Cairo hosts largest gathering for Arab business leaders


Cairo will today host the largest business gathering for leaders of regional Arab companies and fund representatives.

Thirty Arab CEO’s and businessmen from the Gulf states, the Arab Maghreb, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt will participate in the meeting, which will be held at the initiative of Engineer Rashid Mohammed Rashid, minister of trade and industry and acting investment minister, as part of the search for a realistic and practical vision to deepen Arab economic cooperation, increase inter-Arab trade, and support common Arab investments.

“Modeled on the European Chief Executives Council, the group is a new arm consisting of a broad base of elites and specialists in the management of investment portfolios in the Arab region,” said Rashid. “It works hand in hand with Arab federations to promote Arab economic cooperation and increase inter-Arab trade and common investments, especially since the participating businessmen own investments in the Arab region estimated at more than $500 billion. A permanent structure for this group will be set up so that it will serve as an Arab business initiative holding regular meetings to establish mechanisms for increasing common Arab trade and investments.”

The minister said the gathering, which is the first of its kind, will discuss a number of issues with a view toward formulating an integrated and modern vision where Arab resources and capabilities are mobilized and directed toward the economic and social development in the Arab region. The aim is to raise people’s standard of living and create new job opportunities for the Arab people. He noted that all the organizations and mechanisms of Arab economic action in the past 50 years failed to activate Arab economic cooperation or turn the common Arab market dream into reality.

He said the leaders of the largest Arab companies are basically meeting to prepare for the Arab economic summit, scheduled to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in January, and draw up realistic and specific action plans by the Arab private sector to participate in the economic and social development process. He said these plans will be presented to the Arab kings and presidents to discuss and approve so that the economic summit can fulfill the ambitions and aspirations of the Arab peoples.

Participants in the Arab business initiative come from various economic sectors. They will meet twice a year in plenary sessions where programs of action will be prepared, priorities will be determined, and specialized working groups will be set up to advance these priorities. The secretary general will be in charge of a small Cairo-based secretariat that will coordinate projects and serve as a focal point providing administrative support and publishing the reports of the Arab business initiative.

Rashid said that decisions will be made through consensus and that the top Arab businessmen will make recommendations on common Arab economic action and opportunities of cooperation between Arab businessmen and Arab governments and leaders in their annual summits. He said the members will work to promote the Arab economic and social development and enhance inter-Arab trade, services, and investments. They will also work to improve the business environment, strengthen companies’ competitive abilities, encourage creativity and initiative, and introduce the region to the world.

He stressed that members of the initiative are able to convey their views to the political decision-makers through reports and face-to-face discussions.

He said each member can also pass on views to his local government through cooperation with other businessmen, economic associations, public opinion leaders, and the press.

The participants in this Arab initiative include HE Khadeem Al Darei, deputy chairman of Al-Dahra Agricultural Company, one of the companies of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed; Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Saudi Zamil Group; Engineer Khaldoun Al-Mawkie, chairman of the Syrian side to the Egyptian-Syrian Business Council; Hussein Al Shobakshi, Al-Futtaim Group chairman; Farag Imran Mahmoud, chairman of the Arabian Capital Investment and Finance Company; Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the Bin-Zayed Group; Mohammed Al-Shaya, chairman of the Executive Management Council of Mohammed Humud Al-Shaya Company; Mohammed Al Abbar, chairman of Emaar Properties; Firas Tlass, chairman of MAS Economic Group; and Ahmed Al Suwaidi, chairman of Al-Suwaidi Electric.

The Arab business initiative seeks to deepen Arab economic cooperation and give impetus to economic integration by identifying promising investment opportunities in the Arab region and enhancing partnership between governments and the private sector in major projects such as infrastructure projects. The initiative members will be in constant touch with government establishments to discuss the best possible mechanisms to facilitate the movement of Arab capital, investments, commodities, services, and human resources and to improve the Arab citizens’ standard of living, provide new job opportunities for the Arab youths, and support foreign economic relations through agreements to create free trade with neighboring blocks, especially the EU. They will also work to secure the necessary requirements to support trade, discuss tax systems in the Arab region, and draft plans and programs to develop small and medium industries.

The initiative will have several key missions, most notably the special recommendations it will submit to the 2011 Arab summit. The missions also include the development of sustainable energy sources in the Arab region and the establishment of a federal fund for mega Arab League projects.