In Focus

An Emphasis on Ethics

Our very own Ioana Belu describes her participation at the World Economic Forum for Middle East and Africa: "My favorite part of this entire event was the focus on ethics all throughout. I was particularly pleased to hear Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of #AI in the #UAE put such a clear emphasis on it and getting the nod of approval from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa Al Nahyan while at it, during the conference on The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Arab World conference. I know there's a lot of skepticism out there, but I witnessed what truly seemed to be real commitment, going beyond political correctness, and that gave me hope."


Media Release

Iraq’s Rehabilitation Continues

The summer months have seen Iraq continue with its quota-busting production run. According to figures from S&P Global Platts, the country added another 10,000 barrels per day in July, taking output to 4.78 million bpd, leaving it 270,000 bpd over its OPEC compliance target, due to higher crude exports from its southern terminals. Once again, it seems, Iraq is a force to be reckoned with in the global oil markets.

If the south of the country is Iraq’s oil and gas powerhouse, then Basra is its engine. The region is home to 70 per cent of the country’s natural gas and 60 per cent of its crude oil reserves, including supergiant fields such as Rumaila, Majnoon, Zubair and West Qurna I and II. With its sea ports, Basra is also the main export gateway for the country’s oil and gas riches, making it of vital strategic importance and the focus of much-needed investment to unplug the midstream bottlenecks that could undermine future production growth.


Energy as Catalyst

The new gas discoveries bring important investment opportunities to the region and the potential for nations to come together in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Consumption of liquefied natural gas (LNG) all over the world has been on an upward trend for several years and the surge in supply is expected to only increase in the future (by 45 percent between 2015 and 2021). New LNG projects are expected to add 175 billion cubic meters (bcm) to the market by 2020, coming mainly (90 percent of it) from Australia and the United States, an increase based on investment decisions taken before the gas price plunge. Increased supply can only bring the prices further down and the major exporters can only look towards smaller profits, as a significant cost would have to be added for liquefaction, transportation, and regasification.

A solution to maintaining higher margins and controlling variable costs is developing new gas fields in areas closer to the demand markets, which is why the new exploration contracts in the Eastern Mediterranean appeal to the world’s largest gas companies, such as BP, ExxonMobil, Statoil, ENI, Total, Qatar Petroleum, and Cairn.

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Main Stories
Banque du Caire - the largest IPO to take place in Egypt since 2010

Tarek Fayed, Chairman & CEO of Banque du Caire, sat down for an exclusive interview with Ioana Belu of Business Intelligence Unit, and talked about the bank's African ambitions and it's soon-to-hit-the-market IPO.

As chair of the African Union, Egypt has committed to enhancing its position as a key point of connection for investors looking to approach the African continent. In line with this agenda, the government has urged local private companies to enter African markets and play an active role in the continent’s rapid growth.

Banque du Caire (BdC), currently fully owned by the state and one of the biggest banks in Egypt, is among the Egyptian entities heeding the call with the recent purchase of its formerly partially owned franchise in Uganda, accompanied by an increase in its capital, a complete change of board and management, and a full revamp of its scope in order to cater to the wider East Africa and COMESA region.

Arab Education Should Focus on Early Childhood and Adoption of Technology, Say Regional Leaders

 Leading policy-makers and academics called for education reform in the Middle East and North Africa, as the region faces a triple challenge of 22 million children out of school or at risk of dropping out, high youth unemployment, and diverging access to and quality of public and private education. As solutions, they pointed to technology as an educational tool, life-long and vocational learning, and public-private cooperation.

“Today, governments are struggling between getting the basics done and dealing with emerging conflicts,” said Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa. But necessity and urgency can also help leaders to “think out of the box,” he added. In those circumstances, “basic technology can be used to help advance education, particularly at the literacy level.”

Pre-school is the best place to focus investments and introduce these basic technologies, said Maysa Jalbout, Chief Executive Officer of Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, United Arab Emirates. Only 31% of children in the region are currently enrolled at this stage, with most of them enrolled in private education. The result is that “inequity in education starts at this very early stage,” she said, because pre-school is the most crucial time for learning outcomes later. These technologies and their capabilities should come from within the Arab region, not from import or “copy-pasting”.

“If you don’t develop your indigenous capability, you cannot sustain the results,” said Tony F. Chan, President of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. He called for “multigenerational” investments, both at the research university level and at the kindergarten level. Inherently, it shouldn’t be a problem: “Algorithmic thinking is an Arab invention,” he said.

For Working Women in the Arab World, Equality Is a Moral Demand

A group mostly made up of female leaders pleaded for a mix of government measures, a cultural shift, and more widely held meritocratic standards to unlock the full potential of Arab women in the workforce.


In a session at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, senior executives and policy-makers on the panel put the onus on individual persistence and meritocracy, while a new generation underlined that equality is – first and foremost – a matter of morality. The market power of women’s increased participation in the workforce could add an estimated $2.7 trillion to the economy on the Middle East and North Africa by 2025, the panel said. This potential is made possible by the increased number of women being educated and going to university, and a shift in laws and culture. But to get ahead, women still need to clear a lot of hurdles.


“You need to be committed and hard-working, of course,” said Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt. “But you also need a conducive environment. This is where affirmative action matters.” Nasr is one of a record eight female ministers in the Egyptian government and part of a broader societal shift. For Arab women, “economic empowerment is a means to political and social empowerment,” she said.

Some favour more government intervention, including in parental leave policies, to accelerate change. “The way business currently works, is not friendly for the family,” said H.R.H. Princess Dina Mired, President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). “Usually the woman takes the cut.” As a solution, she suggested that “society should support the family more,” and mandate better parental leave, including for men.

A survey revealed during the panel showed that 66% of employees “believe that governments should intervene in private-sector companies and set targets for gender diversity.” Hani Ashkar, Senior Partner, Middle East, PwC, agreed. “We’ve forced a target of 50% of women at the entry level, and it has changed the company,” he said. But he acknowledged that shortcomings remain. “We’re still very light at the top. That’s an issue,” he said.

Hope and Opportunities for Youth Seen as Keys to Combat Radicalization

People from all walks of life need to contribute in their own ways to help provide opportunity and hope for young people to keep them from being radicalized by extremist groups such as ISIS. “Terrorists prey on injustice and desperation,” said Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), USA. That was the consensus of a multistakeholder panel on radicalization, which took place at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa today. “They start working with children when they are four, five or six,” said Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “Often their parents are needy. By the time they are 14-15 they know nothing but violence.” Education was highlighted as a key factor to combat radicalization. Efforts need to be concentrated in places where young people are easily recruited: sporting organizations, places of worship, prisons and on social media. Inflammatory messages and videos need to be culled from social media, argued Ibn Ziaten.