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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - BEIRUT: The resilience and cooperation shown by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in combating the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was an example to the world of how to approach economic recovery, an Asian business conference has been told.
Organizers of the 14th edition of the Asian Business Leadership Forum (ABLF) on Tuesday held a fifth virtual conclave titled “Innovative Strategies for a Decade of Challenges: Asia 2020-2030.”
Experts discussed the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and the importance of countries working together to overcome the global health crisis.
“In 2020, developing Asia suffered its first regional recession in six decades, with most major economies posting negative growth,” Maria Leonor Robredo, vice president of the Philippines, said in a keynote speech.
Last year the Philippines witnessed its highest unemployment rates, but Robredo told ABLF delegates that public and private sector engagement and more investment in technology were the best ways forward out of the crisis.
Richad Soundardjee, CEO of Societe Generale in the Middle East, said the UAE and Saudi Arabia had shown great resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and both countries would likely see a U-shaped recovery.
He highlighted the diversification efforts of energy giants Saudi Aramco and the UAE’s ADNOC oil company, especially their move into renewable energy sectors.
Andreas Schaal, director of global relations at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was optimistic about the outlook for the coming year.
He told the forum that while a contraction of 4.2 percent was predicted for 2020, he expected to see a rebound in 2021 with many countries taking a more regional rather than global approach to recovery.
Benjamin Ampen, managing director of Twitter for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), said the social media platform’s key principles in the past 12 years had been empathy and flexibility, and the company prioritized physical and mental health over everything else.
He told the conference that during the global health crisis, Twitter’s approach had been to focus on experimenting, building hypothesis, testing them, and applying learning.
The MD also pointed out that Twitter had worked hard in the MENA region to increase the number of “knowledgeable and credible sources of information” in order to tackle fake news on social media platforms.
Other speakers at the event included Nigerian Princess Dr. Moradeun Ogunlana, the founder and CEO of the African Women Health Project International and a UN peace ambassador, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the CEO of Plan International, David Girling, a senior adviser and lead at the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and Sabyasachi Mukherjee, a global designer and sustainability activist.
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