|Charles Yang||Olayan Alwetaid|
|Fahad Al Hassawi||Raghu Malhotra|
|Eng. Hatem Dowidar||Ronaldo Mouchawar|
|Hossam Seif El-Din||Dr. Saeeda Jaffar|
|Lino Cattaruzzi||Sayed Hashish|
|Mo Ali Yusuf||Talal Al Ajmi|
Huawei Middle East
Charles Yang has been the president of Huawei Middle East since 2015, but he’s been working for the technology giant for more than 22 years, in roles in both China and Saudi Arabia.
Before he started at Huawei, Yang gained a bachelor’s degree at Chongqing University of Post and Telecommunications in China.
In January of 2021, Huawei announced plans to open its largest flagship store outside of China. The store will be in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh Front, a popular retail complex. The firm partnered with Saudi Arabian developer Kaden Investments for the project, which will aim to showcase how its technology can help to bring 5G and artificial intelligence into everyday life.
In an article for Arabian Business earlier this year, Yang wrote that there’d been one silver lining to the recent pandemic, pointing out that “digitalisation was accelerated as tech innovation occurred more rapidly than almost ever before. From healthcare to education and retail, businesses and consumers have rapidly increased their use of connected technologies in the Middle East”.
Recently, Huawei has made strides in expanding 5G networks across the Middle East. The company has been researching 5G capabilities since 2009 and investing billions of dollars in research and development, as well as invested in innovation programmes throughout the region. Yang believes that the ICT industry is fundamental for today’s digital economy, and has made a commitment to develop 100,000 ICT talents in the Middle East over the next three years. To help achieve this goal, the company has recently launched several programs such as the Seize the Future ICT competition, ICT academy, and ICT labs.
Huawei also announced in September of 2021 that it would be investing $15m over the next three years as part of its new Huawei Cloud Oasis Programme. The initiative, which is aimed at fostering and accelerating new technology businesses and innovations across the region, will help support over 1,500 partners and 100 SMEs.
Fahad Al Hassawi
In June 2021, Fahad Al Hassawi was named the permanent chief executive officer of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, which operates under the du brand in the UAE. Having previously served as the acting CEO, Al Hassawi was entrusted by the EITC board to steer the organisation’s transformation agenda.
The 15-year EITC veteran assumed the role of acting CEO in September 2020, and since then, he has guided the company into two consecutive quarters of growth, quadrupling net profits during the period.
Al Hassawi has been with EITC since 2006, and has worked in various roles including chief commercial officer at du, as well as deputy CEO of EITC, overseeing telecom operations, including the du and Virgin brands.
Before working at du, Al Hassawi spent seven years working for Emirates, where his roles included vice president of Human Resources, manager of National Recruitment and Development, performance development manager, and senior industrial engineer. He also worked with Dubai Police as a First Lieutenant Engineer for a year.
He gained a masters in industrial engineering at the University of Miami, and also studied for a year at an executive development program at the London Business School.
One of the two main telecom operators in the UAE, du was launched in February 2007, and has gone from strength to strength ever since. In 2021, EITC signed financing agreements worth more than AED3.7 billion ($1bn) to support future growth. In a filing to Dubai Financial Market, the company said its board of directors approved the long-term financing with a group of banks.
In April of this year, EITC announced a net profit of AED257m for the first quarter of the year, down 27.6 percent from the same period in 2020. Financial results showed revenues of AED2.88bn, which was 5.2 percent higher than the previous quarter but 3.7 percent lower than the first three months of last year.
Eng. Hatem Dowidar
Hatem Dowidar first joined Etisalat Group in September 2015 as group chief operating officer and a year later he was appointed as chief executive officer, International of Etisalat Group, in March 2016. In 2020, he was named the Group CEO, and is now in charge of an international workforce of more than 46,000 people. He sits on the subsidiaries’ boards in Morocco, Egypt and Pakistan.
Now one of the world’s biggest telecom operators, with a presence in 16 countries, Etisalat is valued at more than $10 billion.
Prior to working for Etisalat Group, Dowidar was the group chief of staff for Vodafone Group based in London, reporting to the Vodafone Group CEO. He has 30 years of experience in multinational companies, and more than 24 years of these within the telecommunications industry across various leadership positions in multinational companies.
He initially joined Vodafone Egypt in 1999, and served as marketing director (CMO) before eventually becoming the CEO of Vodafone Egypt from 2009 to 2014. In that role, he managed to take the business to out-right leadership, and kept the business growing with benchmark profitability in very challenging and competitive environments.
Dowidar has a long track record of achievements in the various leadership positions he held at Vodafone Group and its subsidiaries, including group core services director, CEO of Vodafone Malta, CEO of partner markets (with partnerships covering over 45 markets) and regional director Emerging Markets. He also has extensive corporate governance experience thanks to his representation as chairman and board member on several corporate boards both within and outside the telecommunications industry.
Dowidar started his career in AEG/Deutsche Aerospace (Daimler Benz Group) in Egypt, before later moving to marketing in Procter & Gamble, where he held various managerial roles. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Electronics Engineering from Cairo University, as well as an MBA from the American University in Cairo.
Hossam Seif El-Din
Vice president, Enterprise and Commercial
IBM Middle East and Africa
Hossam Seif El-Din is the general manager of IBM in the Middle East and Pakistan region, and was appointed to the role in 2013, having held a number of other roles at the technology company since 1996, including systems engineer, territory manager for Saudi Arabia, and strategy, industry and value creation manager.
In his capacity as general manager, El-Din is responsible for formulating and executing IBM’s strategy across the region, expanding the company’s footprint, offerings and services, and developing high performance local teams.
El-Din also oversees IBM’s day-to-day business operations across the Middle East and Pakistan, and is in charge of offices in countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Pakistan.
He began his tenure at IBM in Egypt, before moving to Dubai back in 2004. With more than 25 years of industry experience, El-Din has held a number of strategic and leadership roles across the region. Before taking his most recent role, he spent eight years as vice president Enterprise and Commercial for IBM Middle East and Africa, where he led the corporations sales and expansion throughout the region. At the same time, he was charged with taking on various additional responsibilities, including acting General Manager for IBM in Africa and acting general manager for IBM in the Middle East and Pakistan. El-Din holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, as well a Diploma in Management from Henley University in the UK.
Last year, El-Din wrote for Arabian Business about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had had on IBM, and what the company had learned over the course of the global crisis. According to recent research from IBM, nearly five in ten organisations in the UAE are increasingly prioritising their digital transformation over the next two years due to the disruption of the pandemic, and IBM and El-Din will be on hand to assist.
In January 2017, the technology giant Google appointed Lino Cattaruzzi as their new managing director, to lead its business operations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Since then, Cattaruzzi has led efforts to enable local business partners to scale their growth online and engage more with consumers, as well as to help the wider digital ecosystem through scalable programs and initiatives.
In 2019, Cattaruzzi was in charge of the launch of some of Google’s newest products and programs, many of which had been designed specifically for the Gulf region, such as an Arabic version of YouTube Music, and Google Assistant. He also oversaw an economic recovery program in the region, which was designed to assist the local retail and tourism sectors through partnerships with local governments.
Google also works with the MiSK foundation in Saudi Arabia. Founded by Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2011, the organisation aims to help young men and women to browse the internet smartly and safely. Here in the UAE, it has signed a partnership agreement with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce to make businesses with an online presence more accessible in an easy and scalable way.
The MENA region ranks as one of YouTube’s biggest success stories, and is ranked second in the world by the number of daily views across the video streaming website. Google aims to grow this further, and in 2018, it opened up a YouTube Space for content creators in Dubai Studio City.
Cattaruzzi worked with Google for eight years before taking this role. He has over 20 years of experience in the tech industry, where he previously led the Google business in Mexico as country director and before that in Argentina.
He also spearheaded the global sales strategy team for online media solutions at Google’s headquarters in California, and was in charge of the online sales organisation for Germany, Switzerland and Austria while he was based out of Dublin, where the country’s European operations HQ is located.
Mo Ali Yusuf
MENAP Regional Manager
Mohammed ‘Mo’ Ali Yusuf is a global fintech and ecommerce leader, and is the regional manager for Checkout.com in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan (MENAP) region. Standing at the forefront of embedding digital payments into societies across the MENAP region, he works closely with governments, regulators, card schemes, and central banks across the region.
Ali Yusuf joined the company in January of 2020. It was launched in 2012, and has gone on to become a market leader.
Today, Checkout.com helps global organisations to both grow and scale their businesses by unlocking more value from every transaction. It has payment experts throughout the UAE, KSA, and Pakistan who drive the best payment performance, and work alongside leading brands such as Careem, Deliveroo, Talabat, Zomato, and many more.
Using a cloud-based payments platform, Checkout.com makes transactions quicker and more secure. Since it was founded, it has 19 offices around the world, supporting thousands of businesses with payments in more than 150 different currencies.
Digital services such as Checkout.com are helping to transform the payments landscape, especially after the recent pandemic. Speaking to Arabian Business in 2021, Ali Yusuf said: “Many traditionally cash-centric countries in the Middle East are now converting to higher rates of digital payments. The pandemic has spurred a payments revolution of sorts, and it is not one that is going away.”
Ali Yusuf brings to the role over two decades of experience in the banking, payments, and fintech industries, previously serving as a senior leader in Visa, Booz & Company, and Emirates NBD.
He worked for the BMO Financial Group as a digital banking IT project manager in Toronto, Canada before he began working here in the UAE.
Olayan Alwetaid was announced as the group CEO of STC, the Saudi Telecom Company, in January of 2021, and he was officially appointed in March. The company is the biggest telecoms operator in Saudi Arabia by market value, and it was founded in 1998.
Alwetaid has more than 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before joining STC, he worked for Aramco. His position before taking on the role of group CEO was the senior vice president of the consumer unit, a job he held for more than two years.
He also sits on the boards for several of STC’s subsidiaries, including Channels, CCC, and Intigral. Alwetaid has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the King Fahd of Petroleum Minerals University in Saudi Arabia.
STC is owned by Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which has a 70 percent stake in the company. Headquartered in Riyadh, the company employs more than 13,500 people in the kingdom alone, as well as 19,000 more across the wider region.
Earlier this year, in April 2021, STC announced a 1.3 percent increase in first quarter net profit and revealed double digit growth.
Alwetaid recently announced that STC was committed to being a greener, environmentally friendly, and more sustainable company. Speaking at the MWC Barcelona conference, he said: “We understand that as a MENA digital enabler we have a duty to our country in Saudi Arabia and to our customers to ensure we are operating in a sustainable manner.”
Some of the company’s initiatives include developing renewable energy at its campuses and facilities in the kingdom, as well as reducing its overall energy consumption. It’s also supporting the Saudi Green Initiative, which is aiming to plant 50 billion trees around the globe.
At the same time, the firm is also playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation of Saudi Arabia, and working to roll out and implement 5G technology across the country.
MasterCard Middle East and Africa
Raghu Malhotra is the president of MasterCard Middle East and Africa, and he sits on the company’s global management committee. He is responsible for driving the company’s global strategy across 69 markets and, over the past couple of years, he has led the firm’s transition to becoming a pioneer in bringing new electronic payment solutions and services to the region, spanning safety, security, data, artificial intelligence – and helping advance social progress and inclusive growth at the same time.
Under his expert leadership and guidance, MasterCard has expanded its collaboration with central governments and public sector authorities, partnering to enhance the region’s infrastructure and digital ecosystem.
This includes developing a number of technology global firsts, which are impacting the lives of millions of people: empowering citizens and businesses by creating interoperable mobile ecosystems; launching lending platforms which digitise and revolutionise supply chain management; bringing new levels of security to online and in-store purchases; and introducing new energy and agriculture digital solutions to enable greater access and financial inclusion.
Malhotra has held a number of senior leadership roles at MasterCard, encompassing multiple countries and functions. He is a member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry International Advisory Council.
He said: “SMEs are the engine of economic prosperity. In the UAE alone, the SME sector represents more than 98 percent of the total number of companies and contributes 52 percent of non-oil GDP. It is also a fact that the SME sector was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, specifically female-managed businesses. This is why MasterCard has made the commitment to include 50 million SMEs into the digital economy by 2025, with a direct focus on 25 million women entrepreneurs.”
Vice President of Amazon MENA
Amazon / Souq.com
Ronaldo Mouchawar was the head of Souq.com, an ecommerce firm that was acquired by technology and retail giant Amazon in 2017 for approximately $583m, in what was one of the biggest tech acquisitions the region had seen at the time.
He assumed the role of vice president for Amazon in the region in 2017. Mouchawar is also a regular speaker, investor, and mentor for tech startups all over the Middle East. He is also a veteran of Maktoob, the internet portal that was purchased by Yahoo in 2009.
Amazon launched Amazon.ae in May 2019 after acquiring and rebranding Souq.com. Amazon.sa followed shortly after, in 2020.
“With both transitions, we brought world-class technology, best practices and learnings to the local market. Since the launch, we have been able to bring customers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia millions of products locally and from other markets such as Amazon US and UK,” noted Mouchawar.
“In an industry that evolves so quickly, it’s important to remain ahead. At Amazon, we always talk about it being ‘Day One’, which means that we constantly act like a start-up – being obsessed with the customer, focussing on results over process, making decisions quickly and embracing trends quickly.”
In April 2021, Amazon MENA announced that UAE Prime members could shop a wide selection of products eligible for Prime Free Same-Day Delivery on orders over AED100 to get what they need right to their doorsteps quicker than ever before.
At the start of 2021, Amazon MENA launched its Prime Service in Saudi Arabia. This offers tremendous value in terms of benefits, such as free one-day delivery in certain areas, access to popular entertainment with Arabic subtitles and dubbing on Prime Video, exclusive deals and video games with Prime Gaming.
Dr. Saeeda Jaffar
Group Country Manager – GCC
In June of 2021, the payments giant Visa announced the appointment of Dr Saeeda Jaffar as the group country manager and senior vice president for its operations all over the Gulf region. Jaffar joined the global digital payments major to oversee its presence in six countries, and she is based in Dubai.
Jaffar joined Visa with more than 20 years of expertise working in both the payments and the financial services, after five years of serving as managing director for the Middle East at Alvarez & Marsal, one of the world’s leading turnaround and restructuring firms. Before that, she’d held leadership positions in the Middle East for both Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company, where she worked with both private and public sector clients. She was also a board member for the United Arab Bank from February to June of 2021.
She currently serves as a member of the Board of trustees at Kuwait University, and in the past has sat on the board of Ishraq, a hospitality company, as well as Bahrain Fintech Bay. Throughout her professional career, Jaffar has worked all over the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, for clients in a wide range of industries. However, she has specialised in roles in the financial services, universal banks, private banks, investment banks, private equity firms, sovereign wealth funds, government institutions and family-owned businesses.
In her new role with Visa, Jaffar reports directly to Andrew Torre, the regional president for the Central Europe, Middle East & Africa (CEMEA) region, and is also a vital part of the region’s leadership team. “The past year has brought tremendous change to commerce in the Middle East with consumers and merchants shifting to digital with greater speed and urgency,” said Jaffar, speaking about the appointment at the time.
Visa’s Small Business Recovery 2021 study revealed that 60 percent of UAE merchants and 84 percent of Saudi merchants said that their customers prefer to make contactless payments.
Sayed Hashish heads Microsoft in the UAE, as the general manager for the country. He oversees the firm’s strategic planning and growth initiatives, which have helped to enable the UAE’s digital transformation over the last few years.
One of Hashish’s recent projects was spearheading Microsoft’s Tomoh programme, a scheme which was designed to encourage more Emirati youth to take up and pursue careers in technological fields.
He first joined Microsoft back in 1998, and has worked for the company here in Dubai for more than 11 years. Before taking on his current role, he was the regional general manager for Microsoft Gulf, where some of his duties included overseeing the launch of Microsoft’s Middle East Cloud Regions. Before joining Microsoft, he worked for IBM and NCR, and also has a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the American University in Cairo.
Here in the UAE, he’s continued to work on developing the market, which is one of the fastest growing in the region. He’s worked closely with government organisations, start-ups, as well as other private enterprises in order to leverage Microsoft’s technologies and platforms.
According to research, published earlier this year by the global market intelligence firm IDC, more than 69,000 new jobs and revenues of over $27bn are set to be generated in the UAE over the next four years thanks to work done by Microsoft and its partners.
Hashish has worked on fostering a tech culture in the UAE, accelerating technology adoption and encouraging individuals to enhance their digital capabilities. A recent initiative by Microsoft, in partnership with LinkedIn, helped more than a quarter of a million people to learn new skills over the course of the Covid-19 crisis.
In recent years, the company has made cash donations of over $162m, provided technology help to over 5,100 non-profit organisations, helped over 730 entrepreneurs and, by its own estimation, managed to reach 13 million underserved young people across the Middle East and Africa.
Talal Al Ajmi
Talal Al Ajmi is a young Kuwaiti entrepreneur, and his passion for financial markets and trading has seen him become one of the most well-known figures in the field, both in Kuwait and the wider region.
He graduated from the University of Philadelphia with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. However, he had always seen himself as an entrepreneur and businessman. He started his journey of success at an early stage while at university, where he managed a couple of small family businesses alongside his cousins and brothers. While studying, he saw an advertisement for stockbroking which grabbed his attention, and sparked his interest.
Upon returning to Kuwait, he decided to pursue his dream and work at an investment company to gain more knowledge. After holding various positions in several financial companies, he was inspired to move forward and build his empire. Talal leveraged his experience as a financial broker to launch a new career as an entrepreneur.
His ambition had no boundaries, and he believes that through education anything is possible. In 2010, he founded and established Version International Markets in Kuwait, where he is CEO, and he is also a board member at One Financial Markets (the firm’s main partner). VI Markets provides investors in Kuwait with a tailored online trading service, partnered with One Financial Markets, which was established in London in 2007.
One Financial Markets is regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and it offers a global presence with local expertise through its wholly owned and affiliated offices across the Middle East, Europe, South America and Central and Southeast Asia.
As with any other business, the journey was full of challenges. Al Ajmi faced countless difficulties – the main one was to secure capital as a start-up, and then raising societal awareness through education on how to trade in international markets. His goal throughout his career has been to promote sustainable development via education.
Al Ajmi established VI Markets in a modest building with a handful of employees. Despite facing fierce competition from a number of existing companies, he managed to move forward and grow his company step-by-step. His main focus was to educate the people in Kuwait who are interested in trading, and help them embark on their own financial journeys by managing their portfolios. Social media served him well, as he attracted a huge base of new and existing traders across Kuwait and the Middle East. He began sharing updates with his followers on Twitter, discussing his daily trades with them and educating them on portfolio management, which brought him closer than ever to the audience.
What will be the long-term legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai for the Gulf?
The Expo is definitely going to affect the Gulf region positively, and is already paving a steady path for strong economic growth. Nevertheless, it has even better implications as Dubai is the first city in the MENA region to host such an extensive international event, making it a long-term investment in the future of the UAE. Many believe that the real estate and tourism sectors will benefit, not only in the UAE, but across the region, as new investors and people from around the world are thrilled to be part of this huge event.— Talal Al Ajmi, CEO of VI Markets