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If Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament

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Hosting the World Cup is what many countries dream of, but hosting does not come without its drawbacks. It is a very costly event with no guarantees on economic return.

Any country that hosts the World Cup must meet strict infrastructure requirements, amongst many other standards required by all. These minimum requirements include criteria for all infrastructures, stadiums, hotels, transit, and communications and electrical grids. Despite all that is allowed by the accumulated petrodollars, fans could face accommodation shortages.  

For that, Qatar will make a newly built and yet to be completed City in the Desert available for the event. Meanwhile, here is another aspect of the fothcoming tournament.

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World Cup 2022: if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next

By Leon Davis, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Sheffield Hallam University

The above image is for illustration and is of beIN SPORTS.

A prize for the taking. Shutterstock/fifg

When FIFA picked Qatar as the first Middle Eastern country to host the men’s football World Cup in 2022, some considered it a bold gamble. Others thought it was a mistake – including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Since then, controversy has never been far from a mega-event which is now less than a year away. Aside from allegations of bribery during the bidding process, there have been serious concerns raised about human rights, with particular focus on the migrant workers building the new stadia.

Whether these issues will ultimately dissuade supporters from travelling to Qatar in late 2022 remains to be seen. The organisers will certainly not want a repeat of what happened when Qatar hosted the IAAF World Athletics Championships of 2019, which took place in half empty stadia.

Football has more global appeal than athletics, of course, and so far both Qatar and FIFA remain bullish that millions of fans will travel to the Gulf from all over the world. The event is certainly “unique” in sport event terms and that may drive fan interest. No expense has been spared by Qatar to deliver this unique experience, that is for sure. They have certainly spent big in the lead up to the tournament.

Even as early as 2010, estimates of the total cost for Qatar were in the region of US$65 billion (£48 billion) – a different level to the then record-breaking US$14 billion which Russia spent hosting the tournament in 2018. More recent reports, however, cite costs closer to US$300 billion.

The reason for such staggering sums is not just grandeur. The actual stadium costs, at around US$10 billion, are low in relation to the overall estimated total. The bulk of the money has been spent on infrastructure and transport projects in the country. Some of these were planned anyway, with the forthcoming tournament merely accelerating developments.

Different goals

There is also a bigger picture at play here. In many ways, it has never been about the money for Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world.

The primary gains Qatar is seeking are non-commercial, with international relations at their heart, and and an opportunity to introduce itself to billions of people across the world. This has led to accusations of “sportswashing”. This can be defined as using sporting events as a way of seeking legitimacy or improving reputations and has been used in the context of Qatar 2022 given the controversies cited above.

Despite the negative press, Qatar will be encouraged by its latest foray into major international sporting events, including the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in Formula One. The race was the first of a three-part Middle-East finale to the F1 season which also includes races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. This could help place Qatar on a comparable level to its Arab neighbours in another very marketable sport.

Education City Stadium in Doha, Qatar. EPA-EFE/ NOUSHAD THEKKAYIL

Events like these, alongside the 2022 men’s World Cup, are designed to provide a legacy both socially and culturally – a legacy which creates national identity and places Qatar as a legitimate actor on the world stage.

Yet although money may be no object to the hosts, one organisation hoping to make some is FIFA. Their entire business model is geared around a successful World Cup. Russia 2018 helped FIFA to generate record revenues of US$6.4 billion, much of which is spent on “education and development”, and it will be hoping for similar takings from Qatar 2022. In the same way, FIFA’s (widely condemned) proposals to hold the tournament every two years are largely driven by the desire for more income.

So while the goals for Qatar and FIFA are different, both parties need the rest of the world to play ball. It’s worth bearing in mind that to make this happen, the majority of men’s domestic professional football leagues have altered their schedules to allow the 2022 competition to be staged, for the first time ever, in the months of November and December.

If the timing works, and Qatar’s non-commercial plans are achieved, it will then surely aim to become a regular major player in the sports event hosting market – so expect to see a bid to host a future Olympic Games. Money again here will be no object. Qatar will no doubt put on a show for the World Cup. A show that it hopes the rest of the world will be watching.

Leon Davis, Senior Lecturer in Events Management, Teesside University and Dan Plumley, Senior Lecturer in Sport Finance, Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Aligning climate and health goals

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Observer Research Foundation proposes for the nations present at the COP26 to prioritise Aligning climate and health goals. It is by Oommen C. Kurian and Bhavya Pandey.

The sustainable development, climate action and COVID-19 recovery strands of the common agenda need to be better aligned to target the most vulnerable

This piece is part of the essay series, Towards a Low-Carbon and Climate-Resilient World: Expectations from COP26


The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted ongoing collective efforts on climate action. These efforts underscore the need for equal access to resources, judicious use and planning, strengthening critical infrastructure, and enabling vulnerable communities in the face of adversity. The multidimensional crises facing the international community, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, make it more urgent for countries to adopt forward-looking policies to act faster on sustainable transitions, adaptation and resilience, and provide impetus to recalibrating health systems for greater efficiency and quality. To this end, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow, provides an opportunity for nations to address post-pandemic recovery through the lens of sustainable development.

The Grave Impacts of Climate Change

Research has shown that Asia is the continent most affected by weather-related disasters—some 2,843 of such events were recorded between 1990 and 2016, affecting 4.8 billion people and taking 505,013 lives. Deaths from natural hazard-related disasters are largely concentrated in poor countries.[1] Higher temperatures brought about by climate change, pose profound threats to occupational health and labour productivity, particularly for people engaged in manual, outdoor labour in hot areas. Also, labour capacity decrease due to climate change is among the highest in the Southeast Asia region. Climate information services for health—i.e., targeted or tailored climate information, products, and services that will aid the health sector—were found to be the lowest in Southeast Asia.[2]

By 2030, irreversible negative impacts on health because of climate change could undo much of global poverty reduction strategies and push over 100 million people into extreme poverty. Climate change will worsen emerging health challenges like cardiovascular diseases and respiratory illnesses, which are linked to air pollution. A higher frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, rising temperatures, and changing patterns of precipitation will also result in negative health outcomes.

Higher temperatures brought about by climate change, pose profound threats to occupational health and labour productivity, particularly for people engaged in manual, outdoor labour in hot areas.

It is expected that climate change will increase health risks associated with extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent, intense, of longer duration, and have greater spatial extent. Increased UV radiation; increased air pollution; increased food-borne and water-borne contamination; the introduction, expansion or re-emergence of rodent and vector-borne infectious diseases; and the exacerbation of health challenges faced by vulnerable populations are some of the additional risks from climate changeAdditionally, extreme weather associated with climate change can damage hospital buildings, cause power and water outages, and disrupt the delivery of healthcare at the frontlines as roadblocks may limit access to supplies and essential services (such as energy and water supply), and obstruct patients’ access to health facilities.

According to WHO, between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress. The direct damage cost to health is estimated to be between US$2 billion and US$4 billion per year by 2030. Communities across the globe are confronting health risks from excessive heat, altering disease patterns, disaster events, and the potentially catastrophic impact of global warming on food and water security. The impact of climate change on human health, however, will not be uniformly spread due to the various degrees of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptation ability of different regions.

Extreme weather associated with climate change can damage hospital buildings, cause power and water outages, and disrupt the delivery of healthcare at the frontlines as roadblocks may limit access to supplies and essential services (such as energy and water supply), and obstruct patients’ access to health facilities.

Determinants of health are impacted by multiple social and environmental effects of climate change that are manifested as degradation in air quality, extreme fluctuations in temperatures, lack of adequate and safe drinking water, food insecurity and insufficiency, and the impedance of diseases. Natural disasters and variable rainfall patterns also affect essential services and medical facilities, and destroy property and food sources.

Extreme temperatures have been directly linked to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, particularly among the elderly, which are further exacerbated by the rising levels of ozone and other pollutants in the atmosphere. For instance, over 70,000 excess deaths were recorded in Europe during the 2003 summer heatwave; and the long-term exposure to fine particulate matter has been linked with an increased rate of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. Furthermore, the number of reported climate-linked natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1960s. With over half of the global population residing within 60 kilometers of the sea, natural disasters and warmer temperatures threaten the loss of lives and livelihoods and could lead to more frequent occurrences of communicable diseases (such as water-borne diseases like cholera and diarrhoeal diseases like giardiasis, salmonellosis, and cryptosporidiosis) and mental health disorders (such as post-traumatic stress disorder).

Enduring Inequities 

According to WHO, 87 percent of all COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the world’s wealthiest countries, while low-income countries have received only 0.2 percent of vaccine supplies. Specifically, less than 1 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population have been vaccinatedAccording to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the wealthy nations are vaccinating one person every second, while the majority of the poorest nations are yet to administer a single dose.

Equity in COP26 deliberations is even more crucial now given that many components of the landmark Paris Agreement had a 2020 deadline. COP26 is an opportunity to discuss progress on curbing climate change, focus on ‘building back better’ amidst the pandemic, and ensure that the interconnected inequities that mar the two-pronged agenda of resilience and recovery, are also taken into account. However, marginalised communities and civil society organisations will likely have a greater burden of adhering to visa and travel requirements imposed during the pandemic since many countries from the Global South are on the UK’s travel red-list, and many may not be vaccinated in time to attend the in-person climate deliberations. Furthermore, the pandemic’s worldwide economic crisis has threatened access to climate financing that developing, vulnerable nations require.

Extreme weather events and health crises will be compounded by the cascading health, economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond commitments to curb GHG emissions, advanced economies should also mobilise financial resources to assist vulnerable countries in meeting their climate objectives, especially during the pandemic. COP26 provides an opportunity to rebuild trust and coordination amongst nations and usher in the political attention and economic commitment required to pursue greater climate action.

Towards a Sustainable Future

The COP26 summit will take stock of nations’ promises to decrease emissions under the Paris Agreement. The pandemic has illustrated the importance of quick, targeted and concerted efforts in battling life-threatening crises. The lessons from this experience can be leveraged to fuel climate action, more so since both climate change and the aftermath of the global pandemic bear a common strand of interconnectedness owing to widening global inequalities and greater disparities. The imperative is for the adoption and implementation of a worldwide Green New Deal, along with other systemic alternatives in tandem with a new economic paradigm to rectify unsustainable development policies that threaten ecology, erode environmental protection laws, and undermine labour rights and social security systems. Solving the climate issue requires an overhaul of production, consumption and commerce systems, and human-nature ties.

Beyond commitments to curb GHG emissions, advanced economies should also mobilise financial resources to assist vulnerable countries in meeting their climate objectives, especially during the pandemic.

In parallel, the pandemic has also impacted the renewable energy market for vehicles using solar, battery or electric sources to fuel them. Large-scale investment to boost the development, deployment and integration of clean energy technologies, such as solar, wind, hydrogen, batteries and carbon capture, should be a central part of policy plans to address the pandemic since it will bring the twin benefits of stimulating economies and accelerating clean energy transitions. The deliberations at COP26 offer a great deal of scope to plan and commit to encouraging sustainable development transitions for participating nations.

The COVID-19 experience has perhaps permanently impacted the ‘global solidarity’ narrative. A cursory look at the global vaccine distribution will illustrate the inherent inequities in the system and how little is being done about it. The fallout of the COVID-19 crisis has also laid blows on the building blocks of human development, including income, health, and access to resources. The magnitude of the crisis response should inspire all to address existing and new inequities to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The sustainable development, climate action and COVID-19 recovery strands of the common agenda need to be better aligned to target the most vulnerable and enable the transition towards a healthier, safer, and sustainable world.

Download the PDF of the report here.


Bhavya Pandey is a Research Intern at ORF’s Centre for New Economic Diplomacy and Oommen C Kurian is a Senior Fellow with the Health Initiative at ORF.


[1] Nick Watts et al., “The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health”, The Lancet (2017)

[2] Watts, “The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health”

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How to avert a global climate catastrophe

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At a time where political momentum is growing everywhere in the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, how to avert a global climate catastrophe by Omar Razzaz from Amman tells us the following.

How to avert a global climate catastrophe

• Current global efforts to raise awareness and nudge and shame policymakers are necessary but not sufficient to prevent an existential climate crisis. Addressing the problem more effectively requires international governance arrangements that amount to a new social contract on global public goods

Dead Sea shore, Jordan. (Pixabay)




The hottest day on record in Jordan since 1960 was a staggering 49.3C, (120.7F) in July 2018, one month after I became prime minister. Jordan is not unique: heatwaves have been causing record-high temperatures in countries from Canada to Australia in recent years. The effects of climate change (including increased frequency and severity of floods, hurricanes, and droughts), while felt locally, demand a global response, which should set binding targets that take into account countries’ contributions to the problem and to the solution.

Jordan has been actively pursuing policies and programmes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Over the past 15 years, Jordan’s annual emissions per capita fell from 3.5 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes. But Jordan, like the vast majority of countries, accounts for a negligible share of global CO2 emissions  – just 0.04% annually. So even if Jordan was to turn its whole economy green overnight, it would hardly make a dent. This does not absolve us of responsibility, but we cannot overlook the fact that emissions are concentrated: the top 20 emitters account for almost 80% of the annual total, with the United States and China alone accounting for 38%.
In many countries, the ramifications of climate change for water supply have been staggering. In the case of Jordan, it made an already tight constraint much more acute. Rainfall was previously the saviour for rural communities that engaged in seasonal rainfed agriculture and herding on semi-arid land. Over the last decade, however, a steady decline in average annual rainfall and an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts have undermined these modes of agriculture, deepening the socioeconomic divide between rural and urban areas.

Jordan is by no means unique: the World Health Organisation estimates that half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. In essence, what was previously a regional challenge has now become a serious global governance issue with environmental, political, and economic ramifications.
More broadly, other manifestations of climate change, and the lack of an internationally coordinated response to them – not to mention to additional threats such as the Covid-19 pandemic – suggest that something is seriously wrong at the global level. According to the recent sober assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world will not meet the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2C unless it makes huge additional cuts in CO2 emissions.

Quite simply, the results of the world’s climate efforts are dangerously inadequate. According to the Climate Action Tracker, current policies put the world on course to be an alarming 2.7-3.1C warmer by 2100, relative to pre-industrial levels. Yes, many emerging green technologies are promising and should be supported. But in the absence of a global approach, these innovations risk merely redistributing the impact of climate change among countries and regions.
Raising awareness and nudging (and shaming) policymakers is necessary, but not sufficient to avert what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has referred to as a “climate catastrophe.” Climate-change mitigation must be pursued as a global public good. The problem is that such goods are plagued by collective-action problems because the costs tend to be spatially and temporally concentrated while the benefits are diffuse. These difficulties can be tackled only by global governance structures that reduce the cost of collective action, internalise externalities, and counter short-term biases in decision-making.
To address climate change more effectively, we need global governance arrangements that amount to a new global social contract. Existing international governance structures can serve as a foundation for these new institutions, but will need to be amended and supplemented to address specific problems related to public goods and collective action.
For starters, we need a governance structure whose jurisdiction is limited to global public goods that cannot be provided adequately at the national level. Nation-states would be free to opt-in and opt-out, with the benefits of opting in outweighing those of opting out. Decisions would be taken on a majoritarian basis, with no single country having veto power. There would also be appeals and adjudication process that allows decisions to be challenged.
Second, a custodial entity would keep track of global natural wealth accounts to address intergenerational equity issues. This entity should be able to place items on the global governance institution’s agenda and to appeal decisions.
Lastly, a regime of incentives and disincentives would aim to preserve nature and biodiversity and tax those who consume it, taking wealth and income disparities across countries into account.
Establishing global governance mechanisms that focus on the public goods and collective-action challenges of climate change will not be easy. Concerns and fears related to a “democratic deficit” and the need to protect national sovereignty are legitimate, and cannot simply be brushed aside.
Nevertheless, we are not starting from scratch. The World Trade Organisation provides an example of a strong and successful global governance structure with binding rules. It is thus both ironic and sad that the WTO has failed to incorporate trade-related environmental and human-rights issues into its regulations in order to ensure a level international playing field. After all, with its sanctioning authority, the WTO is best positioned to link issues such as greenhouse-gas emissions and labour rights to trade rules.

Jordan cannot successfully tackle today’s global climate challenges on its own. Nor can the Middle East, owing to regional conflicts and rivalries. Now that the world has become a village, the task facing the region is instead to agree with other countries – our fellow villagers – on how to mitigate our own excesses and avert an existential threat. This can be achieved only by finding suitable ways to hold ourselves and each other accountable. The solution lies in establishing a global governance system that is based on the nation-state but has the capacity to sanction harmful behaviour.
Some might regard the idea of creating such a structure as far-fetched. But unless we do, there is scant hope of preventing the climate crisis – already apparent in Jordan and around the world – from continuing to destroy countless lives and livelihoods. – Project Syndicate

• Omar Razzaz is a former prime minister of Jordan.

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

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Usman Ahmed, Senior Director; Head, Global Public Policy and Research, PayPal with Aditi Sara Verghese, Policy Analyst, International Trade and Investment, World Economic Forum Geneva elaborate in This article as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit, on how in order To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade.

The above Image is of Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

21 Sep 2021

  • A new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all of society, and some nations have signalled support in this regard.
  • Reforms to trade policy could have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.
  • The WTO, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice, and the time to make this shift is now.

Divides and discrimination within countries along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender and Indigenous identity have resulted in longstanding social, economic and political challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has further laid bare the stark inequalities among societal groups.

Yet resistance and restorative action have spread too. Social movements for racial justice in the United States have inspired similar initiatives in other countries. The #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual abuse and harassment and catalysed broader conversations about women’s participation in economic, social and political life. Meanwhile, some governments are coming to terms with their historical and current treatment of Indigenous peoples.

In this context, a new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all sections of society. This is an important aspect of building support for trade, as emerging research indicates that minority groups are often either negatively affected by trade shocks or do not have equitable access to the opportunities it provides.

Some countries have signalled support in this regard. For the first time, the US’s trade agenda includes the goal of racial equity. Canada, Chile and New Zealand signed a Global Trade and Gender Arrangement in August 2020. The relationship between trade and the rights of Indigenous peoples has been increasingly recognized in international economic agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Image: Usman Ahmed and Aditi Sara Verghese (2021)

Understanding the problem

The effect of trade on inequalities between countries is well covered in economic literature. Differential trade impacts within countries among different income groups, between small and large firms, and on labour is well studied and discussed.

The effects of trade on different societal groups within countries – whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, Indigenous identity or gender – has received less attention. This may be because domestic policies are considered the most direct way to tackle these inequalities. However, trade constitutes 58% of global GDP and is an important aspect of economic empowerment. And, while domestic policies can help with inequities created by trade if properly designed, reforms to trade policy could also have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.

Developing and implementing inclusive policy

Better policymaking begins with better data. Governments should understand the industries that underserved populations are most likely to own and work in or rely on for inputs and final products. For instance, in 2016, minority-owned businesses represented 19% of US firms, but only 12.8% of US manufacturing firms. Governments should examine tariff lines to determine if they are discriminatory against those sectors that have a disproportionate representation of minority businesses and workers.

Underrepresented groups must be actively invited to participate in developing trade policy and negotiating positions. The advantages of such engagement were apparent in the provisions for Indigenous peoples in Canada’s trade agreements, for instance. New Zealand has carved out exceptions in their agreements to respect commitments made to Māori.

Trade agreements can also improve labour standards and remove discrimination against minority, migrant and female workers through labour chapters. These should include commitments by advanced economies to support and build capacity for the implementation of the necessary domestic reforms by trading partners.

Technical assistance and capacity building efforts that often accompany trade agreements must take into account equity considerations. Organizations should actively measure impacts of their initiatives on women and minority groups.

Inclusive trade in practice

Businesses also have an important role to play in enabling inclusive trade. Many have stepped up to publicly support movements for minority rights and inclusion. Investments in minority businesses can help raise the overall wellbeing of underserved communities. Supplier diversity programmes can support women-owned, minority-owned and Indigenous businesses to meet procurement standards, access financing and comply with export and import requirements.

Access to trade finance for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could result in major gains for those underrepresented groups and for the broader economy. The IFC estimates that 70% of women-owned formal MSMEs in developing countries are unserved (or underserved) by financial institutions, with an estimated funding gap of $285 billion.

New technologies and digitalization can also make trade more inclusive – whether by enabling MSMEs to connect and transact with international buyers, providing natural language processing for translation, or automating trade processes that might otherwise lend themselves to discriminatory practices.

Public-private partnership for economic inclusion

Active engagement by all stakeholders at all stages of the process – from research, consultation and policy development to implementation and capacity-building – will be essential in realising a truly inclusive approach to trade.

Businesses and civil society organizations have an opportunity to voice support for government action through the World Trade Organization on these issues in the runup to the 12th Ministerial Conference. Moreover, governments can work with the private sector and civil society organizations to create programs like trade finance guarantees targeting underserved populations.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

International trade has done yeoman’s work in lifting millions out of poverty, driving economic growth and encouraging economic integration that reduced incentives for armed conflict between nations. There are green shoots that make the current moment an ideal time for trade to address domestic socio-economic divides.

We believe that the World Trade Organization, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice and that the time to make this shift is now.

Read the Global Future Council on Trade and Investment paper on “International Trade and Economic Justice” here.

Have you read?

The anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs is long, as is the one curing it

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Hadi Khatib on AMEInfo of 18 September 2021 came up with this deep statement on the anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs that is long, as is the one curing it

The anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs is long, as is the one curing it

A research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region revealed anxiety has several facets in the minds of these leaders. But all of these insecurities have cures.

  • 55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress.
  • More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends.
  • Research finds that entrepreneurs are happier than people in jobs.

EMPWR, a UAE-based digital media agency dedicated to mental health and an exclusive mental health partner for WAMDA and Microsoft for startups, published a research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region.

The research indicated that startup founders undergo higher levels of stress than the rest of the region, with twice the likelihood of developing depression issues.

55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress; the pandemic was the second most-cited reason cited by 33.7% of respondents.   44.2% spend at least 2 hours a week trying to de-stress. 

Other insights, uncovered by the report, include:

  • A good relationship between co-founders can help startups navigate the pandemic-hit market. More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends
  • Many entrepreneurs live well below their means to fund their ventures, leading to stress that is detrimental to their health

With only 2% of healthcare budgets in the MENA region currently spent on addressing mental health, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young entrepreneurs and achievers could lead to an economic burden of $1 trillion, by 2030, according to the report.

EMPWR’s MENA partners shared special offers on their mental health services for the region’s entrepreneur community.

From Saudi Arabia:

Labayh is offering the technology ecosystem a 20% discount on their online mental health services for 2 months. Promo code: empwr, with the offer valid until October 29.

From Egypt:

O7 Therapy are offering 50% off their online mental health services, for 50 Entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Promo code: Entrepreneur50, valid until December 1, 2021.

From the UAE:

My Wellbeing Lab is offering 20 one-on-one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs that wish to be coached and helped; alongside unlimited access for any entrepreneur to their “Discovery Lab”, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and leaders insights into their mental wellbeing as well as their teams. Promo code: MWL21.

Takalam is offering 10% off for 3 months. Promo code: Impact.

Mindtales is offering the MENA ecosystem 50% off their services for one month. Their App can be downloaded here.

H.A.D Consultants is offering 20 one on one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs. Promo code: HAD_SME01.

From Oman:

Nafas, a meditation app focused on reducing stress, anxiety, and help with insomnia, is offering access to its platform. Register as a user via this link to redeem benefits. 

Entrepreneurs’ mixed emotions

Entrepreneurs must grapple with uncertainty and being personally responsible for any decision they make. They likely have the longest working hours of any occupational group and need to rapidly develop expertise across all areas of management while managing day-to-day business.

Yet despite all this, research finds that entrepreneurs are happier than people in jobs.

To understand this, a comprehensive and systematic review of 144 empirical studies of this topic, covering 50 years revealed:

1. It’s not all about pay

Work on the economics of entrepreneurship traditionally assumed that entrepreneurs bear all the stresses and uncertainties in the hope that over the long term they can expect high financial rewards for their effort. It’s false.

2. Highly stressful, but…

High workload and work intensity, as well as financial problems facing their business, are at the top of the entrepreneurs’ stress list.

But some stressors have an upside. While they require more effort in the here and now, they may lead to positive consequences such as business growth in the long term. Some entrepreneurs appear to interpret their long working hours as a challenge and therefore turn them into a positive signal.

3. Autonomy is both good and bad

The autonomy that comes with being an entrepreneur can be a double-edged sword. Entrepreneurs can make decisions about when and what they work on – and with whom they work. But recent research into how entrepreneurs experience their autonomy suggests that, at times, they struggle profoundly with it. The sheer number of decisions to make and the uncertainty about what is the best way forward can be overwhelming.

4. An addictive mix

The evidence review confirms that, by any stretch of imagination, entrepreneurs’ work is highly demanding and challenging. This, along with the positive aspects of being their own boss coupled with an often competitive personality, can lead entrepreneurs to be so engaged with their work that it can become obsessive.

So the most critical skill of entrepreneurs is perhaps how they are able to manage themselves and allow time for recovery.  

Stress management tips for entrepreneurs

Identify what the actual source of your stress is. Is it tight deadlines, procurement issues, raising capital, managing investors’ expectations, building a talented team, or delay in landing the first sale for your new startup business?

Even if numbering more than a few, break them down because unmanageable tasks look simpler when broken down into smaller segments. Then, list down how you plan to successfully tackle each issue. Meanwhile, exercising multiple times a week has been rated as one of the best tactics for managing stress.  

Another technique for handling stress is to take a break. Rest as much as you can before going back to continue with the tasks.  It’s also a good idea to reach out to friends, family, and social networks because they are likely to understand what you’re going through and offer words of wisdom and courage.

Stay away from energy-sapping junk food. Eating healthy keeps you fueled for the next challenge. Finally, get enough sleep, and power naps. Sleep helps your body and mind recover.   

Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about them. He can be reached at:  hadi.khatib@thewickfirm.com