Al-Kharafi: Culture of innovation a necessity for corporate growth

Nuqat cooperating with Zain to re-engineer Kuwait’s education system

Bader Al-Kharafi, Vice-Chairman and Group CEO of Zain

KUWAIT: During the Human Capital Forum organized by local non-profit organization Nuqat and held in Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre, Kuwait last week, Zain Group Vice-Chairman and CEO, Bader Al-Kharafi, delivered a keynote presentation to the packed audience on the vital importance of Investing in Creativity for Social Impact. Nuqat, is based in Kuwait and aims to develop creative problem-solving skills in the Arab world.

In his presentation, Al-Kharafi spoke of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about radical changes in business. Digital applications have increased economic productivity and the continued development of modern technologies has become essential for economic growth. “While there’s a general state of optimism about modern technologies, which promise to improve social and economic life, there is also a big dilemma regarding the impact of technological unemployment,” commented Al-Kharafi.”

On her part, MsHussa Al-Humaidhi, Co-founder of Nuqat, explained that the creative economy is about doing what a person loves to do in order to create jobs as a social impact. “Kuwait is not only going to be an economic center, but also a center of culture and creativity,” she vowed. She added that “the technological advancement in areas such as artificial intelligence is forecasted to result in the loss of 60% of current jobs according to recent studies, highlighting the need to better understand the nature of these radical changes to society, but human creativity will not be replaceable”.
Among the initiatives and solutions presented at the forum, Nuqat is cooperating with Zain to develop an index to measure the impact of creativity on society, with both entities agreeing that the current education in Kuwait must be re-engineered and replaced with a creative one. Both parties stating that, “Values of flexibility shall not only be taught at school and university, but also at work. Everyone has the responsibility to develop themselves. We can anchor and build a solid future for Kuwaitis.”

Modern technologies are driving companies to create more value with less labor with time. Al Kharafi showcased a pertinent example whereby the valuation of the largest 3 technology companies in Silicon Valley reached up to 30 times higher in 2015 than the market value of the largest 3 industrial companies in Detroit in 1990. More significantly, these huge valuations are driven by companies that possess 10% of actual workers as compared to the industrial companies.
While dependence on natural resources has led to limited economic diversification and lack of investment in human development in Kuwait and other countries in the region, Al-Kharafi highlighted the importance of enabling a creative culture and investing heavily in human resources. Innovative and material support is required as the business environment needs to focus on jobs that keep pace with and harness technological developments. “We need to adopt innovative mechanisms in our educational system to provide future generations with the necessary skills. Educational is a very important factor in providing business with the necessary skills and the educational process should never stop at a certain age,” Al-Kharafi said.

Importance of education
Al-Kharafi believes the current education system does not provide young people with sufficient skills to deal with modern developments. He believes that if a nation wants to achieve its strategic objectives of social and economic development economic, it must take real steps to reform its educational system, relying on a curriculum that takes into account the creativity of younger generations. Al-Kharafi revealed that statistics from the World Economic Forum with respect to human capital ranked the State of Kuwait in the 96th place out of 130. On average, Kuwait spends amongst the highest amounts in the world on education per student per year USD 14,300 while the quality of actual education attained of this expenditure is valued at USD 3,300, thus a 23% of the real value.
“When one considers these statistics, I believe it is clear we need to change our educational curricula and adopt programs based on cultivating a culture of creativity and innovation. We need new fields to study such as data science, coding and complex problem solving. When you get STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) along with arts (art, design and humanities), you get a whole new creativity,” Al-Kharafi added.
“Based on these facts, we have moved quickly in the Zain Group as a private sector institution, pursuing our sustainability responsibilities, and launching with Nuqatan initiative called IN-DIG-GO, which is an educational program for children ranging between the ages of 6 and 11, aimed at expanding children’s perceptions, strengthening their knowledge base and creativity, and developing their personal and educational skills. This initiative is the first of its kind in the Middle East and was launched for the children of Zain employees. The first phase will continue for 13 weeks, and then we will expand the program further.”
“We have strengthened our strategic partnership with INJAZ, through which we aim to educate and support young people who are passionate about developing their ideas and projects in accordance with international standards. This project targets youth and the education sector and brings students from middle and high schools together with working professionals.” Zain has also targeted young university graduates by launching the third generation of its “Generation Z” training project, which aims to invest in young national talent to provide a new generation of pioneers to the business environment. Four graduates from this project joined Zain in 2016, and became permanent students in 2017. “Zain launched the Zainiac initiative, an e-platform platform created by employees in a space where ideas are shared and solutions are created,” Al-Kharafi said. “This initiative is a practical example of stimulating creativity in the institutions, and we have already received more than 100 initiatives and projects from our employees.
Women Empowerment Initiative
Zain’s committee chose only five ideas to pursue and the main aim of the initiative is to promote innovation in the company and push employees to start new businesses, leave us and hopefully become the next unicorns in our region. Our role is to provide all the required support for the successful ideas. Ultimately, these will create new job opportunities.”
Furthermore, Al-Kharafi said that Kuwait must support women. “Countries that support gender equality have a higher GDP, and at the corporate level, will lead to an increase in happiness and creativity leading to a direct impact on the bottom. 65% of our graduates are females, but we do not see them enough in the workplace. That is why we need to give them flexible hours, home working opportunities as well as equal growth and salary opportunities”.
Based on these facts, Zain launched the Women Empowerment Initiative to take real steps towards gender diversity in the business environment. “Just 23% of Zain’s workforce is female while the global average is around 40%. Our plan is to increase the current women leadership positions from 14% today to 25% by 2020.” Finally, Al-Kharafi stressed Zain Group’s efforts in other aspects far from commercial and technological pursuits, namely, social responsibility. “The Group believes in the importance of supporting social and economic sustainability, and in this regard always takes on the most influential issues. It is our duty and responsibility to give back to the society”.

This article was published on 29/01/2018