A new era of change

By Frank-Jürgen Richter

Khaleej Times, 8 October 2011

When participants gather at the Horasis Global Arab Business Meeting on October 9, business and government leaders will engage in business and discuss visions for a sustainable future especially after the Arab Spring that triggered rebellions against certain governments in the Arab world.

According to an interactive timeline report on the Arab spring, ever since a man in Tunisia burned himself to death in December 2010 in protest at his treatment by police, pro-democracy rebellions have erupted across the Middle East. According to reports, the reason behind the continued rebellion where two protesters were killed and one set himself on fire is due to desperation of not being able to find a job.

After the incident, numerous protests occurred. Protests over food prices and unemployment were the main cause of these riots. Numerous protests continued in various regions of the Arab world which in turn led to the downfall of some leaders.

Early this year, Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted after weeks of massive protests. On February, Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak resigned after weeks of violence. Lastly on August, rebels surrounded Libya’s capital city of Tripoli prompting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi to leave, thus bringing an end to his 42-year reign.

Indeed, the Arab world experienced deep turmoil such as large-scale protests and violence that spread out across the region. The series of uprisings have in turn led to the arising of other challenges and opportunities. The Arab world now enters a new era of change through freedom and prosperity. For the Arab world to continuously move forward, business and government leaders should question themselves: What are the political and economic causes of the Arab Spring? What is the impact of the Arab Spring on business in the region? How might the region’s economies evolve in the next six to twelve months? What is the Arab world’s impact on global growth? The new leaders of the Arab world must take the opportunity and be able to resolve the serious difficulties to ensure the success of the Arab Spring.

Moreover, rebuilding political institutions, restoring order to societies and fighting corruption may take a long time. However, the biggest challenge is its economic development. The Arab youth also share the same problems — unemployment and frustration with regard to their future with the previous protestors prompting them join the uprising.

According to analysts, the youth aged 15-35 which also represents the largest group in Arab countries played a vital role in getting back their lives. The leaders should also take into consideration the education and job creations in order to meet the aspirations of the youth.

The time has come for the Arab world to face a new era of change. Business leaders should address the right issues, identify good opportunities and create strategies. The Arab firms can also use the revolutionary momentum to refurbish their organisations and increase their competitiveness. Companies need to focus on core competencies and not mainly depend on relationships with those in power.

For instance, Qatar Airways. This company was originally owned by private members of the royal family of Qatar but was re-launched in 1997 with a new management. At present, the government of Qatar holds 50 per cent stake of Qatar Airways and the rest is held by private investors. In a short amount of time, Qatar Airways has grown into one of the most competitive airlines with over 100 destinations worldwide and offers unmatched levels of service excellence.

Moving to the telecommunication industry, Mobile Telecom Group (MTG) based in Abu Dhabi, UAE was founded at the start of the millennium and was the country’s first audio text service provider. In 10 years, MTG holding has spread its network to other countries creating, Emirates Call (UAE), Media Call (KSA), Bahrain Call, Oman Call, Kuwait Call and Samatel (Egypt). Currently, MTG is securing its future and of its clients by investing heavily in telecommunication technology in Europe, as well as becoming a major stakeholder with interests in numerous ventures in the Gulf, Asia and the Far East. Here we can see that by decreasing the dependency on local power, business leaders will soon be able to build global firms. And thus, lead successful global firms of Arab origin.

Dr Frank-Jürgen Richter is the Founder and Chairman of Zurich based Horasis, an independent international organisation committed to enacting visions for a sustainable future