Gulf race to release youth potential in age of cheap oil
DUBAIFeb 20, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Feb 20, 2016 12:00 am
Like the prototype drone of Emirati student Talib Alhinai, the ambitions of young people across the Gulf Arab states need to soar if they - and their economies - are to prosper in the age of cheap oil. The 23-year-old now researching for his Ph.D, is just the kind of innovator that the region requires, along with youngsters who want the risky life of an entrepreneur rather than a safe but unproductive job working for the state. Wearing a crisp white Arabian robe and headdress, Alhinai cranes his glasses upward as his drone climbs above an outdooramphitheatre in downtown Dubai, and explains how it can swoop down and squirt 3D printed sealant onto damaged oil pipelines.
Petrodollars won Gulf Arab states decades of prosperity, when loyalty and stability could be bought by giving graduates with subpar education cushy government posts. No more. The collapse in oil prices is forcing governments to make good on old promises to turn their growing youth populations into a workforce that can compete globally.
Showing off the prototype he built with classmates at Imperial College London, winning a state-sponsored "Drones for Good" competition at the amphitheatre, Alhinai said Gulf Arab youngsters were eager to make livelihoods from their ideas, not handouts. "There's a realisation, an awakening, among my generation that the age of oil can't last forever and that we need to pick up the pace to give back to our societies, especially through innovation and technology, to shred this stereotype about us being idle," said Alhinai. Over half of Gulf Arab nationals are employed in public sector jobs; in Kuwait the figure is nearly 80 percent.
About the author
Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University