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Harvard Alumni Join Gulf Experts to Tackle the GCC’s Biggest Challenges

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Food security, national talent, healthcare, and sustainability action groups created by Harvard alumni and GCC leaders

Actionable solutions to the Gulf region’s food security, national talent, healthcare, and sustainability challenges are being drawn up by GCC experts, public and private sector leaders and Harvard Alumni.

The four challenges came under the spotlight at the Harvard Business School GCC Alumni Club’s Crossroads GCC Future Impact Forum 2022 held on September 14 and 15 at the Dubai Museum of the Future.

“We had 70 participants from HBS Alumni and thought leaders at the design thinking workshops, with a mission to establish projects for positive impact in the GCC,” said Saleh Lootah, President, of the Harvard Business School Club of the GCC and Chairman of Lootah Holding.

“Now over the next year the action groups, made up of HBS alumni, government and business leaders will work together to deliver actionable solutions. All the findings will be presented at our 2023 Harvard Business School GCC Alumni Forum in Riyadh.”

Food Security

Challenge: With an expected growth of up to 20-30 million more people by 2050, the region’s limited arable land and water is driving a need to find innovative solutions to the production, manufacture and distribution of food to meet future demand.

Solution: According to Saleh Lootah, the Forum’s food security action group will be focused on influencing consumer behaviour, addressing water shortages in the region and introducing viable technological impacts to the agricultural landscape.  

The Forum focused on the strengthening community involvement in promoting food security was critical and can be implemented by changing food consumption behaviour and reducing food waste.

Mr Lootah said: “Strategies were discussed in each of these areas to address the challenges within them. For influencing consumer behaviour, discussions revolved around the use of role models in the community, awareness programmes and media as strategies to overcome negative behaviour related to food consumption and production.”

National Talents

Challenge: There are varying perspectives of national work force development in the region and GCC organisations need to find solutions to best manage this task in a unified way.

Solution: Forum discussions focused on the effective use of data to quickly match opportunities to the right candidates from across the GCC as well as maximising the potential of Artificial Intelligence to pair top global talent with regional opportunities, Mr Lootah said.  

“Further discussions revolved around creating a balance between the markets’ needs for international exceptional talent and hiring local homegrown talent. An example of one of the strategies suggested was to create a mentor scheme for local homegrown talent using top talents that are attracted to GCC countries,” he said.

During the forum the speakers stressed on the global employment trends were rapidly changing. Esperts said that within five years, 85 million jobs will disappear, however, another 100 million new jobs in digital fields and others will be available. Speakers added that it is very important to establish foundations from now to serve these labour markets through education.

Healthcare

Challenge: How can GCC governments work with private companies in the healthcare sector? What policy changes and regulatory frameworks are needed to attract private players from the region and beyond?

Solution: During the forum healthcare discussions focused on partnerships through technology to effectively use patient data and support pre-diagnosis.  

“This would enable healthcare in the region to transform from traditional reactive systems where patients are treated after affliction to becoming focused on well-being by pre-empting illnesses using AI and technology,” said Mr Lootah.  

With such systems, he added, patient data privacy and management systems within the sector would need to be well governed and managed by a plethora of stakeholders.  

Experts at the forum called for a strong digital information infrastructure, which is evidence and knowledge based, to serve GCC countries need in real time. The system, experts added, needs to be agile to accept new innovations and technologies that can deal with current and future challenges.

One example, Mr Lootah said, is the use of AI data to support the elderly population within the GCC, ensuring an effective provision of healthcare services in a timely manner.  He said such a multi-stakeholder project could have the potential of saving lives.

Sustainability

Challenge: The risks posed by climate change will affect the region adversely. Regional governments must adapt and utilise technology to deal with climate change.

Solutions: Investing in and utilising technology would help decrease the negative impact of infrastructure growth in the region, Mr Lootah said. Furthermore, there would be great value in developing an incentive scheme to reward corporates and communities that contribute to the creation of sustainable cities in the GCC.

Riyadh 2023

Mr Lootah said that the action groups – made up of GCC government and business leaders along with Harvard Alumni – will reconvene next year in Riyadh and review the impact of their 2022 plans.

“The HBS GCC Alumni Club’s Crossroads GCC Future Impact Forum 2023 in Riyadh will review all outline plans and seek to tackle new challenges and expand the circle to include more participants,” he said.

“The vast number of ideas that have been collected over the two days at our Forum in Dubai, will now be developed into white papers along with the outlined initiatives.”

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