Abu Dhabi: A series of UAE ministers discussed the current state of the world at the 2021 edition of the Mohamed bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations, urging youth to capitalise on emerging opportunities and skills over the next 50 years.
The event, which saw 13,000 young attendees, was held virtually for the first time, and was kicked off by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Addressing a group of Emirati youth who had participated in a two-day lab designed for future decision makers, Sheikh Abdullah said today’s youth should focus on lifelong learning, sustainability and mental health. He also urged young Emiratis to stay true to their roots while also adopting a tolerant and inclusive mindset.
Learnings from MBZ
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Adnoc group managing director and chief executive officer, hosted a lively discussion with young Emiratis from a wide range of professional backgrounds. He also shared his own perspectives on how to build resilience during times of change and uncertainty.
“The vision and wisdom of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, enabled Adnoc and many other organisations from across the UAE to more effectively navigate the challenges which arose in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, Adnoc has undergone a significant transformation since its unification, enabling a more flexible and adaptive response to the ‘new normal’ brought about by COVID-19,” Dr Al Jaber said.
Today’s young people should also focus on creating their own opportunities, advised Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. “We live in a time when we must all work to create our own opportunities. We must master the ability to forecast the future and its transformations, and then imagine and create opportunities that we can benefit from in the present. The progress we will see in the next 50 years will … dwarf the progress humanity has made over hundreds of thousands of years,” Al Gergawi said.
Some of these opportunities are part of the growing creative sector, which is currently worth more than $2.25 billion worldwide. Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, said the cultural and creative industries will have more than 15,000 jobs as part of a 10-year federal strategy. “This year, the UAE announced its talent visa, the golden visa and the talent citizenship in celebration of diversity. A cultural hero does not necessarily need to be an Emirati, but a resident of the UAE who embodies the ethos of the UAE as a nation, speaking to its universal values,” Al Kaabi said.
“We are in living in uncertain times, yet the digital world has enabled us to continue to experience culture and creativity even during a global pandemic. Here in the UAE, we have the advanced technology, the networks and connectivity to do so. The arts — music, dance, theatre and poetry — predate modern technology, and right now we need to be looking at how our digital tools can complement this industry by ensuring not only its continuity, but also its growth,” she explained.
In the same vein, Hussain Al Hammadi, UAE Minister of Education, advised students to go beyond book knowledge and implement their learning outside the classroom, even as the UAE national educational curriculum continues to be updated to keep pace with social changes. “University is not the final chapter of education; on the contrary, it marks the beginning of lifelong learning. We must embrace this philosophy in light of the constant and rapid evolution of the employment market, and with it, of the required skills and knowledge. We must make a habit of reading, learning from other people’s experience and knowledge, and always striving to reflect a positive image of the UAE around the world,” he said.
A focus on community
In addition to a focus on their professional lives, today’s youth must also prioritise family. Hessa Buhumaid, UAE Minister of Community Development, emphasised that inclusivity is a driving force in the UAE, as is the ‘creation of happy families’. “The government spends more than Dh177 million every year on marriage funds and grants given directly to newly-weds or couples about to get married. It’s not only about money; we also want to ensure that they are equipped with knowledge about married life. This is to ensure the sustainability of our future generations and to ensure that we are not just creating families, but creating happy, sustainable generations for the future,” she said.
The needs of families and communities are also at the forefront of the UAE’s future growth plans. In terms of food security, the UAE is prioritising sustainability and resilience, and the efforts to agri-technologists rather than farmers, said Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security. “We need to be ready to build more resilient food systems. And for this, we are looking for a new generation of youth who think of sustainability and … resources to ensure that we have enough food for all in the future,” Almheiri said.
Opportunities will continue to arise as the UAE doubled its GDP from Dh1.5 trillion to Dh3 trillion over the next decade, explained Abdulla Al Marri, UAE Minister of Economy. “The UAE is aiming to empower 100 new entrepreneurs every year and to transform start-ups into pioneering companies. To that end, we need to support innovation and entrepreneurship by creating a stimulating environment where copyright and intellectual property is guaranteed, and where support is available to help entrepreneurs turn these ideas into concrete projects,” Al Marri said.
Many new opportunities will also arise from frontier industries in the UAE, which push the boundaries of science and technology. Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology, delved into the UAE Mars mission as an example of these ambitions. “The mission has been a series of challenges, but it all started … with a leadership that dares to take audacious visions and transforms them into reality. That is one key for success for any nation that ventures into technology, space and into establishing its industry to be deeply rooted in technology,” Al Amiri said.
She added that most of the Mission team had been 35 years or younger when they began their work a few short years ago.
Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, offered advice to young people to not only cope with the current circumstances, but also thrive in the Next Normal. “You have to focus your time and energy into your personal vision for your life. Every day is a chance to get one step closer to realising the version of yourself you aspire to be — Where do you want to go? Who do you want to become? Be the person who smiles and greets life with excitement and focuses not on the problems, but on the opportunities,” Al Mazrui said.
Ohoud Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future, explored the changes today’s youth can expect in the future. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution will provide tremendous opportunities in promising economic sectors. Every aspect of life, work, and transportation will be affected by digital transformation, which is poised to create $23 trillion in opportunities over the next five years,” she said.
She also urged young people to safeguard their mental health, which is a growing concern in the age of social media and remote work.