The Business Year

Dr. Mishaal A. Alshaheen Alrubaie, Director General, Youth Public Authority (YPA)

KUWAIT - Economy

Dr. Mishaal A. Alshaheen Alrubaie

Director General, Youth Public Authority (YPA)

Bio

Dr. Mishaal AlShaheen AlRubaie was appointed in 2021 as Director General for the Youth Public Authority (YPA). In this role, he also serves on the Board of Directors of YPA. In 2021, GCC Ministers of Youth and Sports appointed him as Chairman of the GCC Youth Strategy Governance Committee. Also, he is a member in several boards and high-level committees, such as Kuwait University Center of Excellence Board, SCPD Kuwait Chair for Knowledge, and Country Action Plan Follow-up Committee on Human Capital Development. He was awarded the “Youth Empowerment Leader of the Year 2022”, at the 3rd GCC Gov Youth Empowerment Summit that took place in Jun 22nd-23rd, 2022 in Dubai. He holds a Ph.D. in English literature from University of Calgary Alberta in Canada and has over 20 years of experience in the academia and public sector. Prior to his current post, he was the Undersecretary of the Office of Minister of State for Youth Affairs (2019-2021) and served as Assistant Professor at the Department of English Language and Literature, Kuwait University (2007-2019). He also served as the President of Kuwait Football Association – appointed by the FIFA in 2018.

TBY talks to Dr. Mishaal A. Alshaheen Alrubaie, Director General of the Youth Public Authority (YPA), about the YPA mandate, SMEs and entrepreneurship, and priorities for the year ahead.

What have been the milestones, and what is the mandate of the Youth Public Authority?

Our major objective is to enable youth to meet their potential in the many sectors of development, such as skills, psychological and physical wellbeing, financial literacy, and education. Our job at YPA is to be a few steps ahead of the new trends and challenges the world is facing, which means we need to research and know a lot. When we say youth, we are talking about everybody between 14 and 34. It is a challenging task to provide our stakeholders with the appropriate information, education, and support. We do considerable amount of planning and try our best to forecast what these young people will need from us to help them on their journeys.

What can be done to improve the likelihood of success of young Kuwaitis in the marketplace?

This is an interesting topic, and one closely connected to SMEs and entrepreneurship. The situation in Kuwait is unique. If you want to start a business in Europe or North America, there are certain requirements you must meet. You may need to pay taxes, utility bills, and salaries, and you need to have a good idea that will actually take off. Entrepreneurship in Kuwait does not have those obligations. Young entrepreneurs do not pay taxes, barely pay any utilities, and almost all services are provided to them for free. The government loans these young individuals, male and female, the money to start up a business through the SME fund. They give them up to KWD400,000, USD1 million, tax free, with a one time cost fee up to 2% and three-year grace period. Moreover, the government pays 60% of their Kuwaiti employees’ salaries, provides utilities discounts, and offers tax exemptions. So, the only thing the young entrepreneur must pay is the rent for an address, if they have one. It is a huge opportunity for those who develop entrepreneurial skills, but they do face a different challenge here in Kuwait; a monopoly. If you invest in SMEs and push them in the market where their sector is saturated with major investors, they will struggle to stay in business. When the sector is volatile and competitive or even monopolized within the same field, it is almost impossible for an entrepreneur or an SME to succeed. The first thing we need to do is define the non-saturated sectors and point our youth in that direction. We found out, based on research, that the least volatile sector in Kuwait is the IT and the technology sphere. This is where you find a lot of the new success stories in Kuwait. So, this is the sector where we need to start enabling the youth to explore. This is the available sector that the whole region is, as yet, not investing in, and where there is limited development in terms of technology, fintech, big data, game programming and development.

What is your perspective on the progressive global digitalization, and how can the Kuwaiti market take advantage of this shift?

The Kuwaiti government is doing a great job in this regard. Understanding digital transformation is not as simple as it may seem. One of the unique things that the Council of Ministers is doing is offering its senior employees high level training programs to educate them on the subjects essential for this day and age. When it comes to our youth, we need to expose them to the idea of creative work and entrepreneurship. We need to marry the technology with the art of creating and define what the public needs. Through this, we will enable our youth to get ahead of the wave and ride it, rather than being overwhelmed by it. This is where you see things working in terms of technology and differentiation. Without finesse, without art, without beauty, the AI fails to succeed. It had to adapt to people’s desire, will and emotions. So, this is where the fifth revolution is heading. Now, AI is tasked with understanding our requirements and tastes, which is hugely challenging. To make AI useful, we need to develop a hybrid-like working, which facilitates a collaboration of human desires, sensitivity, and emotions with artificial intelligence coding. That is where the opportunities for our young brilliant minds are available.

Looking forward, what are the Authority’s priorities and projects?

Our number one priority is the job market. We have a job creation program where we are focusing on skills and career paths instead of a university degree. Having a degree is not enough to land a job. You need to develop a certain skillset. We are trying to redirect more of our Kuwaiti youth from the governmental to the private sector. Ninety percent of jobs available are in the governmental sector which is already highly saturated. I think one of our biggest problems in Kuwait is latent unemployment, where you go to work with nothing to do. This relates to a large chunk of the workforce in Kuwait. As a result, people can end up having many problems. It is not healthy to stay in a job and waste your time day after day. We, therefore, need to shift this manpower from the public to the private sector. We need to invest in our youth to give them a skill set after their college degree. For example, we have the facility program certification, where we convert people’s education levels into a more market-appropriate positions. We re-educate them. Kuwait needs more coders, cloud architects, web developers, risk managers, and auditors, so this is the direction in which we will be pushing our young stakeholders to explore their skills development in.

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