10 Arab Business Women You Should Know About.
Updated: Apr 4
As society progresses and moves forward, women are inspired to step out of their traditional roles and reach their full potential. This is especially true in the Arab world, where women's contribution to society is becoming more and more crucial. There is a wave of strong Arab women that were able to build business empires, destroy stereotypes and make headway for other women. Here are 10 Arab business women you should know about.
1-Amy Mowafi – Co-Founder & CEO, MO4Network.
Amy Mowafi is the Co-Founder and CEO of MO4 Network, a leading creative and media agency in Egypt, with offices in Cairo and Dubai. She was born and raised in the UK, moved to Egypt in 2002 and has been living there ever since. She started her career with a job in Enigma Magazine, she began as a writer and worked her way up to becoming the editor of the magazine. In 2014, she launched MO4 with her three brothers, which grew from a team of 6 people to over 200 people now. The MO4 empire started with Tazkaraty, an online ticketing platform which quickly rose to popularity, they kept on building localized versions of global platforms from that point. At first, a few of their ideas did not make it big, however they were able to learn from the process and ended up launching very successful platforms. Today, MO4 is home to some of the most popular digital publications in the region, including: Cairozoom.com, Cairoscene.com, Startupsceneme.com, Scenenoise.com, SceneArabia.com, SceneEats, and elfasla.com. Amy is also the author of the book : Fe-mail: The trials and tribulations of being a Good Egyptian Girl. A book where she talks about her dreams, family, personal experiences as well as her role as a woman in her country and what is expected from her. Amy Mowafi is considered a symbol of success for women in Egypt as she offers an interesting perspective on how she was able to succeed in her patriarchal society as a women.
2- Sheikha Hanadi Al-Thani- Business Women And Philanthropist
Sheikha Hanadi Bint Nasser bin Khalid Al Thani, is an influential Qatari business women. She was born in Qatar, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Qatar University, and went on to earn an executive MBA from London Business School and a master’s degree in economics at the University of London. She started her career as a lecturing assistant in the Economics Department of Qatar University, she then went on to establish the Qatar Ladies Investment Company (QLIC) in 1998, which was later renamed Amwal. Amwal is the first regulated investment company to be granted a license by the Qatar Central Bank, which allowed them to conduct investment banking as well as asset and wealth management. in 2005, she launched Al Waab City, an important real estate project that focused on providing world-class luxurious villas and contemporary apartments. Sheikha Hanadi is also an investor, banker, special adviser to Standard Chartered Bank, and is the CEO of "Nasser Bin Khaled Al Thani & Sons Group", a leading trading and contracting company in Qatar. In 2012, she founded Q-Auto, which deals in Volkswagen and Audi cars. Aside from her many business activities, she is also an active philanthropist, she founded Injaz Qatar, a non-profit organization that works on education and youth programs. She's also the founding co-chairperson of the 30% Club’s GCC chapter, which is a regional volunteer group working together towards better representation of women on boards and in senior level positions. Sheikha Hanadi was able to make waves with her entrepreneurial skills, and paved her own path despite her royal background.
3- Jouhayna Samawi- Co Founder Of Ayyam Gallery
Syrian national Jouhayna Samawi, is an entrepreneur, art collector and the co-founder of Ayyam Gallery, along with her husband and two cousins. Ayyam is an art gallery that aims to showcase Syria's art history and place an international spotlight on Syrian and Arab artists. Shortly after it's launch in Syria, Ayyam became huge a success, Sammawi and her partners were able to expand Ayyam to the UAE, Lebanon, the UK and Saudi Arabia. The gallery also played a pivotal role in helping timeless Syrian art pieces and artists such as Safwan Dahoul leave the war torn country. Since it's founding, Ayyam displayed the creations of many esteemed Arab artists including: Iraqi multi-media artist, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, French-Tunisian multimedia artist El Seed and many more. With her current headquarters located in the Serkal Avenue in Dubai, Sammawi continues to push Ayyam forward, making it a powerful cultural voice showcasing Arab art to the world.
4-Loulou Khazen Baz- Founder of Nabbesh.com.
Lebanese national Loulou Khazen Baz, is the founder of Nabbesh.com, the first online work marketplace in the region, an angel investor as well as a podcast host and producer. Nabbesh connects businesses with top quality freelancers from the world’s emerging markets with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. She founded Nabbesh out of Dubai with a goal of filling the gap between the talent demand and supply pockets, as well as encouraging local businesses to hire experts from the region. Nabbesh (which means "search" in Arabic) currently hosts 100,000 freelancers, with 42 percent of them identifying as full time freelancers. Nearly 20,000 jobs have been posted on Nabbesh, with design, media and architecture landing as the most popularly offered skills. Baz not only created opportunities for people with Nabbesh, but also helped changing the culture in the region when it comes to freelance work and hiring talents part time. Baz sold Nabbesh to Ureed.com last year, she then went on to establish Kickstart Ventures which is an angel network investing in early stage and seed stage startups. She is also the producer and host of the podcast Conversations with Loulou which focuses on bringing out stories of entrepreneurs and business leaders primarily from the MENA region.
5-Lulwa Alsoudairy- Founder Of Artistia.com
Saudi national Lulwa Al-Sudairy, is the CEO and founding partner of Artistia.com. She attained her bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Dar Al-Hekma University, Jeddah, in 2011 and her MBA from Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, Wellesley, Massachusetts in 2015. Prior to launching Artistia.com, Al-Sudairy held different positions in many companies including: social responsibility coordinator at BMG Financial Group in November of 2011, a business development intern at Harvard Medical School from January to August 2013, graduate assistant at Babson College’s Center for Engaged Learning & Teaching from January 2014 to May 2014, and she is currently the head of strategic development and a board member of "Mansour Al Mosaid Group". Al-Sudairy got her entrepreneurial prowess from her mother, who is the owner of Liyano, a local production house that produces Saudi handcrafted souvenirs and gifts. As Al-Sudairy observed and realized the challenges that designers and artists, such as her mother were facing when selling their products, she decided to take action and offer a solution. In 2016, along with her co-founder, Leena Alaufi, she launched Artistia.com, an e-commerce platform that operates as a virtual mall and connects local artists and designers with global markets. Since it's launch, the site’s network has expanded from 60 to 400 artisanal brands across the Gulf, including in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.The platform was ranked by Forbes as one of the top 50 startups in Saudi Arabia and currently registers around 15,000 visits per month. Al-Sudairy's drive and passion for problem solving and empowering artists led her to building one of the top startups in Saudi Arabia.
6-Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun- Business Mogul
Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun is a Moroccan business women, she is known as "the mysterious billionaire". Chaqroun proved to be a women that is able to compete with men and supersede them, not just in business but in many other areas. If she isn't giving orders and making millions from her office, she might be flying her own private plane, driving her favorite type of motorcycle, a Harley Davidson, playing golf at the most professional level or she might be driving one of the many race cars she's been collecting since she won the famous "Le Trophée des Gazelles" Rally championship in 1993. She was born in November 24,1962 in Casablanca, her father Abdulqader Bensaleh, a successful business man and the founder of the well known Holmarcom Group, was one of the individuals who signed Morocco's declaration of independence. At the age of 18, Chaqroun attended business school in Paris then went on to earn an MBA in International Management and Finance from the University of Dallas / Texas (USA) in 1986. Her business career began right after graduation, She held various positions at "Societe Marocaine de Depot et de Credit" from 1986 to 1989. in 1990, she joined the family business (Holmarcom Group) by heading "Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes" a company that produces bottled water and beverages under her family's umbrella, she was able to grow the company's profits exponentially over the following years. Miriem went on to inherent the entire Holmarcom empire as the only women among her fathers children, even though inheritance laws in Morocco state that a female inherits half of what her male counterpart inherit. This led the Moroccan press to praise and recognize her as the first women to succeed in breaking this old tradition. Chaqroun also headed the "Confédération Générale des Entreprises Du Maroc" (National confederation for Moroccan enterprises) where she helped solve many of the issues the private sector was facing and was able to create a better business environment for enterprises in the country, by pushing for new and better tax and labor regulations. Chaqroun did not stop at the business empire that she inherited from her father, she achieved way more by being a board member in the Al Akhawayn University in 2004, a board member in Bank Al-Maghrib in 2006, a board member in the Eutelsat corporation, a board member in Renoult Group in 2017 and much more. She is also the recipient of many prestigious awards such as the Wissam Al-Moukafa Al-Watania (Order of National Merit) with the rank of Grand Officer awarded by King Mohammed VI, the"Fès Gate"award in 2019, and she was listed as one of the fifteenth most powerful Arab woman under the category of family businesses in 2014, thirtieth most powerful Arab businesswomen in 2017 and twenty-sixth most influential woman in 2018 by Forbes Magazine. Even though Chaqroun is a controversial figure in her country, often accused of using aggressive business tactics, she still remains a symbol of inspiration for Arab and Moroccan women.
7-Nina Saeed- CEO and Co-Founder of Alsoug.com
Sudanese national Nina Saeed is the CEO and Co-founder of Alsoug.com. She is also the General Counsel for Saeed Industrial & Commercial Group in Sudan. Nina graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She established Alsoug.com in 2015, Sudan's biggest free online classifieds market for Sudanese buyers and sellers. The platform allows anyone in Sudan to buy and sell classifieds like, new and used mobiles, cars, houses, apartments, land, even jobs. Saeed described the platform as very local and very focused. It was built exclusively for Sudan and is one of the largest free online classifieds in the Northeast African country, charging for increased visibility for ads and business accounts. According to SimilarWeb, Alsoug had 350,000 visits in April of 2018. During the same year, Saeed attended the Global Online Marketplaces Summit in Miami to talk about her company, the Summit, and the classifieds marketplace. Today, Saeed continues to lead Sudan's largest online marketplace, allowing people in the North African country to easily buy and sell items and classifieds online.
8-Saana Azzam – Founder & CIO, MENA Speakers
Palestinian/Swedish national Saana Azzam, is an international speaker, public speaking coach, author, co-founder of the tech platform called Experts Market, as well as Founder and CIO (Cheif Inspiration Officer) of Mena Speakers. Azzam graduated from the esteemed Stockholm School of Economics with a Masters in Economics. Her skills and knowledge in market analysis, investments, research and finance earned her the title ‘Female Economist of the Year’ in 2010. She started undertaking public speaking assignments on leadership and youth development all around Europe, as a result, she was listed as Sweden's 101 "Supertalents" in 2012, and was recognized as a "Top 30 Under 30 influencers" in 2015. Azzam also held crucial positions in several big corporations such as Saxo Bank Middle East, Swiss based company MKS/Pamp, American Express and more. However, her passion and expertise lies in the Art of Public Speaking, which led her to founding MENA Speakers. MENA Speakers is a platform that connects hundreds of international and MENA based professional speakers with events, corporations and public sector institutions. The company currently has more than 100 keynote speakers, event hosts, and moderators, including Claire Woodcraft Scott, CEO of the Emirates Foundation, and Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi female to climb Mount Everest, among others. The company also offers training in sales, public speaking, negotiation and more. Azzam's communication skills and passion for empowering professionals took her a long way and enabled her to become an inspirational figure and a business leader.
9-Dr. Sarah Al-Madani- Serial Entrepreneur
Her excellency Dr.Sarah Al-Madani, is a young Emirati Fashion Designer, Business Women and the youngest board member of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. At the age of 15, she started designing Abayas (Traditional wear for Arab women) with bold and unique styles that haven't been done before. She wanted to change the way Emirati women wore their traditional clothes. At first, she received a lot of criticism over her Avant-garde designs, with time however, Emirati women came to accept her designs and Al-Madani was able to build a long list of loyal clients for her fashion business. She then went on to venture into different industries, including: a tech company in Los Angeles called Hulatek, a celebrity concierge company called HalaHi, a marketing agency and a restaurant in Dubai called Shabarboush ( a play on words for Sheperds Bush, an area in London where many Arabs visit). In 2014, she was selected by His Highness, Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi (ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah) as a board member at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, making her the youngest member on the board. Later in 2017, Dr.Sara was selected to be on the board of the SME Council in the Ministry Of Economy of Dubai. She is also the recipient of many awards including, the 2012 Emirati entrepreneur of the year award – L’Officiel Arab Woman Awards and the 2012 Young designer of the year award – Emirates Woman Award. Through her tenacity and relentlessness, Dr.Al-Madani has become a prominent business women that inspires women in the UAE to be more active and self-confident in order to achieve business success.
10-Wafa Al Rimi- Founder Of Creative Generations.
Wafa Al Rimi is a Yemeni Entrepreneur and CEO of Creative Generations, a company that provides Solar powered appliances in Yemen. The company came together when Wafa and a group of her peers, decided to find a solution to a major issue in Yemen, power outages. Wafa and her group put together an idea and presented it to the Injaz Association, a non-profit organization funded by USAID, with a branch in Yemen. Injaz loved the idea and supported the girls from the start, offering them a course in coordination with Yemen’s Ministry of Education, in order to develop their project. After coming up with the name Creative Generations, they put their plan into action and were able to get funding from many different sources. Today, the company has a long list of clients including The Movenpick Hotel, and Wafa received a shoutout from Queen Rania of Jordan during her address to the World Future Energy Summit.
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