Diversification has been the hot topic for over two decades now, and we’ve seen a lot of progress in that time. It was inevitable that during the hydrocarbons boom that we’ve seen in recent history, there would be a lot of resources channelled into the oil sector. But, in fact, some of the most exciting stories are in the non-oil sector. And not just in real estate and construction, but in tourism, in banking and finance, in new, interesting, energetic sectors like aviation or health care or education. For international passengers, Dubai is now the busiest airport in the world. Abu Dhabi has satellites providing connectivity to 140 different nations, including some of the most remote places. Saudi Arabia is producing complex defence and aviation components that feed into the global supply chain. So diversification is happening, and you can see it all around.
When we meet President Al Sisi, or the Sultan of Brunei, or King Abdullah of Jordan, what is the one thing they all say? “We need to find jobs for our youth.” This is what keeps them up at night. The Middle East alone has over 100m people between the ages of 15 and 29, so providing jobs for these people is a key challenge for the government. The solution is education. And not just education broadly, but specifically technical and vocational training – skills developed not just at university, but earlier on in the educational cycle. We develop these skills in ICT, in hospitality, in medical services, so that this new generation has the skills to match the demands of the marketplace.
And if you want a success story, look at Latin America. Over the last decade, over 70m people have emerged from poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean. The priority now is to provide economic opportunities for these people. They need to create jobs in the formal economy; they need to broaden the depth of education; and of course they need to improve productivity. I’ve always been excited by high-growth markets. For over two decades now, Oxford Business Group has been covering the markets beyond the BRICs, markets that for corporations have gone from high-risk outsiders to must-haves.