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Silvia Marchionne moderated the discussion on “How can Mobility and Cultural Exchanges Promote Entrepreneurship and Regional Integration?” in the context of the regional conference on Youth and Employability in MENA: Better Skills, More Jobs” in Cairo in July 2017. In this article, she restitutes the discussion’s main takeaways.
The Southern Mediterranean region is facing a changing landscape characterised by a deep economic crisis and high youth unemployment rates, lack of skills, important gaps between the skills and the labour market, low employability rates of graduates and a growing demand for high skilled profiles and a global competition for talent.
Many MENA countries, especially Arab Mediterranean countries, face important and overlapping challenges. Youth unemployment rates in MENA (21 percent in the Middle East and 25 percent in North Africa) are higher than in any other region in the world. Young women and new educated entrants in the labour market are disproportionately unemployed. Moreover, young entrants to the labour market are more educated than ever before, but are unable to capitalize on the time and resources invested in their education because of a lack of good quality jobs in the respective labour markets.
There are many factors that influence economic growth, ranging from governance and overall macroeconomic and political stability, to productivity, innovation, and the quality of skills that education systems can develop. Skills development is a cumulative and dynamic process that occurs throughout an individual’s life cycle. Skills are acquired through many avenues: the formal education system, informal and continuing education, and on-the-job training.
Taking into consideration this challenging environment, there is a need to establish closer links between higher education and employability, between youth mobility and research, between governance of higher education and employability to promote the establishment of more cross-sectoral partnerships.
Universities are relevant institutions in promoting economic growth and civil society participation, not only for their capacity to create and disseminate knowledge, but also as organizations that attract talented people, inject new ideas, enrich cultural life, and encompass the whole social fabric of which they are a part.
In this context, interconnection between the need to increase opportunity for encounter and dialogue on one hand, and on the other hand to structure that encounter around the value set and interest of citizens such as good practices in the domain of creative enterprise and managing cultural diversity is a crucial aspect as well as the importance of mobility as a transversal dynamic of cultural relation, in terms of ideas and cultural works as well as people-to-people cooperation. Those are the main key messages of this session, as mobility exchanges could surely help increasing the citizenship and entrepreneurial skills of youth and their employability opportunities. However, mobility and exchange should be promoted not only from South to the North but also from North to South and South-to-South countries. This should lead us to working to stop increasing barriers to cultural mobility in Europe and the Mediterranean interconnected with policy approaches on security and migration, especially working more on facilitating the visa delivery.
In conclusion, we should work to empower individuals and preparing long lasting solutions in a long-term perspective to integrate youth in the society, by filling the gap in the lack of awareness and information for mobility opportunities (by increasing info days, dissemination and relations between university staff and students/youth regarding mobility) and through facilitating platforms and opportunities for cross-network actions, involving diverse civil society networks.