Bahrain at Davos 2020: New trade ties and closing the skills gap at this year’s World Economic Forum

Bringing together thousands of delegates from across the globe, this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos placed a sharp focus on shifting industries, sustainable development and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As one of the Middle East’s leading FinTech and startup hubs – with a commitment to economically liberal policy and reform – the Kingdom holds a strong belief in the transformative power of technologically driven change. And with Bahrain’s delegation featuring leaders from Mumtalakat, Bahrain EDB, the Central Bank of Bahrain, Batelco and Al Waha Fund of Funds, Davos 2020 presented countless opportunities for knowledge-sharing on these topics at the highest of levels.

As global newsmakers including Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg took to the stage, Bahrain launched major new initiatives to increase international startup collaboration and address skills gaps at a time when massive technological disruption is sweeping the globe.

Increasing ties with India

The week started off as Bahrain EDB signed an MoU with the Government of Karnataka to promote cooperation in AI, FinTech and other emerging technologies while fostering innovation and startup growth. As one of the oldest and most established financial centres in the Gulf region, Bahrain looks forward to increased ties with Karnataka – the leading R&D and innovation ecosystem for start-ups, home to more than 1.2 million software professionals.

The agreement marks the latest chapter in one of the longest-running economic and trading relationships between India and Bahrain, which is shifting increasingly towards service exports, FinTech and ICT. Bilateral trade between the two nations currently stands at some US$ 1.3 billion.

A skills-driven partnership

Another highlight of the programme was EDB’s partnership with WEF itself to launch an innovative new accelerator, aimed at increasing employability and preparedness for the future of work among the current and next generation workforce. The ‘Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator’ is one of several such accelerators launched in partnership with WEF’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society.

It is estimated that Bahrain will witness a workforce growth of 8,000 workers annually, with the burden of accommodating these entrants falling primarily on the private sector – so this partnership will be critical in building sustainable development going forward.

The future of food security

Elsewhere at Davos, Areije Al Shakar – Director of Bahrain’s Al Waha Fund of Funds – participated in a special panel on the future of food security as part of WEF’s new UpLink initiative, which aims to accelerate the delivery of Sustainable Development Goals. At a time when more than 2.6 billion people depend directly on agriculture, the well-attended session asked how the next generation of change-makers can link up with leaders to end hunger, achieve carbon neutrality and improve nutrition.

The high-level discussion was hosted by David Perry, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Indigo Agriculture – and while the session was closed to the public, Davos attendees gained a range of insights into how venture capitalists can work to guarantee the sustainable future of agriculture for the benefit of all the world’s citizens.

Spreading the news

And with the Bahrain delegation participating in engagements across Davos, the media took notice. Throughout the week, Al Waha’s Areije Al Shakar spoke to a broad spectrum of journalists – racking up live broadcasts on CNBC Arabia, interviews with international outlets including China’s Caixin and a mention in the Politico Playbook newsletter. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Rumaihi – Chief Executive Officer of Mumtalakat – was interviewed by CNBC Arabia and The National about future infrastructure investments in clean energy, while other delegates participated in a range of media opportunities.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other major technological developments on the horizon, this year’s World Economic Forum presented an opportunity for Bahrain to gain and share cutting-edge insights on the global stage. As the Kingdom steps into its next phase of economic growth, we look forward to supporting businesses and government entities alike as they embrace a new era of innovation.

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