Investing in youth to ensure a prosperous future

Investing in youth to ensure a prosperous future

Investing in youth to ensure a prosperous future
Signing of Saudi Arabia's $38 million contribution to Global Partnership for Education. (X: @GPforEducation)
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Across the Gulf today, we see countries rushing to unlock the potential of their youthful populations by investing in education, technology and infrastructure in ways that will sustain the region’s strength as a major hub of industrial and commercial growth.

Saudi Arabia is among the leaders in focusing attention on the development of human capital as an engine of growth, recognizing that future success hinges on how communities promote health, nurture talent and empower every individual to realize their potential.

The Human Capability Initiative being held in Riyadh focuses world attention on the urgent need to foster knowledge, skills and opportunities for young people worldwide to thrive at a time when another technological revolution is reshaping the future of work.

This initiative is a key element of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 but it also offers a roadmap for other countries to unleash the potential in all girls and boys by prioritizing and supporting education, skills development, health and nutrition, and empowerment as a lifelong path.

All countries need to devote more resources to ensure that girls and boys get a year of early learning to prepare them for school, that they enjoy a quality education when they enter the classroom, and that they are safe, healthy and well-fed while they learn.

Instead, we face an alarming emergency in education, exacerbated by the impacts of the coronavirus disease pandemic. Before COVID-19, around half the world’s 10-year-olds struggled to read and comprehend a basic story; today, that level is likely to be more than 70 percent. 

With the sudden emergence of artificial intelligence posing significant questions about its role in all aspects of life, today’s students must join the future workforce with the abilities and knowledge they need to make the most of this and other cutting-edge technologies.

The Gulf region, like many others, faces skill mismatch that risks leaving millions of youths — particularly young women —underprepared for tomorrow’s demands

Yousef Al-Benyan & Laura Frigenti

The World Bank’s Human Capital Index as calculated in 2020 showed that nearly 60 percent of children born now will be, at best, only half as productive as they could be with complete education and full health. This presents serious implications for economic growth, prosperity and broader stability. 

The Gulf region, like many others, faces skill mismatch that risks leaving millions of youths — particularly young women —underprepared for tomorrow’s demands. Youth unemployment across Arab states is around 25 percent, while unemployment for young women has reached 40 percent.

The Global Partnership for Education and Saudi Arabia are committed to highlighting this challenge and investing in education as a powerful force to build and empower global youth.

Saudi Arabia this week signed a formal contribution agreement to provide $38 million to support GPE’s work in supporting lower-income countries in transforming their education systems around inclusive, quality learning. In addition to an active grant portfolio of $2.7 billion, GPE has leveraged more than $2.5 billion through innovative financing from a diverse range of donors.

As another example of regional leadership, GPE and the Islamic Development Bank are supporting the $500-million Arab Coordination Group Smart Education Financing Initiative, known as SmartEd, which aims to benefit 175 million children in 37 countries. During 2023, SmartEd provided an initial $280 million to boost education in Cameroon, the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan.

These investments afford lower-income countries the financial capacity to target key obstacles within their education systems that prevent so many girls and boys from not only getting a chance to go to school, but from learning effectively and developing their talents and skills when they get there. 

It has been estimated that today’s generation stands to lose $17 trillion in future lifetime earnings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the equivalent of 14 percent of recent global economic output. The world simply cannot afford a loss of that magnitude when it should instead be doing all it can to secure a more stable, safe and prosperous future.

Through the Human Capital Initiative and the Human Capability Development Program within Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has offered a guide to personal empowerment and global competitiveness built around every stage of learning, beginning with preschool education and continuing into adulthood. Its partnership with investment in GPE are complementary to its lengthy history of supporting education.

Our hope is that others will follow this example and leverage their own appreciation of education and generosity to support education and human capital development not only at home but in lower-income countries facing a common challenge of nurturing and empowering their young people to take on the demands of a rapidly changing and ever more complex future. 

Yousef Al-Benyan is the Saudi education minister. Laura Frigenti is CEO of the Global Partnership for Education.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view