In September 2020, AIWF Chairman Haifa Al Kaylani delivered the Closing Remarks for the QS MAPLE Virtual Conference and joined a key panel on Preparing the region to become an economic power over the coming decade. The QS MAPLE (Middle East and Africa Professional Leaders in Education) Conference was jointly organised by Quacquarelli Symonds and the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, under the theme Innovative Middle East and Africa: Higher Education-led Economic Diversity and Globalization from 16-17 September 2020.
With the MENA and Africa in transition, and with countries in both regions now exploring new opportunities for diversified and globalized economic models, disruption across industries is seeing resources exports, primarily oil, coming to the end of their life cycle, and many countries are looking to shift towards a knowledge-led economic future. The QS MAPLE Conferences are designed to explore how higher education providers can build both regions’ knowledge economies, develop an entrepreneurial mindset and lead new and diversified economic models. The programme for QS MAPLE 2020 was very much focused on the decade ahead and how the region might equip and empower its people to contribute meaningfully to economic growth and to a prosperous, and peaceful future with the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In her Closing Keynote, titled Women as Engines of Economic Growth, Mrs Al Kaylani contributed her insights on the growing role of women as engines of economic growth in the MENA Region, which has been the call of AIWF in the twenty years since its inception in 2001, and shared her thoughts on how governments, the private sector, civil society, media and women and young people themselves can come together to mainstream gender diversity and enhance inclusion in the MENA through education, especially now in the light of the pandemic.
Mrs Al Kaylani said: “AIWF sees this as the optimum time for the MENA region to invest in an enabling environment for economic growth: an environment that engages women as partners in private sector growth, in their roles as business leaders, entrepreneurs, producers, innovators and investors; and an environment that ultimately empowers all citizens with the education, experience, ideas, ambition and aptitude to make a real difference to the economic future of the region. Sustainable and inclusive economic growth is a clear priority for the MENA States but will be only be achieved with the full engagement of young people and the rightful participation of women.”
In addition, she said, “enabling women to contribute to the economy as employees and entrepreneurs represents a major opportunity to boost competitiveness, private sector growth and job creation which would power the MENA economy into a prosperous decade.”
Together with Mrs Al Kaylani, the panel discussion featured distinguished participants Hugh Martin, Registrar and Chief Administrative Officer, The British University in Dubai, and Professor Francois Therin, Senior Advisor to the Dean, Africa Business School, and was moderated by Winnie Eley, IAAC Committee Member, QS MAPLE 2020. The panel discussion focused on how best to address the deficits that are holding the region back, and how to navigate the decade ahead by connecting and collaborating on education reform and linking education with industry to achieve a prosperous future for the MENA Region.
AIWF is proud to have contributed to this excellent international initiative dedicated which inspired such insightful dialogue between Arab and international leaders in education, and thanks the QS MAPLE team for their leadership on this valuable Forum which delivered many inspiring discussions and outcomes.