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Enriching innovation and creativity: Focus of Zain’s sustainability strategy

Company showcases last year’s top entrepreneurship and innovation achievements Bader Al-Kharafi with Zain executives during the inauguration of the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC). KUWAIT: During the first quarter of 2018, Zain Kuwait adopted the enrichment of innovation and entrepreneurial creativity as the main focus of its sustainability strategy for the entire year ahead. This strategy…

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Enriching innovation and creativity: Focus of Zain’s sustainability strategy

Company showcases last year’s top entrepreneurship and innovation achievements

Bader Al-Kharafi with Zain executives during the inauguration of the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC).

KUWAIT: During the first quarter of 2018, Zain Kuwait adopted the enrichment of innovation and entrepreneurial creativity as the main focus of its sustainability strategy for the entire year ahead. This strategy featured a plethora of initiatives, projects, and innovative programs that came in collaboration with various local, regional, and international partners, presenting Zain as a key player in progressing the digital investments wheel in the Kuwaiti market.

In the following report, Zain showcases the most prominent initiatives and projects the company launched and supported during 2018 to achieve its sustainability strategy, with the main aim of offering the proper educational environment for students, youth, and entrepreneurs to embrace their talents and encourage tech innovation, contributing to the further progress of Kuwait’s national economy.

Zain Innovation Center (ZINC)In early 2018, the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) was inaugurated in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh during a ceremony that witnessed the attendance of Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan, Zain Group’s Vice Chairman and Group CEO Bader Al-Kharafi, Zain’s senior management, as well as many successful identities from the Kuwait and regional digital ecosystem. ZINC is set to encourage young minds to think and act creatively outside of the norm in an open, supportive environment. The design of the hub utilizes light and is deliberately modern and sleek, with the view to creating the right atmosphere for entrepreneurs to generate new ideas and develop them into viable opportunities. Apart from the inspiring co-working hub facilities, ZINC also provides aspiring entrepreneurs and startups access to experts in various fields and advice from mentors from the region and across the globe, including from Zain senior personnel and associated technology partners.

The introduction of ZINC is another step forward by Zain to align its brand values and Corporate Sustainability objectives, as well as the company’s active investment in delivering on its strategic digital lifestyle aspirations. ZINC attracts major global pioneers and mentors from across the digital value chain to make appearances and inspire budding entrepreneurs through presentations, workshops, and much more. The inauguration of ZINC also witnessed the launch of the all-new ZINC Kuwait app, which connects and promotes ZINC activities to the local startup community and allows users to make bookings and more. The app also informs users of the programs hosted in the center and how interested young startups and entrepreneurs can benefit from ZINC.

Coded Juniors Summer CampDuring 2018, Zain was the Strategic Partner of the Coded Juniors Summer Camp. The program aimed at teaching children the basics of coding and technology using the latest tools and gadgets throughout 4 weeks at Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center. Zain’s support came in line with its strategy towards encouraging innovation and digital transformation. The company is keen on contributing to the development and advancement of tech innovation within all age groups, including school children, with the aim of boosting their coding and technology skills, as such skills are essential for the modern digital world.Coded Juniors Summer Camp mainly aimed at teaching school children (ages 7-12) the basics of coding languages and technology using the latest tools and gadgets like robots, smart toys, computers, and more, as well as traditional learning methods such as art, drawing, and music. The program featured a fun educational environment that lasted for 4 weeks in the Space Museum of Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Center.

KON Social Entrepreneurship ProgramDuring 2018, Zain organized a workshop for the participants of the KON Social Entrepreneurship Program at the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh. The event, brought to Kuwait in collaboration with Babson College in Boston, came as part of Zain’s Strategic Partnership of LOYAC, a non-profit organization that aims at developing the youth’s talents and skills. The partnership comes in line with the company’s Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Strategy, which centers around the development of the Education and Youth sectors, especially in regards to nurturing and developing entrepreneurial skills within the youth.

Zain hosted the students at the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh, where they took part in a workshop facilitated by Khaled Al-Amiri, owner of the Li3ib project and an ex-participant of Zain’s fourth Zain Great Idea accelerator program. The workshop covered tech startup acceleration, common challenges of entrepreneurship and how to overcome them, the basics of starting your own business, and more. Zain also participated in awarding the winning teams of the best project ideas as part of the program during the concluding ceremony.

KON, one of LOYAC’s latest youth development programs, trained youth (12-16 years) in the area of Social Entrepreneurship throughout 6 weeks at the American University in Kuwait. The program was brought to Kuwait in collaboration with Babson College in Boston, considered the most prestigious entrepreneurship college in the United States and the number one institution in the world for entrepreneurship education.

IFAD Internship ProgramDuring 2018, Zain was the Exclusive Partner of the Internship Program at the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Zain’s support to the program, which came for the second consecutive year, was part of the company’s Strategic Partnership with LOYAC. Zain’s exclusive support to LOYAC’s Internship Program at IFAD featured the participation of Kuwaiti students Wadha Al-Mussalam (2017) and Thuraya Al-Holi (2018) in the program at Rome, Italy. Both students were selected by LOYAC amongst many outstanding Kuwaiti students of Accounting, Finance, and Economics to take part in this internship program, which extended throughout six months and aimed at training students on finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in rural areas of developing countries.

LOYAC Part-time Training ProgramDuring October – December 2018, Zain hosted 32 students of the LOYAC part-time training program who worked at the company’s various divisions, giving them an opportunity to gain experience in the private sector work environment. Zain’s support to the program came as part of the company’s Strategic Partnership with LOYAC.

The 32 students, enrolled in the LOYAC part-time program, took part in completing tasks, learning new skills, and going through professional training in the real business world at various departments and divisions within Zain, where they gained valuable experiences of working in the private sector environment. Zain also offered the students financial rewards in recognition of their efforts and as an encouragement to their dedication. Zain is proud to be one of the Strategic Partners of LOYAC since its inception, especially that it is considered one of the most prominent national programs that cater to the youth and offers them a healthy and empowering environment to develop their skills and talents in an educational, fun, and social atmosphere.

INJAZ Al-Arab 12th Young Entrepreneurs CompetitionDuring 2018, Zain sponsored the twelfth annual INJAZ Al-Arab Young Entrepreneurs Competition entitled ‘Next Stop.. Forward.’ The regional competition, organized by INJAZ Al-Arab and INJAZ Kuwait, was hosted last year by the State of Kuwait under the patronage of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The company’s support to this regional competition came as part of its Strategic Partnership with INJAZ Al-Arab, which extends throughout the years under the umbrella of Zain’s Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility strategy towards developing the youth and education sectors. The competition witnessed 80 students competing to represent 11 different countries from all over the Middle East and North Africa region.

The INJAZ Al-Arab Young Entrepreneurs Competition is the culmination of six months of experiential learning and application based on INJAZ Al-Arab’s internationally acclaimed Company Program, which is executed by a select group of corporate mentors who work hand-in-hand with students on establishing, marketing and liquidating a real business. The Competition is an annual celebration of the achievements of students who participated and won the National Company Program Competition in their countries after demonstrating sound knowledge in business planning, market research, marketing, sales and feasibility studies.

Makers Academy ProgramDuring 2018, Zain was the Strategic Partner of the Makers Academy program held in collaboration with the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs at the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC). Zain’s support to the program came in line with its strategy towards encouraging digital innovation, as the company is keen on contributing to the development and advancement of tech innovation within all age groups, including school children, with the aim of boosting their technology skills, as such skills are essential for the modern digital world.

The Makers Academy program was hosted at the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh throughout two weeks, where 50 students aged 11-15 from both public and private schools took part in exciting sessions that aimed at teaching them the basics of digital manufacturing, product design, inventions, project creation, 3D modeling and printing, robotics, electronics, and more.

Smartphone Photography Workshops During 2018, Zain organized three specialized workshops that covered the fundamentals of smartphone photography in collaboration with H&S Store. The workshops, held at the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh, were presented by professional photographers Abdulaziz Al-Suraya, Musaad Al-Obaid and Zainab Abdal. Zain organized the workshops in line with its continuous keenness to offer world-class specialized programs for those who are interested in developing their talents within all areas. Zain, being a leader in the Kuwaiti private sector, believes in the importance of enriching the talents of the community in which it operates by adopting such initiatives.

KILMITAIN 2.0 – The Innovation Series During 2018, Zain supported the KILMITAIN 2.0 Innovation Series organized by Khaleejesque Magazine and hosted by the Zain Innovation Center (ZINC) in the company’s main headquarters in Shuwaikh. The series featured unique monthly discussion sessions covering innovation and creativity within various fields, hosting many prominent innovators from Kuwait who shared their experiences, skills, and success stories with the audiences.

ING Creatives Program During 2018, Zain sponsored the latest edition of the ING Creatives Program that was held for the first time in Kuwait. The program, hosted at Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Cultural Center, organized creative design workshops featuring many internationally renowned designers, including a designer from NASA, a prominent meditative design practitioner from Boston, a sustainable design expert from Canada, and more.

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Why the Women’s Tennis Association rallied for Peng Shuai

A prominent Chinese citizen associated with a major international organisation disappears, then a letter is sent stating all is well. The organisation appears to accept the letter at face value although questions remain before the citizen emerges months later under duress. The circumstances are different but there is a similar thread to the disappearance of…

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Why the Women’s Tennis Association rallied for Peng Shuai

A prominent Chinese citizen associated with a major international organisation disappears, then a letter is sent stating all is well. The organisation appears to accept the letter at face value although questions remain before the citizen emerges months later under duress.
The circumstances are different but there is a similar thread to the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who last month accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct, and Meng Hongwei, the former head of Interpol, who disappeared on a trip to China in 2018 and 18 months later pleaded guilty to corruption. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Following Meng’s disappearance, Interpol largely appeared to accept his resignation letter and Secretary-General Jurgen Stock told the Associated Press news agency that the international police body was forbidden by internal rules to investigate.
Things could have turned out the same for Peng, a world-class athlete and Olympian, after a social media post about her ordeal with Zhang was deleted, except that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) immediately began to push back. Prominent tennis players also followed suit, including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
The WTA has also continued to raise questions even after Chinese state broadcaster CGTN shared an email on Twitter – purportedly from Peng – saying that she was “not missing” or “unsafe” and that reports of her allegations were “not true”. She reemerged in public a few days later and spoke to the International Olympic Committee over a now heavily-criticised video call.
“[It] remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said afterwards, stressing that the organisation remained concerned about her wellbeing.
The alleged email from Peng Shuai to Steve Simon that was aired on state broadcaster CGTN last month [CGTN/Twitter via Reuters]After the WTA’s repeated expressions of concern about Peng Shuai’s wellbeing, the IOC said it had held a video call with the player and released a still photo from the call [IOC via EPA]Late on Wednesday, the WTA announced the “immediate suspension” of all tournaments in China and Hong Kong. China hosted nine WTA events in 2019 and a year earlier signed a 10-year deal to host the WTA finals in Shenzhen, according to Reuters news agency.
“It’s really crazy that the Women’s Tennis Association has more credibility right now than Interpol in pushing back on China’s gross human rights abuses, abduction of members of its organisation, and poking holes in what is just thinly-veiled coercive statements and propaganda,” said Michael Caster, co-founder of the human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders, which monitors disappearances in China.
‘Not acceptable’
China’s foreign ministry has accused critics and media of “malicious hyping” and politicising Peng’s disappearance from public view.
Meanwhile, Zhang, the high-ranking party member at the centre of Peng’s allegations, has not been seen in public in several weeks, according to Caster.
He described Peng’s situation as part of the same “playbook” used by the Chinese government when concerns are raised about the wellbeing of a citizen or foreigner living in China – from human rights lawyer Wang Yu to Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin who went on to become one of the founders of Safeguard Defenders.
“These farcical public presentations from Peng Shuai are clearly scripted as part of a propaganda effort and we say that because we’ve seen this movie before,” Caster told Al Jazeera.
In announcing the suspension of tournaments, the WTA’s Simon stressed that China’s handling of Peng’s case was not acceptable and should not be allowed to become acceptable.
“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep sexual assault under the rug then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback,” Simon said in a statement. “I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

Game, set, and match to the @WTA in the grand slam for sports and human rights in #China! Steve Simon announces WTA’s decision to suspend tournaments in China… via @WTA https://t.co/LlZ7yW86BQ @hrw @MinkysHighjinks @hrw
— Sophie Richardson (@SophieHRW) December 1, 2021

I applaud Steve Simon & the @WTA leadership for taking a strong stand on defending human rights in China & around the world. The WTA is on the right side of history in supporting our players.
This is another reason why women’s tennis is the leader in women’s sports. https://t.co/PHiU0S7Prw
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 1, 2021
Other international sporting bodies have already been targeted by Beijing over positions taken by their players and officials.
China briefly stopped airing NBA games after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests and erased Premier League football player Mesut Ozil from the Chinese internet after he spoke out against China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs.
More recently, games involving the NBA’s Boston Celtics have been pulled from broadcast in China as Enes Kanter, their centre, continues to make criticisms about President Xi Jinping and China’s treatment of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet while also voicing support for Taiwan.
Moment of reckoning
The WTA, however, had political momentum and timing on its side allowing the organisation to take a calculated risk, says Simon Chadwick, a professor of international sports business at Emlyon Business School in France.
Peng’s case and allegations of sexual misconduct also come at a moment of reckoning in the sports world over #MeToo allegations and mental health following the public struggles of athletes like Osaka and American gymnast Simone Biles.
“Number one for the WTA is that women and girls are their core business. It’s what the organisation is founded upon and to not be seen as supporting someone who apparently has gone missing would undermine what the WTA does,” Chadwick said.
“My feeling is that the WTA probably made a calculation and decided that it stood to lose more globally by not saying anything, then it stood to lose by essentially standing up to China.”
Chadwick says that despite considerable investments in the Chinese tennis industry, women’s tennis has not taken off there as quickly as the WTA initially anticipated.
Its deal with China has also struggled as a result of the pandemic. So far, Shenzhen has hosted only one WTA finals event in 2019. The 2020 final was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus, and the 2021 event was moved to Mexico following another Covid-19 outbreak in China.
The NBA came under pressure in China after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protesters in 2019 [File: Xihao Jiang/Reuters]That may give the WTA the kind of latitude unavailable to groups like the IOC, which is due to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in February. That organisation has also suffered as a result of the pandemic with the Tokyo Olympics, pushed back a year and not attended by the usual number of spectators.
Following Peng’s disappearance, the IOC has said it would “continue our open dialogue on all levels with the Olympic movement in China” following questions about Peng, according to the Associated Press.
Emma Terho, the IOC Athletes Commission Chair, said on Twitter that the organisation prefers a policy of “quiet diplomacy”.
Based in the Republican state of Florida, the WTA may have also felt some political pressure beyond Beijing.
Washington is mulling a boycott of the Winter Games protest against human rights abuses in places like Xinjiang and Hong Kong, notes Chadwick.
“I wonder to what extent there may have been some political pressure from within the United States put on the WTA to respond in the way that it did. I think from the perspective of the WTA, they reacted very, very quickly… unusually quickly, within a matter of two or three days, he said. “And that is extremely unusual.”
On Wednesday, Simon expressed regret at having to suspend events in China, but he said he was “greatly concerned” at the risks players and staff could face if events were held in the country in 2022.
He once again urged Beijing to prove Peng was free, and able to speak “without interference or intimidation” and to fully investigate the allegations of assault.
“I remain hopeful that our pleas will be heard and the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue.”

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Mexico and US to launch plan to stem Central American migration

The vast majority of people heading to the US-Mexico border are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.Mexico’s foreign ministry has said the Mexican and US foreign development agencies will work together on a project to address the root causes of migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The “Planting Opportunities” project announced on Wednesday will…

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Mexico and US to launch plan to stem Central American migration

The vast majority of people heading to the US-Mexico border are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.Mexico’s foreign ministry has said the Mexican and US foreign development agencies will work together on a project to address the root causes of migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The “Planting Opportunities” project announced on Wednesday will bring together the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (Amexcid) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and target the three so-called Northern Triangle countries.
Migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador has fuelled record numbers of people being apprehended at the US-Mexico border, as asylum seekers have tried to enter the United States after fleeing poverty, violence and political instability.
The surge in arrivals has piled political pressure on the administration of US President Joe Biden, whose Republican rivals have accused him of causing “chaos” at the border.
Mexico’s National Guard has been dispatched along the country’s southern border with Guatemala and along main roads to stem the flow of migrants [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]During the last fiscal year, US authorities detained some 1.7 million people along the border.
The US has been increasingly reliant on Mexico to stem the flow of migrants, as it returns to Mexico the majority of people who arrive at the border under a Trump-era border restriction enacted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The US is also in talks with the Mexican government to restart a programme that would force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their US immigration court hearings.
Both Biden and Mexico’s leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have vowed to tackle what they call the “root causes” of migration.
They have pointed to poverty, lack of education and job opportunities, gang violence, political instability and corruption as some of the leading causes of migration, especially of young people.
The new US-Mexico collaboration will begin in Honduras, with an effort to teach job skills to more than 500,000 at-risk youth, the Mexican foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The department did not provide details about the programme or how much funding would be allocated for the scheme.
The project will bring together the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation and the United States Agency for International Development [File: Jose Torres/Reuters]As a presidential candidate, Lopez Obrador had touted social programmes aimed at creating better lives for people in Central American countries, which he said would discourage people from leaving.
But those plans were shelved after former US President Donald Trump took office and made hardline, anti-immigration measures the main focus of his government.
In recent years, Mexico has blocked several caravans of people seeking to reach the US. It also has dispatched its National Guard to the country’s southern and northern borders to try to keep people away.

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Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to return to fulfilling Tehran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal “without delay,” Macron’s office said, as negotiators seek to revive the accord through talks in Vienna.During telephone conversations on Monday, Macron urged Raisi to engage in a “constructive manner” with the talks,…

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Displaced Syrians face brutal winter exacerbated by economic collapse, charity warns

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, to return to fulfilling Tehran’s obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal “without delay,” Macron’s office said, as negotiators seek to revive the accord through talks in Vienna.During telephone conversations on Monday, Macron urged Raisi to engage in a “constructive manner” with the talks, which resumed this week after a suspension of almost half a year following the election of the hardliner to the Iranian presidency.European powers are seeking to revive the nuclear deal, more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It has been moribund since the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018, prompting Tehran to ramp up nuclear activities as Washington reimposed sanctions.France’s objective is “to see Iran return to full respect for all of its commitments under the JCPOA and that the United States returns to the agreement,” the French presidency said.Macron also “underscored the need for Iran to engage constructively in this direction so that the exchanges allow a swift return to the agreement,” it added.“Iran must return without delay to compliance with all its commitments and obligations … and quickly resume cooperation that allows the (UN atomic energy) agency to fully carry out its mission,” it said.Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri, adopted a hard-line approach after just one day of the resumed talks, suggesting that everything discussed during previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated.Speaking to Iranian state television, he described all that has been discussed so far as merely a “draft.”He added: “Drafts are subject to negotiation. Therefore nothing is agreed on unless everything has been agreed on.“On that basis, all discussions that took place in the (previous) six rounds (of talks) are summarized and are subject to negotiations. This was admitted by all parties in today’s meeting as well.”Bagheri’s remarks directly contradicted comments on Monday by EU diplomat Enrique Mora, who is leading the talks.“The Iranian delegation represents a new administration in Tehran with new, understandable political sensibilities, but they have accepted that the work done over the six first rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead, so no point in going back,” he said.Another state TV report highlighted Bagheri in Vienna saying that Iran demands a “guarantee by America not to impose new sanctions” or reimpose previously lifted sanctions.Mohammed Eslami, Iran’s civilian nuclear chief, reiterated this demand in comments to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.“The talks (in Vienna) are about the return of the US to the deal and they have to lift all sanctions and this should be in practice and verifiable,” he said.Raisi’s office said that he urged Macron “to strive with other parties in Vienna to conclude the negotiations and lift the sanctions against Iran.”Raisi said: “Sending a full team to the talks shows Iran’s serious will in these talks.”Referring to the US, he added: “Those who have started to violate the nuclear deal must gain the confidence of the other party for the negotiations to proceed in a real and fruitful manner.”

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