Featured conversations with business and government leaders shaping the Middle East.
empowerME Conversations is a project of the Atlantic Council’s empowerME initiative.
Season 2 Episode 6 - The Evolution of the Food and Beverage Sector in MENA with Tamer Mosalam
PepsiCo Vice President and General Manager for GCC and the Levant Tamer Mosalam joins Atlantic Council empowerME Conversations host Amjad Ahmad for a conversation about innovation and emerging opportunities for the food and beverage sector, the increase in women’s employment in Saudi Arabia, and ways governments and corporates can support entrepreneurs.
1:58 Tamer talks about the change in consumers over the last 24 months, and how they've now been defined as consumers at home
4:05 Tamer talks about the the younger population in the Middle East and how they are the key to shaping the future
6:04 Tamer talks about the effect Covid has had on innovation and supply chain of manufacturing materials for companies
8:36 Tamer details the importance of startups in the region and how growing the economy is reliant on their success
10:38 Tamer explains how PepsiCo is working with these startups and the programs they have created to help them launch and grow
13:35 Tamer talks about his excitement in the growth of e-commerce and digitization for entrepreneurs
16:16 Tamer talks about women empowerment and participation in Saudi Arabia
19:48 Tamer talks about consumers in the Middle East and how they are driving investors and companies into the region
25:30 Tamer explains the importance of the coming five years for healthier innovation
27:50 Tamer talks about how direct to home will transform supply chain in various industries and regions
32:14 Tamer details their recent investments in US plant based companies
33:35 Tamer talks about recycling and how it is a key factor for companies in the future
PepsiCo - PepsiCo, Inc. is an American multinational food, snack, and beverage corporation headquartered in Harrison, New York, in the hamlet of Purchase. PepsiCo's business encompasses all aspects of the food and beverage market. It oversees the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of its products.
"The first advice I would give that you have to read a lot. You have to educate yourself about the area where you're building your idea about. You're learning the different trends across the region and the world is very important and critical for ideas to shape up. And the minute those great ideas are shaped up, the appeal of funding is more comes their way as well."
"That also will make you think whether you replace your own delivery trucks with the delivery companies or that you will have more friendly and more environmentally friendly trucks going around the city or the consumer will go and pick their products from a distribution hub that will work with technology as well. I think the sky's the limit when it comes to that."
Guests Social Media Links:
Season 2 Episode 5 - Building Growth: The Future of MENA‘s Construction Sector with Samer Khoury
Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) Chairman Samer Khoury joins Atlantic Council empowerME Conversations host Amjad Ahmad for a conversation about the future of the construction industry, how companies can partner with and support startups, policies needed to boost the region’s economic growth, and ways to improve the talent pipeline and bring more women into the workforce.
1:36 Samer gives an overview of the region as it comes out of Covid and the push for megaconstruction across the Mena region
3:19 Samer talks about civil infrastructure and big commercial cities on rise like Neom, and how they are pushing towards greener energy
7:13 Samer explains how Covid slowed the process of project completion due to materials having slower transport times and being stuck outside of the countries
10:58 Samer talks about the countries currently with the highest FDI and how they are opening up to be more attractive to investors
12:50 Samer talks about how companies are creating STEM programs through universities to help college graduates enter the field of work with the knowledge needed to succeed
16:48 Samer talks about how Covid changed the work from home model and how online meetings can truly save on time and travel expenses and be beneficial to many companies
19:03 Samer breaks down the number and percentages of women in the workforce and how they are trying to grow with more women in the industry
21:52 Samer talks about the use of small companies and their partnerships so they can help develop their products in a beneficial way for both parties
27:27 Amjed raises a question on geopolitical risk and temperatures in certain regions being a risk factor for investments
30:17 Samer gives his three general trends that have him excited for the future
35:46 Samer gives his predictions and updates on where he see's his company CCC moving in the next decade
CCC: the largest construction company in the Middle East and ranks among the top 25 international contractors with a revenue of US$5.3 billion in 2013 and 7.4 billion by 2017.
FIFA World Cup: an international association football competition contested by the senior men's national teams of the members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the sport's global governing body.
ExxonMobil: an American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. It is the largest direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, and was formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil.
Chevron: an American multinational energy corporation. It is the second largest oil company in America. One of the successor companies of Standard Oil, it is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and active in more than 180 countries.
"Women are more meticulous, they're more hardworking, and they care a lot about their continuity because they have a family to care for. So I think this is a trend in the Middle East that we have lagged behind. And I can see it accelerating in the next few years somewhere."
"This is where you help your small, innovative ideas. You are their pilot projects and you can then scale them up. When they go out and they say we tried this on this project with CCC and now it's very good and we have all the data, all the history. They can get other clients and they can get more capital and then they can grow faster."
"There's a lack of cash, lack of funds. So basically, when you are on a limited budget, rather spend it on your own people rather than spent it somewhere else."
Guests Social Media Links:
Season 2 Episode 4 - Rejuvenating Retail with Alain Bejjani
Majid Al-Futtaim CEO Alain Bejjani joins Atlantic Council empowerME Conversations host Amjad Ahmad for a conversation about the future of retail in the Middle East, consumer desires for more modern and fulfilling experiences, and policies that will promote talent from the inside and economic growth.
1:13 Alain talks about the pandemic and what he is now seeing post pandemic given that he operates in different countries and its impact on business in the Middle East
5:20 Alain explains if the pandemic was the turning point of the economy especially in the Middle East region
12:19 Alain talks about the key areas that people need to focus on to keep the momentum of growth going and to even accelerate it especially in the Middle East
19:32 Alain talks about the importance of regional integrations and how he feels about where it’s headed to especially in the Middle East Region
21:10 Alain talks about the consumer trends that he is seeing in the Middle East region that have come up due to the pandemic
29:35 Alain also talks about retail, how the retail space is changing, how he sees retail going forward and if it’s dying
36:35 Alain shares his thoughts evolving around the digital entrepreneurship that's happening and how he sees that playing out
39:43 Alain talks about the lessons that he has learnt through the failures that he has encountered
41:44 Alain shares his advice to other entrepreneurs and also talks about the space that would invest in that would be good for business
Mall of Oman: http://mallofoman.net/
“The pandemic was a wakeup call on many aspects and a wakeup call for everyone, with no exception.”
“Different markets, different realities.”
“The well-being and the happiness of your citizens and residents matter.”
“You only know the value of what you have until you don't have it anymore.”
“One shouldn't waste any crisis or shouldn't let any crisis go to waste.”
“Retail is not going to die, retail will continue to be here, but it's going to be here in different ways.”
Guests Social Media Links:
Season 2 Episode 3 - The Path to 25 Healthcare Breakthroughs with Patrick van der Loo
Pfizer Regional President for Africa and Middle East Patrick van der Loo joins Atlantic Council empowerME Conversations host Amjad Ahmad for a conversation about the COVID vaccine rollout in the region, prospects for machine learning and AI to revolutionize healthcare, policies that will promote innovation, and ways companies can nurture women leaders in the workplace.
1:30 Patrick talks about his observations of what is happening in Africa and Middle East regions after rolling out the vaccine and other initiatives and what they are focused on
5:33 Patrick talks about the significant areas specifically in the Middle East that they are present in in the 19 country portfolio
7:39 Patrick talks about how the pandemic has affected their strategy or way of operating in the region
11:11 Patrick talks about the current trends and the role that Pfizer is playing in the SME and entrepreneurship and what he would tell the entrepreneurs to focus more on
15:53 Patrick talks about some of the interesting models of distribution that he is seeing in the Middle East
17:48 Patrick talks about the establishment of a manufacturing hub for the vaccine and where he sees that playing out during the pandemic
22:48 Patrick also explains if there is a more important than the other in terms of regulations to drive change in the positive direction
23:59 Patrick talks about what he has found to be interesting managing Middle East and Africa region and he is from Asia
28:07 Patrick talks about what it is about Pfizer that made him the most attractive place for women in the Middle East to work for and why they actively encourage the exchange of talent
34:30 Patrick talks about policies that are instrumental in allowing for retention of women employees at Pfizer and what other leaders should do
37:55 Patrick talks about what he thinks the government needs to do to increase the talent base in the Middle East region and specifically in his sector
41:08 Patrick talks about what he is expecting to see in the near future with regards to new variants of the pandemic popping up and with the manufacturing of the vaccine
African Union: https://au.int/
“Breakthroughs change patient lives.”
“Many of our go-to-market initiatives now are not the traditional rep just visiting a doctor model, but it's really driven by the use of A.I.”
“In every business, customers should come first.”
“We’re constantly searching for solutions that simplify that patient experience.”
“It takes a little bit more time to get also to the right level of vaccination.”
“You need a strong IP culture to help promote medical progress.”
“Many employers don't really listen to what the colleagues have to say.”
“Nobody had made or thought about a covid-19 vaccine until this pandemic.”
Guests Social Media Links:
Company Website: https://www.pfizer.com/
Season 2, Episode 2 - Democratizing Commerce with Ramez Shehadi
1:23 Ramez talks about digitization of the Middle East economy, what it means and what he is seeing on the ground
3:40 MENA internet penetration higher than global average (https://www.statista.com/statistics/265171/comparison-of-global-and-middle-eastern-internet-penetration-rate/)
5:22 Ramez shares some of the reasons why he feels that businesses are still struggling to join the digital world
7:55 100,000 UAE Golden Visas for coders: Who can apply and how (https://www.khaleejtimes.com/news/100000-uae-golden-visas-for-coders-who-can-apply-and-how)
8:53 Ramez talks about what he does with his role at Facebook to get more of the SMEs online and be digital
9:30 New unicorns spike 491% to 136 in Q2, says report (https://www.zawya.com/mena/en/business/story/New_unicorns_spike_491_to_136_in_Q2_says_report-SNG_226689313/)
11:10 Facebook launches #LoveLocal initiative in MENA (https://www.sme10x.com/10x-industry/facebook-launches-lovelocal-initiative-in-mena)
14:22 Ramez talks about how the pandemic has been kind of a wake up call for the SMEs to go big and digitalize
17:09 Huda Beauty (https://hudabeauty.com/us/en_US/home)
17:44 Will conversational commerce be the next big thing in online shopping? (https://www.economist.com/business/2021/07/10/will-conversational-commerce-be-the-next-big-thing-in-online-shopping)
18:04 Ramez talks about e-commerce and c-commerce and how they are evolving in the Middle East region and what plans Facebook has towards that
22:42 Dubai 'ghost kitchen' Kitopi is adjusting to life in a pandemic (https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ghost-kitchens-kitopi-spc-intl/index.html)
27:06 Ramez talks about the transformation of Facebook in terms of the revenue structure and how it changes as the environment changes
29:15 Ramez talks about advertisements in the Middle East and if it has fully digitalized in terms of even putting the advertiser's money online
32:18 Ramez also talks about scalability and how brands are being able to scale globally thanks to platforms like Facebook especially in the Middle East
36:16 Ramez talks about what people should be focusing on in the ecosystem for them to be successful especially in the Middle East
39:15 Ramez talks about entrepreneurship and why we need to widen its definition so as to even accommodate the small businesses and what can be done to help the SMEs
42:36 Ramez talks about how Facebook balances its business goals and the social issues especially in the Middle East region
MENA Region: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MENA
Huda Beauty: https://hudabeauty.com/us/en_US/home
“If we want to evolve the general wellness and well-being of communities in our part of the world, we must significantly invest in enabling, equipping, and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises.”
“The lifeblood of communities in our part of the world is the micro small and medium enterprises.”
“Covid-19 forced us to rethink the power of digital connectivity out of existential need.”
“Our journey is only 1% complete.”
“The only thing standing in our way is ourselves.”
“The pessimist may be right, but the optimist will be rich.”
“Failure is the path to success.”
“We have to invest in our small and medium businesses.”
“70% of job growth in the US comes from SMEs.”
“Half the battle is just getting out of everybody's way.”
“Throwing money at the problem is not the issue.”
“Be committed to learning, improving, evolving.”
Guests Social Media Links:
Season 2, Episode 1 – Transforming Logistics with Jean-Francois Condamine
UPS President for Indian subcontinent, Middle East, and Africa Jean-Francois Condamine on the e-commerce boom in the Middle East, promoting sustainability in the logistics industry, and empowering small and medium enterprises to become regional and global exporters.
1:10 Jean-Francois talks a little bit about the current state of the logistics industry in the Middle East
2:00 Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince launches National Transport and Logistics Strategy (https://english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2021/06/30/Saudi-Arabia-s-Crown-Prince-launches-National-Transport-and-Logistics-Strategy)
5:05 E-commerce in the region set to be worth $48bn by 2022 (https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/technology/e-commerce-in-the-region-set-to-be-worth-48bn-by-2022-1.745643)
6:16 2020 UPS Corporate Sustainability Report (https://about.ups.com/us/en/social-impact/environment/climate/2020-ups-corporate-sustainability-report.html)
8:55 Jean-Francois explains if the new Saudi strategy is trying to compliment or compete with UAE in terms of positioning in the logistics industry
12:08 Jean-Francois talks about the trends in terms of the e-commerce companies looking to enter the Saudi market, the challenges they face, and if the market is expanding
14:01 Jean-Francois talks about digitalization and how it enables the ease of doing business and facilitation
15:25 Jean-Francois talks about the similar characteristics that the best-emerging markets have other markets could learn from for them to also be good
17:36 Jean-Francois talks about how different economies pivoted and sort of transformed themselves during the pandemic
18:00 Dubai restructures business chambers to lead 'economic transformation' (https://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/465250-dubai-restructure-business-chambers-to-lead-economic-transformation)
19:44 Jean-Francois talks about the role that UPS is playing and the programs that it has embarked on in helping the SMEs expand in the market
20:28 The impact of SMEs on the UAE's economy (https://u.ae/en/information-and-services/business/crowdfunding/the-impact-of-smes-on-the-uae-economy)
21:24 UPS Women Exporters Program (https://www.ups.com/us/en/services/small-business/women-exporters-program.page)
25:14 Jean-Francois talks about why the SMEs need to be exporting their products outside of their own geography
26:18 UPS Smart Logistics Challenge - AstroLabs (https://astrolabs.com/ups-smart-logistics-challenge#:~:text=UPS%20partnered%20with%20AstroLabs%20in%20advance%20of%20Expo,solutions%20with%20UPS%20in%20an%20emerging%20markets%20context.)
26:45 Jean-Francois talks about why they decided to partner with logistics startups rather than compete with them
29:30 Jean-Francois talks about what they are focusing on in the logistics technologies that they need to pay attention to that could be exciting in the next decade
30:53 Jean-Francois explains if we should expect to see an all-electric lead in the region and why it is important
31:54 Jean-Francois talks about the short term changes that he would like to see in the region pertaining to increase in GDP and economic activities
Atlantic Council: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/
Expo 2020: https://www.expo2020dubai.com/
SMBs or SMEs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_and_medium-sized_enterprises
“You cannot be unsustainable.”
“The biggest mall in Dubai is open during the night.”
“There is always room to grow.”
“What the pandemic brought very clearly is a change in consumption.”
“Be humble because if you are not humble, you miss a step.”
“Delivering a package will still remain A to B and doing it right the first time.”
“Put people at parity with compliance.”
“Compliance is the key.”
Guests Social Media Links:
Excellent podcast about Middle East business topics
Great podcast! Fascinating to hear insights from entrepreneurs behind successful new companies in the Middle East.
There’s more to the Middle East than you think!
I am already enjoying this podcast! It gives you insight on business and a new perspective on the Middle East that we don’t see in the U.S. media. Looking forward to hearing from more entrepreneurs overseas and moving away from the silly idea that females don’t belong in these spaces. Thank you!