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Sat 3 Mar 2012 09:58 AM

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UK's Caan urges Gulf to embrace entrepreneurs

Former TV 'Dragon' James Caan in Saudi to promote entrepreneurship amid jobs concern

UK's Caan urges Gulf to embrace entrepreneurs
Former BBC Dragon James Caan

James Caan, the UK-based businessman and former BBC 'Dragon', will address an economic forum in Saudi Arabia and urge the region to promote entrepreneurship to tackle a looming jobs crisis.

Caan, an advisor to the UK Government and a former panellist on the BBC's Dragons' Den (broadcast as Merchants Den in Saudi Arabia), will address the Jeddah Economic Forum which runs from March 3-6.

Underlying the conference will be the challenge facing Middle East economies of creating sufficient jobs amid surging population.

According to the World Economic Forum, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will need to respond to the needs of rapidly increasing populations by creating at least 75 million jobs up to 2020 and beyond.

Caan will urge the forum delegate to embrace and promote entrepreneurship in the region.

he said: "The Middle East has a rich history and culture of trade and entrepreneurialism, one where venture capitalism, now largely viewed as a western concept, originated and helped develop thriving trading nations.

"As part of the education they receive we need to further encourage young people to think about new business ideas and enhance mechanisms for a venture capital environment to thrive."

Saudi Arabia is already responding to the educational challenge but Caan will address specific measures to promote business to help the private sector grow and generate more jobs for Saudi nationals.

In December, Saudi Arabia's Labour Ministry teamed up with Prince Alwaleed's Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation to broadcast an unemployment awareness TV campaign.

The campaign, which will run for nine months, is part of the ministry's efforts to address the kingdom's jobless problem among its citizens, particularly its youth.

The TV campaign aims to transform the mindsets of the audience by highlighting some of the causes of unemployment in Saudi Arabia, such as the lack of trust in female employees and the stigma attached to blue collar jobs.

Also in December, Caan said he was hoping to attract interest from Gulf investors in a Sharia-compliant fund that buys up property assets in the UK.

The entrepreneur was touring the Gulf in a bid to drum up investment interest in a £45m ($69m) student housing product, offered through the independent firm 90 North, in which Caan holds a stake.

In Dragons’ Den, Caan was one of panel of entrepreneurs courted by start-up firms in a bid to secure their investment in return for an equity share.

Caan, who invested $1.5m in 14 companies while on the show, said Dubai remained the leading destination for investment among the six Gulf states.

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