YOUNG & TALENTED

Kuwait 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Sheikha Al-Zain Al Sabah, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs, on helping to nurture the next generation.

HE Sheikha Al-Zain Al Sabah
BIOGRAPHY
HE Sheikha Al-Zain Al Sabah is Under-Secretary at the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs. Prior to this position, she co-founded Eagle Vision Media Group KSCC and served as Chairperson and Managing Director. Before that she worked for ABC News’ World News Tonight with Peter Jennings in New York, and she has also produced and directed a number of political talk shows for Kuwait Television.

What is at the forefront of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs' strategy to develop the youth in Kuwait?

At the forefront of the Ministry of Youth Affairs (MYA) mission is the youth themselves. Essentially, the Ministry has arisen from the youth themselves, and is run by and for the youth. At its core, MYA is a facilitating, enabling, and empowering incubator that promotes positive youth development and provides services, opportunities, and a supportive environment for youth engagement across a myriad of different fields. With departments specializing in leadership development, capacity building, volunteerism, entrepreneurship, research and development, and creative content creation, the Ministry's very structure has been developed according to the needs of its community. Since its formation, it has supported the development of upward of 250 youth initiatives in the fields of science, education, art, health, leisure, and business. It has also partnered with key stakeholders in the public, private, and civil sectors on a number of youth-driven capacity-building projects. It has also worked with the country's top universities on educational programs and campaigns to address a number of societal issues affecting both the youth community and the country at large.

Kuwait has a population of nearly 4 million, of which over 70-80% are expatriates. Of Kuwaitis, more than half of citizens are under the age of 25. In this demographic context, what key role do you see the Kuwaiti youth playing in Kuwait's economic future?

I see the Kuwaiti youth playing a significant role in Kuwait's economic future. In fact, I will go so far as to say that, given the sharp decline of oil prices worldwide, without the youth, there is no long-term sustainable economic future for Kuwait. You see, Kuwait's economic future depends heavily on the creation of new industries. And no one is better positioned to do more with less and to take that risk than the youth themselves. In fact, one of the key roles that I see the Kuwaiti youth playing is that of problem-solvers. Young entrepreneurs have the imagination and necessary innovative skills to solve many of the socio-economic and infrastructural issues we face today.

What are the main issues concerning youth in Kuwait? What hurdles do you see impeding their development and full potential?

A crippled educational system, labor market restrictions, business regulation controls, poor administrative infrastructures, and the lack of viable incubators and venture capital injection are the major issues that stand in the way of youth development today. In addition, Kuwait has a low level of new industry creation due to the lack of a proper ecosystem that would in turn be able to manage and interweave all entrepreneurial aspirations. In order to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in Kuwait, the Ministry continues to support and deliver a multitude of enabling projects in the SME creation and incubation fields.

What are your expectations for the Ministry of Youth, and the Kuwaiti economy, in 2016?

I have many expectations for 2016 and beyond. The Kuwait Development Plan for 2035 aims at transforming Kuwait into a financial and international hub. But in order to do so, we must first fix the nation's existing educational system and overall human development plan. With today's dynamic global economy centered on the development and exchange of knowledge and information, the state must invest in capacity building and knowledge transference. Individuals and human capital need to develop multifaceted expertise. Skills must be fostered and nurtured to meet both the demanding needs of modern-day life as well as the innovation-driven global arena. We must recognize the importance of knowledge in value creation, enable a society of life-long learners, and encourage out-of-the-box thinkers and innovators to hold key decision-making positions in government. We must also invest in R&D across all sectors and highlight the importance of a comprehensive educational backbone when re-structuring our much-neglected and dated public educational system. In addition, we must build platforms for creativity and expression; areas where new ideas and possibilities may be freely challenged and explored.