Badr Jafar Calls for Global Purpose Hubs at UN High-Level Event on Innovation and Technology
“MENA Region Offers Immense Potential to Drive Progress in Social Innovation” – Badr Jafar, CEO Crescent Enterprises
While the rapid pace of technological change presents unprecedented opportunities to innovate, it is equally important to harness the power of technological innovation to address complex economic, social and environmental challenges, said Badr Jafar, CEO of UAE-based conglomerate Crescent Enterprises and Managing Director of the Crescent Group, in his closing keynote address at the United Nations High-Level Event on Innovation and Technology at UN headquarters in New York.
Acknowledging that the pursuit of technological disruption has produced a plethora of innovative business ideas and generated massive shareholder value, Badr Jafar added: “as an investor looking for a social multiplier effect on my invested capital I often struggle to find the relevance of many of these ideas to the billions in need. Venture capitalists, and their obsessiveness with banking on the next billion-dollar Unicorn, rather than banking on the next big solution that could impact a billion lives, share this responsibility.”
He added that a level playing field for technological advancements is needed to drive equitable and inclusive development and help meet the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To this effect, Badr Jafar put forth the idea that rather than just innovation hubs, what we need today are ‘purpose hubs’, a new breed of human-centric innovation hubs where companies prioritise the use of technology to inclusively serve humanity and our habitat by consciously integrating the needs of society into their operations and creating shared value for all stakeholders.
Illustrating his point, Badr Jafar referenced the MENA region, and its youthful and vibrant population, as the ideal example of an untapped market that holds immense potential to develop purpose hubs and scale meaningful opportunities for future generations.
He further pointed out that purpose hubs should evolve in ways that cater to unique regional challenges, adding that: “unless we curate solutions specific to local needs and nuances, the unintended consequences of cookie-cutter tech could easily see this intensify in years to come as even more jobs become obsolete.”
Emphasising the importance of technology, he also cautioned: “technology doesn’t drive change. It enables change. Technology in itself is not the agent of change – it is a tool. We, the connected people, are the agents of change. History will judge us on whether we used these tools for the collective betterment of humanity, or for exacerbation of our human flaws.”
Urging the audience to transition from dialogue to action, Badr Jafar outlined in his keynote address three actionable steps that can help build a resilient ecosystem that fosters innovation. These often unspoken requirements according to Jafar included:
establishing and protecting a level playing field underpinned by sound corporate governance practices,
embracing diversity in all its forms, and adopting an interdisciplinary approach that draws on science as well as the humanities.
Held at the UN Headquarters ahead of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the one-day event titled ‘SDG Innovation’ was convened by the Secretary General and the United Nations SDG Action Campaign. The event featured a series of interactive dialogues, panel discussions and keynote addresses that examined the role of technology and innovation in driving sustainable development and solving the most pressing global challenges. The event that was attended by over 400 representatives from government and business, brought together several Heads of State, as well as CEOs of major global technology companies and innovation and thought leaders to strengthen cooperation and solve major challenges for humanity.
Other speakers at the event included His Excellency Miroslav Lajčák President of the United Nations General Assembly, His Excellency Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia, His Excellency Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, Reid Hoffman, Founder and Chair of LinkedIn, and Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO of Salesforce.