Silatech empowering MENA youth: Sheikha Moza

Five million young people will be entering the job market every year for the next five years in the Middle East, a region already struggling to create enough jobs for its youth. The IMF estimates 27 million young people will soon be looking for work.

One organisation, Silatech (Arabic for 'your connection'), is leading efforts to connect young people with employment opportunities in places such as Yemen, Somalia and Palestine. So far, the Qatari organisation has helped one million young men and women across the Middle East and North Africa find meaningful work.

Last week in Geneva, Silatech's founder and chairperson, HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, announced an ambitious new target: to connect five million young men and women with jobs by 2022.

Silatech acts as a bridge, connecting disaffected youths with apprenticeships, microfinancing initiatives, and partners who can teach them how to run a business. The hope is they will become financially independent to achieve their aspirations and make a positive contribution to the economic and social development of their communities.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Finighan spoke with Sheikha Moza about her new efforts in job creation.

Q:You're known all over the world for your advocacy for quality education. And yet, here you're in Geneva talking about employment. Is this a shift in emphasis for you? How does Silatech play into education and what are the challenges, in particular for the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region?

HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser: As you know, I am really a great believer in education. I believe in the power of education in transforming lives and societies. Education is the basic building block for human development; it is the base where young people can learn their skills, their knowledge, the art of citizenry, and also they will construct their first world view.

But education alone is not enough. We need to follow that with decent work and employment. We failed to provide our young people with the right environment - economic, social and cultural environment - for their prosperity and their hope.

We have a very young population. One-third of the population is between 15 and 29 years old. This is a very productive age. This is the generation that can drive the engine of our economic growth and lead our positive social changes. So I believe it's imperative to invest in them and give them the opportunity by which they can be active in their societies and practise the art of citizenry that we taught them during their schooling.

 

So that's where Silatech comes in?

Silatech is working to fill certain gaps. The problem is that some of these young people lack skills that really can allow them to fit in an ever-changing market, so Silatech is training these young people to be employed.

So we help them with their employability, also train them to be entrepreneurs. We provide them with loan guarantees and try to instil in them their self-confidence to see themselves as productive citizens.

We also help certain governments to change certain mindsets, certain policies to create this ecosystem, by which young people can excel or practise this good citizenry.

We talk a lot on Counting the Cost about the UN's sustainable development goals. How does Silatech contribute towards those goals?

Well, Silatech's work actually tackles many of the SDGs, so from poverty to decent work, to gender equality to partnership, we connect these young people to jobs or train them to be entrepreneurs. Their families also can benefit from these businesses or these jobs, and their society.

We are in a way activating business in the whole community. And also we work in partnerships. We have international partners, regional partners and also local partners. Local partners for us are very essential because they're the ones who can lead us towards the right programmes.

There's no one-size fits all, so we really need to make sure that what we're offering is appropriate and adequate to the culture and the dynamics of the society that we operate in. Of course, the regional and international partners help us to transfer certain expertise and knowledge to these local people that we're helping and supporting.

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