The private sector must take the lead in improving lives in the region.
Social entrepreneurship means different things to different people, but it is fundamentally about utilizing the private sector -- in incentive-based partnerships with the public sector, global agencies and the non-profit sector -- to embrace the many issues that face our increasingly globalized society, and integrate this approach into our business models. Instead of old-style philanthropy, social entrepreneurship encourages a sustainable, triple-bottom-line approach to business issues, comprising an effective "repackaging" of capitalism for the century ahead.
The eradication of poverty as well as the sustainability and creation of jobs remain the biggest single challenge in front of the world today. In the Middle East region, despite being so rich in natural wealth, more than 59 million people live on less than $2 per day. And with more than 200 million people being under the age of 24, the needs will only become greater. Over a 100 million jobs will need to be created this century alone.
It's difficult to measure the benefits of social entrepreneurship. However, when you look deep you'll find there are many people working hard to do their best to help make a difference in the lives of the communities around them, to address these issues of poverty and unemployment while also ensuring that the natural wealth of the region benefits everyone. Clearly, in the Arab world we have a lot to do. I believe part of this means implementing a fair system with clear benchmarking and indices, and a channel of transparency so that everyone can accurately know who is doing what in terms of social entrepreneurship, and thereby encourage others to emulate their efforts, investment and achievements. This is crucial to scaling social entrepreneurship in the region, and providing a platform for the next generation to prosper.
At ENSHAA, for our part we are working toward implementing new standards in how our workers' accommodation is set up and run. We want to ensure workers who have come from around the world that they can stay comfortable and connected with their families. We believe that we should take into account the strenuous tasks performed by these workers and as such, feel it is our duty to provide them with improved living and working conditions.
While slavery has been reduced around the world over the centuries, and has long since been banned in any form, the element of slavery still remains present in the modern day, an element that we as people are obligated to remove in its entirety. Last month, leaders from many religious denominations gathered at the Vatican to sign a declaration to end modern-day slavery.
This is an important milestone, but good intentions are not enough. I firmly believe that social entrepreneurship -- the harnessing of the talents and resources of the private sector to improve people's lives in a sustainable manner -- is the key to creating jobs, reducing poverty and eradicating the demand for, and supply of, slavery. This can lead to the opening of doors to many non-profits and philanthropists to partner with private companies to address shared goals. This happens when business communities embrace certain principles, such as empowering communities through capacity building; supporting social and gender equality, helping to repair the environment; and helping to bridge cultural divides -- all done in a sustainable manner.
Creating millions of jobs so as to prevent a social crisis will require a Herculean effort. The business sector -- together with government and civil society in public-private partnerships -- has a vital role to play in delivering innovative solutions to the growing unemployment rate amongst today's youth. Businesses can take proactive action in all three critical areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship.
It is time to provide a good quality of life to the millions who lack what many in the world can take for granted. But to do so cannot rest with governments and NGOs alone. It will require the private sector to pioneer social solutions. Nobody expects companies to forgo profits or dividends to shareholders; capitalism isn't to blame -- it is the solution.
But it must be a new approach toward capitalism, a "triple bottom line" approach, which will allow us to tackle the defining challenges of our time, and leave behind a region worthy of our children.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Education For Employment (EFE), the leading youth employment nonprofit network in the Middle East and North Africa. EFE has affiliates in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and has a presence in the UAE. The series is being produced in conjunction with the launch of HuffPost Arabi, the newest international edition of The Huffington Post, and the posts in this series will be published in English and in Arabic. The focus of the series is on social entrepreneurship, as part of HuffPost's continuing "What's Working" initiative.