How Bahrain is nurturing tech and talent for the economy of tomorrow

From upskilling workforces to fostering tech startups, Bahrain is helping shape the digital future.

Technology adoption will be the key driver of business transformation over the next five years. More than 86% of organisations surveyed for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2023 Future of Jobs Report identified increased adoption of new and frontier technologies, along with broadening digital access, as the trends most likely to be transformative.

The top 10 fastest-growing jobs identified by the WEF are dominated by tech, with the list including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine-Learning Specialists, Fintech Engineers, and Digital Transformation Specialists.

This is good news for Bahrain, which is already well-positioned to capitalise on the digital revolution. The country has a young, tech-savvy population, and its government is committed to investing in information technology and digital infrastructure, as well as upskilling its digital talent with the aim of future-proofing jobs. As a result, Bahrain is home to a growing number of tech startups and businesses, and it is attracting investment from global tech giants.

Where national meets international

World-class innovation needs worldwide input, and a significant amount of training within Bahrain comes from international organisations. Providers like Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft and SANS are working closely with Bahraini educators and companies.

Maram Alsaegh works as a professional services consultant for AWS in the Bahrain headquarters of AWS.  The Management Information Systems graduate began her systems analyst career in a well-established Bahraini company, boosted by a training programme from Tamkeen where she obtained five professional AWS certificates within two years, landing her a job at AWS.

“I was on the lookout to climb up the career ladder, which resulted in my current job that refined my skills and allowed me to gain great exposure and expertise,” says Alsaegh.

A passion for cybersecurity led Isa Al-Mannai to a career as a cybersecurity specialist with BEYON Cyber, after graduating from Cambridge and joining the SANS Global Training Online Program.

“I plan to increase my experience in the field of cybersecurity to be able to protect the Kingdom’s security from such threats,” says Al-Mannai, who is set for further training with the SANS institute, via Tamkeen.

Getting certified in AWS and Microsoft Azure was also critical to Bahaa Almajor’s career path as a programmer. Finding early jobs at several companies within the financial services and insurance sector, Almajor is now an apps development intermediate programmer at Bahrain’s Citi Technology Hub.

“This gives me access to the latest cutting edge technologies through working on global projects for Citi’s clients all over the world,” says Almajor.

Entrepreneur elevation

New entrepreneurs in Bahrain have helped place the country in the world’s top five fastest-growing start-up ecosystems, according to the 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem.This growth isn’t just a matter of numbers — it’s about the nature of businesses that are emerging. Many of Bahrain’s new entrepreneurs are launching innovative tech-based companies which are not only boosting Bahrain’s economic growth but also creating jobs and helping cement Bahrain’s position on the global stage as a tech innovator.

Eazy Financial Services, for example, was Bahrain’s first company in 2018 to be licensed by the Central Bank to provide fingerprint payment services, strengthening the country’s reputation for cutting-edge technology and finance. Since then, the companyt has expanded into the burgeoning cryptocurrency sector through a partnership with Binance, and now enables real-time cryptocurrency payments at stores via QR codes which are generated by Eazy’s point-of-sale systems.

For CEO Nayef Al Alawi, Bahrain’s support for entrepreneurs helped Eazy “achieve sustainability and flexibility, which contributed to our achieving growth and increasing our commercial activities”. 

Another example is Doctori, a healthtech start-up founded in 2018 by Bahraini entrepreneurs Ahmed Alawadhi and Ahmed Mahmood. Doctori is licensed by the National Health Regulatory Authority and connects doctors to patients via video calls, allowing patients to diagnose, test and arrange treatment in a stress-free environment without queues. The company has raised $500,000 in seed funding and plans to expand its services to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. 

CEO Ahmed Mahmood has attributed Doctori’s success to Bahrain’s supportive ecosystem, telling Wamda: “Tamkeen’s support contributed to activating our services, which ensures easy communication between patients and specialists, and we are aiming to become pioneers in this field on a national and regional scale.”

Training for the future

One of the most significant trends in the digital transformation revolution is the rise of automation. According to the World Economic Forum, 46% of work in Bahrain is vulnerable to automation. This means that there is a need for Bahrain’s workforce to upskill and retrain in order to remain relevant in the digital economy.

Bahrain is already taking steps to address this challenge, as evidenced by its performance in the IMD World Talent Report 2023, in which the country ranks first in the MENA region for employee training. The government has launched a number of initiatives to support digital skills development, and there are a number of private sector organisations that are offering training and upskilling programs.

This is underpinned by Tamkeen’s courses with international academies, bringing training to the Kingdom’s students from the likes of SANS, AWS and General Assembly. In 2022, Tamkeen supported 8,400 Bahrainis through four flagship programmes with commitments of over USD 16 million (BHD 6.1 million).

The University of Bahrain and Bahrain Polytechnic both host AWS Cloud Innovation Centre programs. In 2020 the University of Bahrain (UOB) launched a one-year cloud computing certificate and a full cloud computing bachelor’s degree – a first in the Middle East – in collaboration with the AWS Educate Cloud Degree initiative. 

Ken Eisner, director of Worldwide Education Programs for AWS, states: “As the region’s cloud adoption continues to grow, building a cloud-ready workforce is a priority and an unprecedented opportunity.” 

The way ahead

Bahrain is already embracing this transformational shift. With a young, tech-savvy population and a government committed to digital transformation, the country is becoming an increasingly important global hub for talent attracting start-ups and global investment. Government innovation and collaboration with international tech giants like AWS and Microsoft is creating a workforce equipped for the jobs of tomorrow, and entrepreneurs are driving innovation in technology, finance and much more. The coming years offer Bahrain an opportunity not just to participate in the digital revolution, but to actively shape it.

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