CAIRO: Before starting his lecture on youth and the private sector, Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria, warned the audience that he would be taking them on a rollercoaster ride and that they had better hold on.
The lecture, titled “Youth and the Private Sector: Do Business Leaders Have a Responsibility to Provide a Better Future for Youth? was hosted by the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo (AUC) on March 24.
“The Arab world must create 100 million job opportunities within 20 years to absorb the number of youth that is coming in, said Serageldin, who chose to change the title of the lecture to, “Young Entrepreneurs Will Build Modern Egypt, in order to make a statement that is optimistic in contrast to the above statistic.
Serageldin began by addressing the third global evolution, the knowledge revolution, which he said is “moving us away from the muscle to the brain, with all the new technology that is developing and “expanding our brain’s reach beyond anything our parents could’ve anticipated.
He continued by giving an example of how Arab youth remain on the receiving end of that new technology. Companies have “Islamicized, the mobile phone by having Quran verses on it or the prayer call as a ring tone, instead, he added, we should truly “Islamicize the mobile phone by having the Muslim community be its producers rather than its consumers.
“It is a waste of talent, being unable to accommodate the young people and have them fulfill their dreams, said Serageldin, adding that he believes the answer to youth unemployment is the encouragement of entrepreneurship and having faith in the creativity of young people.
Serageldin received his Masters Degree and PhD from Harvard University and holds a bachelors degree in Engineering from Cairo University.
Aside from being the director of the Library of Alexandria, Serageldin is also a member and chair of advisory committees for several academic, scientific and international institutions such as Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), Institut d’Egypte and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP). He was also the vice president for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development at the World Bank, and has published over 50 books and monographs.
Serageldin illustrated some of the challenges that prevent Egyptian youth from reaching their potential. He stressed, however, that money is the least of these problems since channeling that money in the right direction is what truly matters.
One of the main challenges impeding Egyptian youth, according to Serageldin, is education. He said that science and math need to be emphasized, along with upgrading skill education. But most importantly, he said, schools and institutions should teach people how to learn, explaining that there are three types of education; self learning, guided learning and instruction.
“The overwhelming majority of learning in Egypt is instruction, he said, “we must encourage the students to ask ‘what if’ and to challenge themselves.
Other challenges include education related policies, the interface between the public and the private sector and the decline in the quality of institutions in Egypt.
“We can make a difference by focusing on youth, thereby we’ll be working together to put Egypt on top of the world, said Serageldin.
The Gerhart Center is aimed at promoting philanthropy and civic engagement in the Arab world. It was founded in 2006 and named after AUC’s late President John D. Gerhart, for his civic service work.