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Not Enough Philanthropists in the Arab World, Says Founder of the Alexandria Trust

LONDON—There are not enough philanthropists in the Arab world, the founder of the Alexandria Trust and Al-Fanar Media told a gathering of education policy makers and influencers here on Thursday.

Speaking at the Middle East Education Thought Leadership Forum, Salah Khalil told delegates at a London Hotel and more than 2,000 listening online that there was a mismatch between the ratio of Arab wealth and Arab giving when compared to the United States and Europe.

Citing a recent report by the Hauser Institute for Civil Society, at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Khalil said the global wealth of high net worth individuals had increased fourfold in the last 20 years and now totalled $60 trillion.

The report estimated that the world had over 15 million millionaires and close to 2,000 billionaires. It said there were 260,000 philanthropic foundations in 39 countries that collectively hold more than $1.5 trillion in assets and spend more than $150 billion a year.

“What is equally telling is that education is the top philanthropic priority in these countries,” Khalil said.

Khalil quoted Alexis de Tocqueville who in the early 19th century said the United States was leading charitable giving in the world because of “self-interest properly understood.”

De Tocqueville “discovered that the interest of the 1 percent that controls 90 percent of global wealth is intrinsically tied to the interests of the 99 percent that control 10 percent of global wealth,” Khalil said. “In other words, it is not only good for the soul to give back but good for business.”

The Need for Critical Thinking Skills

“Reports estimate that by 2030 more than a billion people will need to be upskilled or reskilled if the global economy is to avoid losing tens of trillions in GDP.”

Salah Khalil Founder of the Alexandria Trust and chief executive of Macat International

As well as raising $8 million from the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Open Society Foundations and other philanthropies for Al-Fanar Media, an independent, nonprofit news organization that covers news about education, art and culture in the 22 countries of the Arab world, Khalil has spent the last 12 years and more than $40 million understanding critical thinking.

“Reports estimate that by 2030 more than a billion people will need to be upskilled or reskilled if the global economy is to avoid losing tens of trillions in GDP as a result of technological unemployment, changing demographics, globalisation, climate change, urbanisation and, most significantly, rampant inequality.”

“The key obstacle, as the World Bank and others have pointed out, is a workforce that lacks the critical thinking skills to drive and transform the emerging new economy.”

In collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Khalil’s critical thinking company Macat International distilled the skills needed for critical thinking and took the six on which they all agreed. Macat’s platform offers an online assessment of critical thinking skills that takes 60 minutes. There is a library of analyses of 220 seminal works, and the University of Cambridge says the course improves critical thinking by 12 percent per day.

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The course has been translated into Chinese, French, Arabic and Turkish.

In Egypt, one and a half million students will take Macat’s critical thinking assessment over five years. Khalil hopes to work with the Association of Arab Universities as well and has just signed a three-year deal with the OECD.

Khalil finished by sharing a vision he has had, “What if anyone could study any subject, anytime, anywhere, anyhow: or could do any job, anytime, anywhere?” His dream is to help create such a system not affected by the world’s inequalities.

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