“To be able to tackle climate change, to be able to tackle food security, to be able to deliver on the [UN’s] Sustainable Development Goals, which is Agenda 2030, one critical aspect will lie with the quality of education — and quality of our education not just for boys, but also for girls,” Gurib-Fakim told Anadolu Agency.
Gurib-Fakim was in Istanbul to attend the World Congress of World Business Angel Investment Forum (WBAF 2020), which was held from Feb. 17-18.
The two-day event, for which Anadolu Agency is the global communications partner, was attended by 1,500 delegates and hosted seven summits and two investment meetings.
Gurib-Fakim mentioned the importance of education at a very young age, “because in our country — when I say our countries, many African countries, many Muslim countries — girls are married off at a very early age, sometimes 15-16.”
“We need more women on board. We need more women to be educated.
“We will never win a football match if we leave 50% of the team on the bench, so it’s impossible,” she added.
Gurib-Fakim was elected as the first female and Muslim president of Mauritius, a small island nation in the India Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa.
She said that climate change “presents an existential threat” due to rising sea levels threatening the island country.
“What people don’t seem to realize is that the rising of the sea level is one thing, and we have seen already for the past two years increased flooding across the world, and for us is also addressing food security,” she said. “So it’s going to impact food security because we mustn’t forget that [the people of] the island usually get up to 15% of the protein in their diet from fish.”
– ‘Istanbul is my second home’
The former Mauritian president described Istanbul as her “second home”.
“Istanbul has a special feel to it. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And it’s a city where all civilization has been here. And so whenever you come to Istanbul, you’re going to a living museum,” Gurib-Fakim added.
Highlighting the importance of the forum, Gurib-Fakim said that it was especially important for “my continent, the African continent, we will increasingly be looking for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs”.
“Because on the continent, we have at least 11 million graduates landing in the job market every year,” she said, adding: “And the way technology is moving with the ever-increasing presence of artificial intelligence and automation, which is happening everywhere, jobs will not be created so easily.”
“So we need more young people to become entrepreneurs, to become job creators,” she said.
– First female Muslim president of her country
In 2015, Gurib-Fakim, who is also a university professor, was appointed to the ceremonial position of president of the country.
“The world of politics chose me when they were going for election. And they felt that they needed somebody who was not untainted politically […] a woman and also Muslim,” she said.
“And so they asked me, but initially I was not very keen because I had some idea of what the political world meant, but [they] keep on insisting that it was not a political post […] So I can say that I’m an accidental president,” she added.
In Mauritius, the prime minister is head of the government and holds most political power while the president is head of state but has no executive role.
She served for her country between 2015 and 2018 for three years.
“At the personal level for my family, it was a very special moment to have been able to serve my country at this very high level,” she added.