Mowgli talks about Empowering Entrepreneurs in Forbes Middle East Magazine_Jan 2013


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Mowgli talks about Empowering Entrepreneurs in Forbes Middle East Magazine_Jan 2013

  1. 1. EDUCATION 2013 MENTORSHIP Empowering Entrepreneurs Youth unemployment in the MENA region is in a state of crisis. Turning peril into promise, the Mowgli Foundation, an entrepreneurial mentoring network led by CEO Helen Al Uzaizi, is equipping young people with 21st century business skills and the power to master their own destinies. By Nina Glinski I    n the cold reality of today’s world, earning a traditional higher edu- cation degree no longer guaran- tees employment. As job markets dwindle with little sign of early recovery, popularity of entrepreneurial initiatives throughout the Middle East and North Af- rica is surging despite regulatory conditions which are perceived as unsavory at best in some cases. Those seeking evidence of the start-up surge need only to look at the spread of entrepreneur-centric companies emerging on the scene to meet the grow- ing needs of entrepreneurial hopefuls. The Mowgli Foundation, a nonprofit mentor- ship organization recognized as “Best Men- tor Network in the Arab World” at the 2012 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Awards for Young Business Leaders, which is held an-IMAGE FROM SOURCE nually in Dubai, serves as a prime example. For Mowgli’s chief executive officer, Helen Helen Al Uzaizi, Chief Executive Officer of the Al Uzaizi, tackling a global crisis and setting Mowgli Foundation, has made community empowerment the focus of her career. entrepreneurs on the path to success is all in 56 FORBES MIDDLE EAST SPECIAL EDITION JANUARY 2013
  2. 2. a day’s work. In providing inspirational Having a mentor is not increased desire to be self-made, reflec-and supportive mentors to budding en- tive of a disillusionment with the struc-trepreneurs in the UK and MENA re- a complementary need ture of livelihoods that held water for pastgion, Mowgli is not only empowering for entrepreneurs, it generations and pre-crisis economies, yetambitious individuals to achieve their which are now failing the region’s youth.potential, but is also encouraging sus- is essential for their A recent Gallup poll reported that 15% oftainable job creation as well as social and success young Arabs want to start a business ineconomic development for a brighter the next 12 months, compared to just 4%future. of those surveyed in the U.S. and Europe. Commenting on the motivation be- Al Uzaizi joined the Mowgli family Youths and adults alike are turning to-hind Mowgli’s establishment, Al Uzaizi as CEO in June 2012 from the Jordan wards entrepreneurship as an avenue toexplains, “The need for a neutral, ob- River Foundation, an Amman-based escape unemployment, or sub-standardjective, experienced and supportive nonprofit organization focused on the employment.mentor outside of the family realm was rights of women and children as well In an environment where youngevident.” While the nonprofit company’s as community empowerment, where people need to be cultivated to flour-headquarters are in London, the CEO she served as the international relations ish, mentorship networks offering en-and her team operate out of Dubai— and fundraising manager. The CEO trepreneurial education are steppingconfirmation of the organization’s who was formerly an advertising execu- in to fill the educational gap. Sincecore focus on the MENA region. With tive with agengies such as Wunderman, its launch in 2008, Mowgli has con-programs in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Young & Rubicam and Saatchi & ducted 27 keystone Mowgli MentoringPalestine, Egypt, Qatar, Algeria and the Saatchi, first realized her ability to af- Experience (MME) programs and threeUK, and an alumni network 540 mem- fect positive change through agency- micro-entrepreneur-focused men-bers strong, the nonprofit’s mission is sponsored community activities. “The toring programs across eight coun-widespread, but Mowgli is by no means rewarding feeling I had every time we tries. Combined, these programs havealone. Promising entrepreneurs have a engaged with the beneficiaries and saw matched 250 mentors with 220 startuphost of resources at their disposal, from the positive impact our work had on and growth-phase companies, as wellearly stage and seed investment compa- their development made it clear that as 30 micro-entrepreneurs. “Having anies such as Oasis 500 and SeedStartup, there was a chance to be a direct part of mentor is not a complementary needto education program providers like that change,” she explains. for entrepreneurs, it is essential for theirBon Education, and business incuba- Her new endeavor is no small un- success. And when I say mentor, I meantion venues including Make Business dertaking. Examining the youth unem- someone who is always there to tell youHub in Dubai. ployment contagion on a global scale, what you need to hear—not what you Mowgli has carved its niche solely the figures are disturbing: 75 million want to hear,” says Ala Suleiman, a busi-as a mentorship matchmaker, its name- young people are jobless, a jump of four nessman who combined the knowledgesake being the precocious jungle orphan million since 2007. Of those, six mil- gleaned from his Mowgli relationshipwho was guided by animal mentors in lion have abandoned hope and admit with seed funding from Oasis 500 tothe ways of the wild in Rudyard Kipling’s they aren’t seeking work, according to launch his ambitious Jordanian busi-The Jungle Book. “The secret kernel of the International Labour Organization. ness, Masmoo3, the Arab world’s firstMowgli’s success is in having realized Considering the Middle East and North specialized digital audio books produc-that without engaging passionate and Africa’s ignominious claim to the title tion and publishing house.seasoned mentors one can hardly add of highest rate of youth unemployment The impetus for entrepreneurialany meaningful value to the journey of in the world for ten years running, this education has gripped governments too.entrepreneurs and mentees,” reflects Ali year at 26.4%, and the fact that half of The Arab Spring reflected the social andBorhani, a veteran Mowgli mentor, and the region’s population is under the age economic consequences of a frustratedFounder and Chief Welding Officer of of 25, Mowgli has no shortage of inter- and disenfranchised youth. Instead ofIncubeemea, a boutique strategic ad- ested mentees. “Young entrepreneurs are educating a generation of students for avisory firm based in Dubai. He adds, reaching out more than ever…The de- workplace that may be out of reach or“Mowgli is light years ahead of other pro- mand is far exceeding our expectations. simply non-existent, the agenda for en-grams…The most amazing element per- We have focused our efforts over the past trepreneurial education has come intohaps is the seemingly serendipitous but year on increasing our capacity,” says Al prominence as government policy tothoroughly thought over and well ana- Uzaizi intently. provide the region’s youth with the toolslyzed methodology of matching mentors The dismal outlook for youth em- necessary to succeed in business. At theand mentees.” ployment may directly translate to an 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Summit JANUARY 2013 FORBES MIDDLE EAST SPECIAL EDITION 57
  3. 3. EDUCATION 2013 MENTORSHIPThe Mowgli Foundation uses networking sessions to carefully match successful business people with aspiring entrepreneurs in the UK and the Arab world.(GES), hosted in Dubai in December The region suffers from Saudi Arabia, which ranked first among2012, expert panelists and policy- MENA countries and 22nd overall in themakers conjured up plans and signed a crisis of governance Doing Business 2013 report, (closely fol-Memorandums of Understanding, ac- and trust: businesses do lowed by the UAE) and was notable asknowledging the World Bank’s analysis one of the ten most improved countriesthat 100 million jobs need to be created not trust officials, and since 2005, making marked progress inin Arab nations by 2020 in order to sus- officials do not trust the ease of starting a business. Still, thetain economic growth. World Bank-IFC qualifies this progress, “All of us in the Arab world have to businesses “Although economies in the region haveencourage the role of young people in the made some strides in reducing the com-business sector, and we have to realize plexity and cost of regulatory processes,that this generation is capable of launch- initiatives are indicative of a new under- entrepreneurs across the region still con-ing projects that would change economic standing that limited and arguably su- tend with weak investor and propertyand social spectra in the Arab world,” re- perficial engagement with the economy rights protections.”marks H.E. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed is a short-term solution and does not MENA’s young people, empoweredAl Nahyan, Foreign Minister of the UAE, bode well for the region’s future in global by their proven success in driving globalspeaking from the U.S.-Arab Chamber competitiveness. Still, there’s a long way discourse and change, and disillusionedfollowing the GES. “We must support to go. The World Bank-IFC sums the re- by a fledgling global economy, are moreand promote advanced policies, stimu- gion thusly in its 2013 Doing Business re- ambitious than ever. A rising tide oflate the role of the youth, and facilitate port, “The region suffers from a crisis of entrepreneurial culture supported byinvolvement in economic and invest- governance and trust: businesses do not governments and fostered by organiza-ment affairs to achieve their dreams and trust officials, and officials do not trust tions like the Mowgli Foundation willaspirations,” he adds. businesses.” help them to autonomously shape their Realizing that while it may be conve- Trust notwithstanding, the World destinies, and likewise the future of thenient to place graduates in high-paying Bank estimates about 12 million small region.government jobs, or to mandate their and medium enterprises (SMEs) are Perhaps H.M. Queen Rania Abdullahunqualified integration into corpora- currently present in the MENA region. of Jordan said it best during a plenary IMAGES FROM SOURCEtions, open-minded governments are A yardstick for entrepreneurial activ- session of the World Economic Forumbeginning to perceive such a strategy as ity, SMEs represent a whopping 95% of in October 2011: “The skills of an entre-unsustainable in the long-term. the region’s private sector. Leading the preneur are the skills of the 21st century The implementation of entrepreneurial way with the most number of startups is worker.”58 FORBES MIDDLE EAST SPECIAL EDITION JANUARY 2013