Salti INJAZ Al-ArabBy Maegan P. Smith

Soraya Salti, the Executive Director of INJAZ Al-Arab, has just been awarded the seventh annual Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership. (The other winner of the Kravis Prize this year was mothers2mothers, which helps prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS through the education and support of mothers with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa). INJAZ Al-Arab is an organization that utilizes the mentorship of Arab business leaders to inspire a culture of entrepreneurialism and innovation among Arab youth.

Salti became involved with this organization in Jordan in 2001, when the great majority of youth in the Arab world were unable to find employment after graduation. She talks about what a widespread and serious issue this is in the Arab world in an interview with PBS: “[H]ere in Egypt, you find 83 percent of the unemployed are youth. And when I say youth, it’s between the ages of 15 to 29. If you go to Jordan, it’s 30 percent. In Algeria, it’s 40 percent. Even in oil-rich countries like the United Arab Emirates, where you used to have the biggest economic boom, 32 percent of youth are unemployed. Saudi Arabia — you’ve got 35 percent of the youth unemployed.”

Salti recognized this program when she started her work with the organization and began bringing professional leaders and their employees into Jordan’s public schools for an hour each week to share their professional experience with young adults. Through this program, students began to deepen their understanding of the business world and to increase their professional qualifications to operate as independent business owners. Local business leaders began to recognize an increase in talent, skills, and confidence from graduates.

In 2004, Salti expanded the program to a regional level, reaching 300,000 Arab youth. Since its inception, the organization has reached one million Arab youth in 14 different countries, making significant strides in spreading a culture of entrepreneurism, financial literacy and work readiness throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Salti hopes the program will help regional youth become recognized as an engine for growth and prosperity rather than a burden on their economies. The program aims to boost students’ self-confidence by presenting them with experiences and opportunities that inspire and increase their overall sense of awareness. It also seeks to provide a way for young people to make direct connections to business professionals for better chances of success later on.

INJAZ Al-Arab also has semester-long courses that promote financial literacy, work readiness, life skills, social leadership, and business entrepreneurship. They also provide job placement options by exposing them to career options and helping to promote them in the competitive job market. All of this is accomplished while continuing to engage the private sector in a manner that encourages their collaboration and provides a mutual benefit.

The effects of the program were seen at the 2009 Annual Battle for the Best Arab Student Company, where a team of young girls from a rural Omani public high school won both the best Student Company and Student CEO of the Year, becoming an inspiration for Arab women and demonstrating to the region the opportunities missed by having the lowest female labor market participation in the world.

INJAZ Al-Arab has become a “thought leader” in a region where 72% of private sector CEOs now express a desire to improve the quality of education and the ability of students to transition from the classroom to the workplace. INJAZ’s pioneering public-private partnerships have brought over 10,000 corporate volunteers into public school classrooms and encouraged 13 Ministries of Education to seek innovative solutions through partnership to address the skills gap Arab graduates face.

Salti has also been recognized as a 2006 Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year and as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

For more information about Soraya Salti and INJAZ Al-Arab, visit: