“FIKR 17” Conference was launched on Monday evening in the city of Dhahran in the east of KSA. It is held by Arab Thought Foundation in partnership with King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture “Ithra”. The conference was launched with the participation of 80 keynote speakers and 600 participants, and is entitled “Towards a New Arab Thought”. And is under the auspices of H.R.H. Prince Saud Bin Naif of the Eastern Province, also with the presence of H.R.H. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, President, Arab Thought Foundation, and H.E. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of Arab League, as well as a large number of government officials, private sector, and Arab and regional organizations.
The conference participants all agreed that the thoughts emerged, and solutions adopted in both the 19th and 20th centuries, are not suitable anymore for the digital era, and not capable of handling the questions of the present, and the challenges of the future. They also agreed that Arab societies should criticize the prominent traditional thought, and to work more on raising the awareness and advancement, and to adopt the culture of change and development, this all would liberate the Arab thought from all its restricting constraints, and would rejuvenate and provide it with creativity.
The Council of Arab Economic Unity Speech
A high-level delegation from The Council of Arab Economic Unity, headed by H.E. Dr. Ali Mohamed Al-Khouri, Advisor, Arab Economic Unity Council League of Arab States Chairman of Arab Federation for Digital Economy, participated in the conference. H.E. Dr. Al-Khouri presented a working paper entitled “Technological development and the necessity to work following common agendas to face economic, social, and security challenges in the Arab region”, in this paper, he recommended common adoption of goals and common initiatives implementation in the Arab region, he also emphasized on the importance that investment plans should go towards building knowledge, social, and economic foundations for the Arab region.
He also shed the light, within his speech, on three main challenges in the Arab region, which the decision and policy makers should be attentive to. And those three are as follows:
The growing crisis of unemployment, it has reached 10% of working force, i.e.: around 20 million unemployed. This is considered a timing-bomb that threatens Arab societies, and can’t be addressed with only the current solutions. And the situation isn’t handled seriously enough, nor with effective solutions, this alarms for a coming economic and social crisis, a deep and acute crisis, with which solutions won’t work anymore.
Then he pointed to the issue of unemployment, which is considered a complex challenge, and a one of the significant foundations of economic competitiveness. He explained that as per the report of World Economic Forum for 2019, the Arab countries are scattered between the 25th to the 140th from 141 places, where the former is for the UAE and the latter is for Yemen, and with comparison to the countries of EU, they are at the top third of the global competitiveness list of countries, where Holland is the 4th and Greece the 59th.
Afterwards, he explained that the other side of economic competitiveness is GDP, and as per the estimates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2018, the total GDP of the Arab countries is 2.7 Trillion US Dollars. He explained that one thing to note is that GCC countries possess more than 61.5% of the Arabic GDP which is equivalent to 1.66 Trillion US Dollars, whereas other countries sum up to a total of less than 40% which is equivalent to around a Trillion US Dollars. He emphasized that all the readings illustrate that Arabic economies not just moving at a low pace, but also our Arab societies are still follow the consumption pattern rather than production, and that they depend on traditional tools and thoughts, which are not enough to make the expected change or utilize the potential of the digital era.
Arabic Common Efforts and the “Arab Common Vision for Digital Economy”
H.E. added that a lot of Arab countries launched strategic plans for economy and services, yet they are not enough and don’t have enough power to make a change that would guarantee societal and economic stability in the Arab region. And that the reality and the interest of Arab region, impose cooperation and working together and investment in strategic projects aiming at filling the current gaps, and to enhance the capabilities of the Arab economies.
He also added that from the previously mentioned principle, the Arab League, through the Council of Arab Economic Unity, have put the corner stone through preparing “The Arab Common Vision for Digital Economy”, which is a tool that would guide economic development in the Arab region, depending on the foundations of digital technology, and utilizing technologies of fourth industrial revolution.
He explained that the “Arab Common Vision for Digital Economy” have handled five main pillars for building Arab digital economies, those are; infrastructure, eGovernment, Arab citizen’s standard of living, the main business sectors like education, health care, industry, agriculture, and eCommerce, and finally the pillar of supporting innovation and creativity in the Arab region. Pointing to the fact that the Arab vision included 50 initiatives and projects that considered the maturity and economic competitiveness rankings of the Arab countries.
Challenges and Solutions based on them
The advisor of the council of Arab economic unity commended the speech of H.R.H. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, in the inauguration of the conference, he stated that it summarized the current Arabic situation, emphasizing that the chance is there, but it won’t stay for long. And that developments and innovations round the globe, will create opportunities, as well as challenges and threats, that would call the governments neither to take lightly nor belittle the dangers that might come from them. H.E. Dr. Al-Khouri concluded his speech by stating that there is no magic formula, and that the Arab countries have to build a unifying chain of agendas, clear and specific for at least social and economic security. And to work together on a holistic approach for objectives and end results, this requires understanding the reality, and also practical and continuous evaluations for the strategic plans and their outcomes, and their suitability to the sizes of Arab region’s challenges and crises, the current and future ones