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Sun 18 May 2008 06:08 PM

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90mn jobs needed in Mideast over next 20 years

WEFME: Franchise king Alshaya says jobs needed as population booms.

Ninety million jobs must be created in the Middle East over the next 20 years in order to keep up with the region's booming population, the chairman of franchise giant M.H. Alshaya Company said on Sunday.

Opening the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (WEFME) in Sharm El Sheikh, co-chair of the forum Mohammed Alshaya said job creation was being overlooked and called for a renewed focus to tackle rising unemployment across the region.

"One of the biggest challenges for the future is ensuring that 90 million jobs are created within the Middle East in the next 20 years," said Alshaya, who runs the Kuwaiti-based company.

"Employment needs to become a priority - it doesn't get the focus it deserves."

More than half of the Middle East's population is under the age of 30, according to international institutions like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

M.H. Alshaya itself said on Sunday it had launched a summer internship programme for 1,000 young Kuwaitis across its retail franchise operations in Kuwait.

The company has brought many of the world's leading retail brands to the Middle East including Starbucks, H&M, The Body Shop, Foot Locker, Mothercare, Debenhams, River Island and Boots.

Alshaya, the first Kuwaiti national to co-chair the forum, also said there needed to be a shift in emphasis to the private sector from the state, traditionally the largest employer of its citizens throughout the Middle East.

"It is time for both parties to agree their agenda and act together."

In an earlier panel session at WEFME, Alshaya spoke about how he expanded M.H. Alshaya from a local to a global business operating in 16 markets over the past two decades, and called on companies in the region to broaden their vision.

"While there continues to be plenty of potential for growth in the Middle East, there is a plenty of opportunity outside for our region's businesses," Alshaya said.

Alshaya also spoke about family-run companies, which account for 75% of all businesses in the region, being both an asset and challenge in the future.

"Family values are at the heart of our businesses but holding onto tradition too tightly can be damaging - one result is a vast majority of our companies are confined by their traditional geographies of business when they could be nurturing multinational ambitions," said Alshaya.

The WEFME meeting is be held between May 18-20 and will include debates and discussions focused on how the business, political and social environment in the region might change between now and 2025.

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