DEAD SEA, Jordan (AP) — More than 1,100 politicians and business people came together Saturday to find ways to transform stagnant economies of the troubled Middle East and North Africa.
The World Economic Forum’s regional gathering is looking at how to encourage entrepreneurship and technological innovation to create private sector jobs in a region with 30 percent youth unemployment.
Central to the theme, organizers have invited the founders of 100 start-ups from the Arab world, including some from conflict-scarred countries such as Syria, Yemen and Libya.
Sessions stretching over two days will also look at the fallout from the region’s conflicts, including the uprooting of millions of people in the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
“We are focusing on entrepreneurs, start-ups and a generational transformation,” said Mirek Dusek, the forum’s head of regional strategies for the Middle East and North Africa. “The region’s young people are going to be a more valuable resource than energy reserves in this region.”
In the opening session, Iraqi President Fuad Masum called on investors to come to his country and help with reconstruction efforts, particularly in the northern city of Mosul, which was overrun by Islamic State extremists in 2014.
Since the fall, Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition have slowly advanced in the city, pushing back the militants.
Masum said he hoped the city would be liberated soon. “Our country is open to all investors,” he said.
In a meeting with reporters Friday, Masum had described the scope of destruction in Mosul as “horrendous,” but said it was too soon to put a price tag on the cost of reconstruction.
Co-chairs of the Dead Sea meeting include the German defense minister and the Norwegian foreign minister.
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