What is the WIEF Young Leaders Network?
PATEL: The Young Leaders Network is a platform where young people from across the globe, whether they are professionals, they are entrepreneurs, or even in the creative arts, can meet and discuss issues that are affecting young people. So it's a platform where they can talk to each other, where they can collaborate with each other, where they can learn from each other. They can learn from either experiences or expertise. And what we try to do is provide that platform with a degree of some skill development as well.
So the idea is to take young people, wherever they are, whichever society they come from; it's not purely for Muslim young people in the Arab world, but it's for any young person from any culture, any background, and religion, any part of the world, to come together and chat to each other, to collaborate with each other, to learn from each other. And the idea is that if we give them the opportunity to express their talents, to express themselves, and to learn some leadership skills, they become assets and positive influences on their communities, wherever they are.
What are some of the milestones that the WIEF Young Leaders Network has achieved?
PATEL: When we initially started off the Young Leaders Network, it was just purely a platform of networking. Subsequent to that, we've introduced the MOCAFest, which is where young artists from across the globe can gather together and exhibit the creative arts, whether they are paint artists, whether they are spoken word artists, whether they are photographers, or even electronic artists. They have a platform in which to showcase their talent, and in this way, we're showcasing to the rest of the world as well that there is a great deal of talent within the Islamic world, within young people across the globe, and so people can understand.
People understand art; art transcends culture, it transcends nations, it transcends society, and so young people are able to engage and showcase their talents and what we try to do is to also give those young artists the skills to make their creativity business viable. So not only are they able to express their talent as artists, but they're able to sell that art. We give them the skills in how to sell that creativity, how to, for want of a better word, commercialize themselves.
The second part, which we then introduced - and MOCAFest has been running for a number of years now - is a more exciting program, it is the Young Fellows Program. What Young Fellows does is we get together 25 young people from across the world to come together in a particular location and spend seven days together with each other. These are 25 people below the age of 25 who have never met each other before.
We put them together. So whether they come from a Muslim background, whether they come from a Christian background, or whatever background they come from, they're put together for seven days from whatever professional background that they have, and they are given leadership skills, they are taught leadership skills, they're given the opportunity to ask questions and learn leadership skills as well. And at the end of seven days, what they've done is that they've created their own support network, their own moral network.
So whether they go and start up a business, or whether they're collaborating with each other on a social project, they now have a set of people that they've built a good friendship with that will now become their mentor network as such, wherever they are in the world and whatever profession they're doing. We've run three of these. The first one that we did was in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The second one that we did was in Durban, South Africa, and the third one, which we did this year, was in Manila in the Philippines. We've also moved the Young Leaders Network into different parts of the world so people can experience different cultures as well.
So for seven days, you have an American citizen sitting in Manila in the Philippines and learning about Philippine culture, or you have an Arab citizen in South Africa learning about South African culture, or you have a Malaysian in South Africa learning about South African culture. So the idea is to give people the opportunity to learn cultures as well.
Ten years ago, no one would have thought that there would have been an app engineer, someone who writes applications. No one even heard of a Google application or an Apple application. That's a new profession that has been created, and it was young people that created those professions.
The theme of the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) was “Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth”. How is that reflected in the WIEF Young Leaders Network?
PATEL: So you have highlighted two points: innovation and partnerships. We need to understand that young people are very innovative; that today, technology and the strides that have been made in technology are far quicker and at a higher pace than ever before in human civilization. Whether you have technology that has been innovative or you have how that has been innovative, changes, experiments, new discoveries are being made at a far quicker pace and a far more rapid pace, and in a broader spectrum than ever before in human history. And the young people are leading that. So if we give them the opportunity, they are the ones that are coming up with the new solutions for tomorrow.
They are the ones that are coming up with the new professions of tomorrow. Ten years ago, no one would have thought that there would have been an app engineer, someone who writes applications. No one even heard of a Google application or an Apple application. That's a new profession that has been created, and it was young people that created those professions. So the young are writing the future. People always talk about young leaders of tomorrow; I say that there are no young leaders of tomorrow, they're young leaders of today already.
In the theme itself, the innovative technology that they're coming up with, innovative solutions that they're coming up with, the innovative ideas that they're coming up with need to be partnered with someone, and those partnerships are with established businesses, are with established entrepreneurs, are with established expertise. How can we marry those two together to create those new, innovative partnerships for a developing economy?
In your opinion, what was the overall message at the 10th WIEF?
PATEL: I think the overall message that has come across in the 10th WIEF is that education is extremely important for the future, and if we instill education into society, it creates a better future. And also at the same time, the bridge has been built between societies using business. If we look at the Islamic world, it's a $3 trillion global industry. And if you ignore that industry, if any business ignores that industry, it ignores it to its own peril because that industry is growing at leaps and bounds, and you have a potential market of 1.5 billion people.
So that's a market that companies need to tap into; that's a market, an industry, which people need to tap into. And governments across the world are recognizing that this is purely about business, it's got nothing to do with theology or ideology. It's about business; it makes economic sense, it makes business sense.