are things that traditional academia in the region are (unfortunately) not teaching them, but are absolutely needed (and demanded) by businesses in the current market landscape. One could say that there is thus an urgent need for education reform in the region- but according to Aqrabawi, waiting for that to happen –even as the Arab world already struggles with rising unemployment figures as well a rising youth population- is simply not in the Middle East’s best interests.
“Every single year we miss, there will be massive, massive wave of youth coming into the private sector marketplace, seeking an opportunity that does not exist,” he notes. “And that is our role as INJAZ Al-Arab- to provide them with the skills they need to enter the marketplace properly in the future.” Indeed, that’s why an enterprise like INJAZ, doing what it does, is so critical for the Arab world, Aqrabawi points out. “The number of youth in this region: we are talking about 200 million students- 65% of them are under the age of 25,” he says. “There is a big need for this program… Our purpose is to equip our young people to drive the economy forward.”