The Business Year

Tarik Yousef

QATAR - Economy

This Is an Intervention

CEO, Silatech


In 2011, Tarik Yousef became CEO of Silatech, a new regional initiative engaging public, private, and civil society to promote job creation, entrepreneurship, and access to capital for Arab youth. Prior to that he was the Founding Head of the Dubai School of Government. He holds a PhD in Economics from Harvard University.

What trends are you noticing in regard to the career paths that young people are choosing in Qatar? Qataris, like young people everywhere, respond to incentives. Most young Qataris have […]

What trends are you noticing in regard to the career paths that young people are choosing in Qatar?

Qataris, like young people everywhere, respond to incentives. Most young Qataris have the option of working in the public sector, earning a comparatively high salary, and living a comfortable life. Therefore, many of the decisions they make regarding education, professional careers, or retirement, are driven by very lucrative incentives. In Qatar, the incentives are even stronger than in other Gulf countries such as the UAE or Saudi Arabia. Qatar wants to diversify and provide alternative employment sources, because it wants to strengthen its private sector and build an economy that is robust and sustainable for the long term. To do this, it needs to further encourage young Qataris to pursue careers outside of the civil service. In this regard, Qatar faces the same challenge that other Gulf counties do, although the challenges here are more acute.

What are Silatech’s main initiatives?

Silatech currently has over 100 projects in 12 Arab countries in play, in fields including microenterprise, financial literacy, career guidance and employability skills, SME development, civic engagement, and research and policy advocacy, among others. One of our most recent and promising new engagements focuses on youth savings and financial literacy programs. Youth savings programs encourage and incentivize young people to join the financial system by saving and opening a bank account. In our region, where less than 10% of young people have access to the banking system, a savings account is the first entry point into the financial system. Along with our regional partners, Silatech has championed youth savings initiatives in Yemen, Morocco, and Egypt. In 2013, we focused on targeting 50,000 young people to open accounts through local institutions. Through a plan encapsulating marketing, awareness, literacy, business development, and tying savings to loans, we could, within two to three years, help to turn this novel program into a mainstream idea. In the area of career guidance and employability, we are working with Microsoft and other partners to develop a regional network of country-focused internet portals that will provide young people with a suite of online resources, from psychometric assessments and career advice to employability skills-focused videos and possibly even job-matching services. In the SME arena, we work to promote access to finance by investing in socially conscious private equity funds that grow quality, sustainable jobs. We are also working to nourish the idea of angel investing in the region through SILA, an innovative new angel investment network we launched with partners late in 2012. While we do bring some seed capital to these discussions and ventures, the greater contribution is the knowledge, experience, and partnership network that we bring to the table.

Does Silatech approach potential partners or do they come to you?

In the beginning, it was largely we who contacted and approached partners in different ways. Increasingly, however, we have grown and received exposure, so our network is much wider and many more potential partners find us. This is good, but it is still a challenge to choose projects and interventions carefully because we only employ about 55 to 60 full-time workers, and our mandate is the whole Arab world. The challenge is large and inspires us to always look toward maximizing our impact. We want to carry out projects that are scalable. We will often launch a pilot program prior to a full-scale intervention. And while we naturally want every project to succeed, we are not put off when one fails.



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