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Nearly 20 million jobs needed for Middle East’s young population

Nearly 20 million jobs needed for Middle East’s young population

Careem VP says more technology start-ups can fill the gap as region’s population of under-25s soars

The Middle East will need a start-up revolution to help create 20 million new job to cope with the surge in the region’s young population.

More than 50 per cent of the population in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are aged under 25, according to Careem’s vice president of marketing and analytics Yousef Tuquan.

Current forecasts suggest the region will need at least 20 million new jobs in the next 20 years to cater for the population increase.

But instead of the public sector, these jobs will come from technology start-ups and entrepreneurship, Tuquan told an audience at the Dubai Lynx Festival of Creativity.

He said: “In the Middle East, in some countries, more than 50 per cent of the population is under the age of 25. In Saudi Arabia, more than 55 per cent is under 25. In Egypt, it’s 59 per cent. These people all need jobs. And companies [like Souq.com] are going to create all these desperately needed jobs in the future.

“Thirty years ago you wanted a nice public sector job, Today, there are more than 460 companies out there ready to help and support entrepreneurs. And in the last five years, there has been an absolute explosion in the region.”

In particular, Tuqan cited e-commerce sites such as Souq.com as being the region’s biggest success stories.

He said: “Most retailers today in the Middle East are flatlining, even if they won’t admit it. Very few are seeing significant growth. But these people are growing 90 per cent a year. Souq.com employs over 3,000 people across the Middle East. And what’s incredible is that 70 per cent of purchases made in Saudi Arabia are done by mobile phone. They are a real success story and a real bellwether for the industry overall.”

He added: “Today in the Middle East, there’s over $500m of foreign investments available for tech start-ups and it’s absolutely fascinating and it’s spun all these tech companies who have come out of Maktoob.”

Maktoob was originally founded as an internet services company in Amman, Jordan, in 1998 and was bought by United States’ internet giant Yahoo! for $164m in 2009.

But Yahoo! announced last year its plans to close down the operation in Dubai and pull out of the Middle East by April.

Tuquan said that while this would be ‘disappointing’ for many, the legacy of Maktoob would live on.

“The reality is that the it’s not the Middle East that’s failing Yahoo!, it’s Yahoo! globally that’s struggling and they are streamlining,” he said.

“Maktoob increased employment in a part of the world that is desperately in need of jobs. The thing that really started the start-up revolution here in the Middle East was the sale of Maktoob… this was truly groundbreaking because we had never seen anything like it on this scale and on this level.”

He added: “What we saw five or six years ago across the Arab world was incredible change in what was called the Arab Spring. Five years later, people are calling this the Arab Winter. Very little of the optimism five years ago has given away to what we hoped for. You watch the TV and it’s clear to see it’s never been worse; we are beset by sectarianism, by politics, by violence, by a refugee crisis – the likes of which we have never seen before.

“But despite this, the internet seems to transcend all of that.”

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