Monday marked the beginning of the McBride Center for International Business’s 10th annual Global Business Forum at the Foster Campus for Business & Innovation.
The week long event is free and open to the public, and it has traditionally covered a wide range of topics including big data, international issues in global healthcare, China’s role in the global economy and emerging economies in Africa. This year’s Global Business Forum is focused on the Middle East and its gradual integration into the global economy.
Monday’s event began with a brief presentation by Dr. Steve Green, professor of economics and statistics at Baylor, who addressed some of the major economic and social concerns in the Middle East region.
“A lot of the lower-income countries have higher population growth rates, and with higher population growth rates, you tend to have a younger population … which is also an indicator of employment problems in these countries,” Green said. “Those employment problems also often translate into political problems in these countries.”
The presentation was followed by a series of videos depicting the often-unseen modern culture within the Middle East, such as a brief tour of the Westernized city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and a music video by Saad Lamjarred depicting a more progressive side of the region’s culture. Also featured was the trailer for “Wadjda”, the first film ever produced in Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are banned by authorities.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Green introduced keynote speaker Ayman Safadi for a brief question and answer period. Safadi is the CEO and Founder of Path Arabia, an Abu Dhabi-based political and communications firm, and the former Deputy Prime Minister of Jordan. Safadi is also an alumnus of Baylor, having earned an MA in International Journalism in 1994.
While focusing primarily on economic issues, Safadi took some time to discuss and address questions from members of the audience on the issue of extreme religious ideology in the region.
“A lot of the narrative that we’ve been getting is negative narrative, and that somehow feeds into the extremists because once there’s no hope – once we kill hope and project that part of the world as filled with hatred – a lot of people start to believe that, and they are able to recruit more,” Safadi said.
Safadi also had advice to give to those wishing to shed the Middle East region in a better light.
“I think one of the main tools in our hands to counter the extremist ideologies is to come up with a more positive narrative,” Safadi said. “A narrative that celebrates life. A narrative that celebrates what is common among us humans. A narrative that tells the story of millions and millions of young men and women in the region who are trying to make a better life. It’s the pursuit of happiness. It’s the pursuit of opportunity.”
In addition to his talk today, Safadi will also be speaking at the forum’s keynote dinner on Wednesday, March 16 at the Foster Campus’ Meyer Conference Center from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. All seven of the forum’s events will be free and open to the public.