2022 Global Impact Summit, Cairo

In the ninth event of the series, the HolonIQ Global Impact series highlights trends and insights from across the MENA region.

Intelligence Unit

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November 14, 2022

The Cairo Summit featured speakers from Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and beyond with insights on key topics for impact in the region. 

Following a deep dive into the future of climate technology at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, HolonIQ collaborated with local ecosystem partner Edventures to co-host the ninth Global Impact Summit in Cairo. Here we continued to explore the changing impact economy in the MENA region with startups and established players, investors, researchers and regional experts.

Starting with HolonIQ’s signature overview of the global impact economy from population growth, advanced technology, capital markets and the innovation economy, Co-CEO’s Maria Spies and Patrick Brothers highlighted themes such as the growing population in the second half of this century, which will bring 2 billion more learners globally by 2050. 

Discussions and panel sessions highlighted the appetite for innovation in the Middle East and North Africa, and also noted the challenges ahead for legacy systems and institutions that have been slow to move beyond traditional models, particularly in the education space. Similar to other summits, speakers acknowledged the close relationship between education and other sectors, challenging the region to work more effectively in partnership with different stakeholders.

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New models, emerging technologies, and innovating for access and equity

In a panel session moderated by HolonIQ Co-CEO Maria Spies, speakers Ayman Bazaraa, Amani Hajir, Mike Damiano and Con O’Donnell discussed changing demographics and the need for evolving models of education against a backdrop of rapidly increasing numbers of learners in coming decades. 

“It's easy to deliver high quality education in small classes, but it's very difficult to do it at scale. Technology enables us to do this”

Ayman Bazaraa, Co-Founder, Sprints

Coursera’s Mike Damiano pointed out that scale had many benefits, including the ability to better connect data on learning and work, identify skill gaps and reach learners who might otherwise not have access to quality education. At the same time, the panel reflected that education needs to consider the whole learner, not just the process of learning. Whilst technology plays a role, it also needs to operate with a human and societal lens in mind.

“I think when we're designing systems, and ideas around this, we need to think of individual needs, not just as a future part of the workforce, but as a human and part of society.”

Con O’Donnell, Head of Digital Products, Nahdet Misr

Access, equity and tackling the digital divide were key topics of conversation, not only in this panel but in later discussions at the Summit. As Con O’ Donnell remarked, the design challenge stretches far beyond what is technically possible for some, to what can be done to include all: “how are we going to access everybody else in the majority of the country who has the cheapest phone possible with the cheapest connectivity and the slowest lines and least storage?”

“If we don't enable all of the population with basic literacies and we don't give them all access, then everything we're saying about technology doesn't matter.”

Mike Damiano, Director, National Education Initiatives, Coursera

Ayman Bazaraa (Sprints), Mike Damiano (Coursera), Con O’Donnell (Nahdet Misr), Amani Hajir (Luminus Life+)

Investing in education for sustainable impact

In a discussion focussed on education investment, speakers Maged Harby, Stavros Yiannouka, Ayman Ismail, Rafeh Saleh and Danah Dajani also took on the challenge of growing populations, ‘youth bulge’ and preparing education systems for the future:

“You have some 1 billion children by 2050 coming into a region where, to put it mildly, education systems are underperforming, failing to deliver. How are we going to leapfrog? How are we going to make sure that these kids get the opportunities they deserve?”

Stavros Yiannouka, CEO, WISE at Qatar Foundation

Speakers described legacy systems and traditional approaches in institutions such as universities, schools, government, and regulators, as ‘archaic’, where thinking is based on ‘industrial models’, resulting in a factory-like approach to learning (Ayman Ismail, AUC Venture Lab). They saw a need to bridge gaps between formal education and informal education, with each able to complement, not substitute the other, and noted that education outcomes were only one part of the picture, with social mobility also a key factor.

As another key theme across sessions, collaboration and partnership was called for as a necessary enabler to progress:

“I’d like to see a more collaborative, multidisciplinary kind of education, not just educators sitting and talking about education. I'd like to see more corporates, government, NGOs, civil society, parents, kids - all parts of it, not looking at education as the walls of a classroom”

Danah Dajani, Director of Programs and Partnerships at the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education

Panel session on investing in education for impact: Maged Harby (Edventures), Stavros Yiannouka (WISE), Ayman Ismail (AUC Venture Lab), Danah Dajan (Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education), Rafeh Saleh (Cubit Ventures)

Connecting the education ecosystem landscape

HolonIQ Co-CEO Patrick Brothers moderated a final panel of the evening which included Dalia Ibrahim (Nahdet Misr/Edventures), Mohammed Husamaddin (Naseej), Tarek Nour El Deen (OTO Courses) and Ayman Abdellatif (Honoris United Universities). As representatives of different stakeholders in the educational ecosystem, the panel discussed how building and connecting partnerships and ecosystems of collaboration is critical to achieving education outcomes on a global scale. Echoing earlier conversations, Dalia Ibrahim suggested that fragmented perspectives would not be enough to drive significant change:

“Stakeholders from the business perspective, NGOs, the government, all these people are doing their best to improve education but each one is doing it from his or her own perspective.”

Dalia Ibrahim, CEO of Nahdet Misr Publishing House & Founder of EdVentures

The global pandemic may have raised awareness of how deeply entrenched learning is ‘in every aspect of our life, from education, to health, to finance’ (Mohammed Husamaddin) and yet there is still much to be done to inform better policy decisions and educate diverse stakeholders on the potential role of edtech in particular.

Dalia Ibrahim (Nahdet Misr/Edventures), Mohammed Husamaddin (Naseej), Tarek Nour El Deen (OTO Courses) and Ayman Abdellatif (Honoris United Universities) in a panel discussion on Connecting the Education Ecosystem Landscape
Maria Spies wrapped up the evening by taking the audience through the MENA EdTech 50, HolonIQ's annual list of the most promising EdTech startups from across the region.

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Follow 100 Days of Impact

The Cairo Summit marked Day 52 of 100 Days of Impact and a global wave of ideas and inspiration for the future of impact. As each week unfolds, we’re sharing key themes and content from each summit, including speaker highlights, insights from leading organizations and the winners of our regional EdTech, HealthTech and ClimateTech 1000s.

Stay tuned here for a weekly wrap as we move from New York and Mexico City to Bengaluru, Melbourne, Singapore and Jakarta, with exclusive insights from our participation at COP27 before our final summits in London, Paris, Berlin, and Stockholm. Be part of the action by registering for any of the face to face or virtual summits around the world, and see for yourself how 100 Days of Impact unfolds with our 5,000-strong global community. 

Whether you’re participating or spectating from afar, find out the latest with #HolonIQSummits and by following @HolonIQ wherever you get your socials.

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