The World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum (WEIF 2022) ended in Dubai on Wednesday with the adoption of the “UAE Declaration”, calling for greater cooperation, integration and connectivity in the Arab world and a strong focus on women entrepreneurs to help achieve the goals for contribute to sustainable development (SDGs) by 2030.
Youth and Innovation was the highlight of the Forum’s closing ceremony when the top three winners of the ‘Arab Rally‘ for Entrepreneurship and Innovation were advertised. On the sidelines of the WEIF 2022, the entrepreneurship competition for university students from the Arab region took place.
Sustainable development through entrepreneurship
The closing day of WHITE 2022 saw attendees, partners and co-sponsors including the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNITED)-ITPO, along with the Arab League, the Arab Chambers of Commerce, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) express their strong commitment to the realization of the 17 global goals outlined in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.
In addition, the UAE statement said: “We recognize that entrepreneurship and innovation are the driving force behind creating jobs, fostering economic growth and realizing social gains; We recommend that all efforts be directed towards achieving sustainable development through entrepreneurship and innovation, which can be achieved through strong, inclusive, sustainable and resilient economic growth.”
As a conclusion of the three-day forum, Dr. Hashim Hussein, Executive Director of WEIF: “This is the closing session. But WEIF never closes. For each WEIF we have an explanation to summarize what happened. This year, the statement will be read by an African and an Arab entrepreneur, as this year’s global forum focuses on the Arab region and Africa.”
“We are here to connect heads and brains under the umbrella of the Arab League.”
Gender parity “a must” for entrepreneurship
Forum participants paid particular attention to empowering women at all economic levels to achieve the SDGs through innovation and entrepreneurship. “We encourage the active participation of women in all sectors through entrepreneurship and innovation,” the statement said.
Also stressed was the need to develop and implement sound economic policies, laws and programs as key strategies for sustainable development and to ensure women’s empowerment at national, regional and global levels.
The declaration also stressed the need to build strong partnerships between entrepreneurs – women and men alike – to share best practices in line with linking financial and non-financial services, which could improve entrepreneurial engagement and strengthen micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME).
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said at the closing session that the Arab countries’ more than 100 million young men and women are the mainstay of the Arab region.
He also stressed the importance of creating an environment conducive to the success of Arab youth, “because their success means the success of the nation and Arab society”.
Mr. Gheit gave three tips for young people in the Arab world: “First: work until the last moment of your life; second, read to the point of blindness; and third, you have hope that your wishes will come true.”
The way ahead and the role of UNIDO
The UAE statement also called for the exploration and expansion of new investment sectors, namely “green” and renewable energy, the blue economy, the “orange” (creative) economy with a focus on trade and heritage, special programs and initiatives that economically empower people with disabilities.
Increasing synergies between governments, the private sector, philanthropists, civil society, financial institutions, think tanks, universities, schools, chambers, non-governmental organizations, media and international organizations to work together to achieve the empowerment of resilient entrepreneurs and innovative businesses Sustainable Development Goals was stressed too.
UNIDO’s role in promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development and the notable achievements of previous editions of WEIF were also commended.
UNIDO’s Executive Director, Programs and Partnerships, Ciyong Zou said: “I am excited about this great innovation and progress that is taking place at WEIF. As you all know, post-COVID events play a crucial role in achieving economic growth and WEIF has seen how we can create resilience to help the global economy grow and thrive. At the same time, however, we must work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The declaration calls on the international community, the United Nations, UNIDO and other relevant international and regional organizations, think tanks, civil society and other stakeholders to consider the recommendations in shaping their policies and strategies in support of entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainable development .
Support for young entrepreneurs and innovation
The ceremony ended on a touch of excitement with the announcement of the winners of the second Arab Rally for Innovation.
The competition was aimed at university students in the Arab region and included 20 teams from across the region.
The students and university professors have worked hard to find innovative solutions to many of the challenges facing the region, in areas such as water, agriculture, renewable energy, pollution and environmental waste recycling.
First prize went to a Syrian company called BEVOL, which has developed an unprecedented and interactive international social media platform to promote the culture of volunteering and improve social responsibility through the use of motivational tools.
Second place went to WALTER from Palestine, a company that offers technology solutions for gray water treatment to reduce water consumption in public and private facilities. The company’s proprietary water treatment system is based on filtering gray water, implicitly storing it and treating it so it can later be pumped down toilets.
The third award winner was CLOUD, a company that offers a disposable menstrual pad that is body-friendly, mind-friendly and nature-friendly, and is made from 100 percent healthy, organic and biodegradable materials.
The Effect of the Forum
Over the years, WEIF has supported these young entrepreneurs on their way to becoming business leaders.
Last year’s Arab Rally winner, Wadah Malaeb of Lebanon, told the gathering that the competition had helped him grow and put him on the world map.
“In 2019 I won the Arab Innovation Rally, the [led to] a crucial change in my career. Since then we have patented our technology, expanded our team and built the manufacturing facility for our chips. We have established collaborations with the academic world, with the medical faculty of the University of Beirut,” he explained.
He continued: “We are currently growing and putting various organ and disease models on our chips to create a human model on which to test drugs. We have started discussions with pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca to conduct studies to introduce our concept into the drug discovery process.”
Mr. Malaeb won first prize for his unique invention: Ductal Organoid-on-a-Chip, based on growing organ chip technology. The chip provides an environment for cells to grow and reorganize into tissue that mimics the human body, creating the perfect atmosphere for drug testing to be conducted efficiently and saving the money and ordeal of human trials.
The World Entrepreneurs Investment Forum (WEIF), through its secretariat at UNIDO ITPO/AICEI Bahrain and various partners, has managed to position itself as a leading knowledge pavilion on entrepreneurship, innovation and impactful investing.
In the previous editions of the forum in 2015, 2017 and 2019, WEIF was able to achieve important milestones and become the UN system’s most important dedicated investment forum for entrepreneurs.
The main theme of WEIF Achieving the SDGs through Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment was a key factor in its success.
WHITE 2022which opened at the Dubai Expo Pavilion on Monday, March 28th, focused on what is needed at the government, multinational and private sector levels to build corporate and economic resilience after theCOVID-19 in the Arab region, Africa and the world.