EARLIER this year in February, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appointed Shamma Al Mazrui as the country’s youth minister. The news would have been like any other cabinet shuffle, had it not been for the fact that UAE’s 22-year-old Mazrui had become the world’s youngest minister.
Two years after graduating from the New York University (NYU)-Abu Dhabi with a degree in economics, and just after she’d earned her Master’s from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, Mazrui was selected to lead the country’s younger generation and forge links between them and the country’s public entities.
In a resource-rich region where tens of millions of people under the age of 25 are unemployed, and where gender inequality and poor access to education persists, it is no wonder that appointing the fresh-graduate Mazrui is what dreams are made of.
The demographic youth bulge, according to a report by the World Economic Forum, constitutes the region’s greatest opportunity and challenge at the same time.
Arab Gulf countries have high youth unemployment rates, with Saudi Arabia’s rates touching 30 percent, according to the G20 organization.
Unemployment rates among the youth are three times that of other age groups in the Arab world. Moreover, unemployment among females in the Arab world is a staggering 43.4 percent when compared with 12.7 percent globally.
The minister spoke to Newsweek Middle East about her plans to help tackle the challenges facing Emirati youth.