unctad.org | Youth, technology and the power of hands-on experience
Youth, technology and the power of hands-on experience
04 May 2018
Written by
Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD

Here at the Business Development Centre in the Jordanian capital Amman, a group of youngsters proudly show off their robotics projects.

Eleven-year-old Selma presents hers in perfect English. She explains the workings of the chocolate-sorting machine that she designed and built herself.

At school and in her spare time, she attended the workshops of the International Robotic Academy, set up by Lama Sha'sha'a, a laureate of UNCTAD’s Empretec programme for empowering entrepreneurs.

Other girls working – and having fun – at the cutting edge of technology present us with an articulated arm that they have designed for handling dangerous products.

And Nadir, aged 12, shows us his solar panel cleaning machine, which helps overcomes hurdles to electricity production. As he wisely points out, it must be operated at night!

These children are the epitome of the impact of the work of the International Robotic Academy, which the founder would like all Jordanian schoolchildren to benefit from, from the age of six upwards.

"As technology becomes increasingly important in today's world it is invaluable to learn how to use it but furthermore to understand how to create it through experience,” says Lama Sha'sha'a.


After the children came the women – and some men – trained by Empretec. They explained their projects, presenting their products or the services they have created in the most diverse fields: an application for children's leisure, beauty products, food products, electrical measuring tools, a speech recognition application, cleaning products, crafts made by women from the most remote areas of the country.

The director of the Business Development Centre presented Empretec and what makes its work so sharp. And women entrepreneurs explained how Empretec training has helped them to move forward, to understand their own weaknesses and to overcome them.

Whether it’s at international conferences or on the ground, it’s the networking spirit that makes the difference.


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