Dubai launches search for great minds to fight Middle East brain drain

A search to identify and support the best thinkers in the Arab world began on Wednesday, with millions of dirhams in funding available.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs, compared the Great Arab Minds project to the Nobel Prize.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives seeks to identify intellectuals, researchers and professionals in fields such as physics, mathematics, data science, economics and higher education.

Every year for five years, six of the brightest people will receive millions of dirhams in funding to support their work.

Tens of thousands of our young people are emigrating in search of better opportunities – ignorance has cost the Arab world a loss of over $2 trillion

Mohammed Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs

The initiative includes six categories: natural sciences (physics and chemistry), medicine, literature and arts, economics, technology and engineering, and architecture and design.

Applicants must be Arab or have made a contribution to the Arab world.

“As the West has its Nobel Prize, we have the Arab Minds Prize. It’s our Nobel Prize,” Gergawi, who is also secretary general of MBRGI, told the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Saeed Al Nazari, head of the jury, said: “If you look at the region over the last 100 to 200 years, you will see that it has had a huge influence on the world scientific scene.

“You can see that to this day the Arabs have had an impact on technologies, science physics, etc.

“This initiative recognizes and revives it. It will inspire people to think big and the world to see their influence. This award is the most important in the region.

“We focus on Arabs in the Arab world, but we are also open to Arabs who have had a contribution and influence in the Arab world.”

The committee will be overseen by KPMG global auditors.

Over the years, there has been a brain drain in the Arab world, with talent moving to the West, Mr Al Gergawi said.

“Tens of thousands of our young people are emigrating in search of better opportunities – ignorance has cost the Arab world more than $2 trillion,” he said.

Last year, a fund of 100 million dirhams ($27.2 million) was set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president and ruler of Dubai, for the initiative.

The Museum of the Future will serve as the base for the programme, which will be overseen by four Cabinet Ministers.

This month, results from the Arab Youth Survey showed a strong desire among young people, particularly in North Africa and the Levant, to move abroad to escape cycles of poverty and unemployment.

The United Arab Emirates was voted the best place to live in the survey, but the rest of the list included countries outside the region, including the United States, Canada, France and Germany.

More than a third of young Arabs (35%) say the rising cost of living and unemployment are the main obstacles facing the region, with unemployment following at 32%.

Updated: September 29, 2022, 1:37 p.m.

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