Our 50 Most Influential Arabs 2017.

 
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The events of 2011 and the so-called Arab Spring shook the Middle East to its core. Six years on, we have many changes to contemplate. While some of them altered our world for the better others did not, writes Pat Lancaster

One strong message that came out of 2011, and one worth remembering, is that nothing lasts forever.

We have seen the plans of leaders who thought themselves invincible--men who believed they had set up a powerful dynasty for when their own time on earth was at an end--reduced to dust; proving yet again that power is temporary; wealth is transient and human life is ephemeral.

Conversely, ideas and innovation are perpetual. Human beings are possessed of an inexhaustible train of thoughts and aspirations that propel mankind ever forward.

The winds of change that have blown through the Arab world these past few years have seen the emergence, or perhaps more accurately the popularisation, of a new dynamism.

Where once oil and trade were the undisputed kings, bringing with them wealth and power, the younger generations are looking towards establishing a new order, one that also embraces cutting edge technologies, scientific advances, all-inclusive information exchange skills, and a larger, altogether broader horizon than that envisaged by their forefathers.

It is no longer acceptable to sit at home on a vast pile of $100 dollar bills, dispensing wisdom and largesse. It is, as the new generations have realised, their own efforts and achievements--not those of their fathers or grandfathers--that will establish their position in 21st century society.

At the same time, those from more humble beginnings have seen that with hard work and determination, all things are within their grasp and that in 2017 it is eminently possible to rise up through the ranks, to earn a seat at the top table.

I hope our 2017 'Most Influential 50 Arabs' feature will reflect some of the important changes that have taken place in recent years. We have not chosen the Arabs we believe to be the richest, that would be too easy. We have not selected those who, by virtue of their family name, have maintained a power base solely built on another man's labour. Instead we have selected a group of men and women, we believe, have made an important and lasting contribution to global society on merit--Arabs who have made their own impact on the world in which we live.

We have included businessmen and women who have brought employment, education, training and prosperity to the region, as well as thinkers--writers, artists, commentators and filmmakers--who have brought hope and enlightenment. We have included innovators and inventors and those who have seen fit to use their privileged positions to improve the lives of those less fortunate. In short, people whose influence will inspire the generations to come.

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz, as a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family inherited both wealth and power but through his own efforts he became an international billionaire businessman.

Our readers have consistently lauded Prince Alwaleed--surely the world's most instantly recognised Saudi Arabian--not only for his his business acumen but also for his strong social conscience and his widespread charitable works.

Meanwhile, Adnane Remmal, who was not born into great wealth, discovered a link between local plant life in his native Morocco and a possible solution to the increasing resistance of human beings and animals to antibiotics. He has recently been celebrated for his pioneering work, which, ultimately, could save many millions of lives.

One of a family of eight children and born in the UAE, Major Mariam Al Mansouri struck a blow for gender equality across the Arab world when she became her country's first female fighter pilot. Last September, she was to become an even more potent symbol of gender achievement when she led the UAE's air strikes on ISIL in Syria, sending a positive and motivating message to women across the region.

The Arab world is not without its serious problems. Some of the world's leading experts on the region question whether, in contemporary history, things have ever been worse. However, with a wealth of human resources such as those we came across while researching this article, I am confident that given time, when the Middle East region is restored to peace, there is hope for the dawn of a new era of real prosperity, a true renaissance, the secret of which lies not beneath the desert sands but within the wealth of the Arab world's diverse and multitalented men and women.

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi (UAE)

The UAE's Minister for Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna was the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the UAE, when she was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade in November 2004. Sheikha Lubna has since held several Cabinet briefs, including Minister of International Development and Minister for Economy and Planning. In 2000, she founded Tejari, the Middle East's first business-to-business online marketplace, which now has franchises across the Middle East. Sheikha Lubna, whose ready wit and down-to-earth approach makes her a popular figure both at home and abroad, sits on the board of directors at the Dubai Chamber for Commerce and Industry, and is also on the board of the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce. In March 2014, she was appointed President of Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

Lubna Suliman Olayan (Saudi Arabia)

The Chief Executive Officer of the Olayan Financing Company (OFC), she is considered an important spokesperson for women's rights in the Middle East, who generally leads by quiet example. Although Olayan first came to international prominence when she became the first woman to publicly speak to a mixed gender audience at the Jeddah Economic Conference of 2004, she has since proved herself an accomplished businesswoman. She is Member of Board of Trustees of Cornell University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Olayan sits on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation and is also a board member of Al Fanar, which supports grassroots organisations in the Arab world. She has keenly championed women's employment. In 2001, she was the only woman employed at the Olayan Financing Company (OFC); today there are more than 400 women across the 28 companies, with an active female recruitment plan in place.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak (UAE)

Khaldoon Al Mubarak is CEO of Mubadala, the company established by the Government of Abu Dhabi as a principal agent in the diversification of that emirate's economy. He is also the Chairman of the UK Premiership Football Club Manchester City. Through Mubadala, Al Mubarak has overseen many of the oil-rich emirate's strategic investments and key development projects. He is also aide and advisor to the Crown Prince of the UAE, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Educated in the US and a graduate of Tufts University, Al Mubarak sits on a number of boards, including First Gulf Bank, Ferrari and the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. He is Chairman of the Executive Affairs committee and of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). He is also the Chairman of The Imperial College London Diabetes Centre and is also an Ambassador for the Global eHealth Foundation (GeHF), created to become a catalyst for transforming healthcare from its current situation as a privilege accessible only in the developed world, to becoming a human right globally. As chairman of the Abu Dhabi Motor Sport Management Company, Al Mubarak was a key figure in negotiating for the Grand Prix event in Abu Dhabi and was influential in getting the FIFA Club World Cup to be held there. A member of the Board of Trustees for New York University, Al Mubarak began overseeing the development of a NYU campus in Abu Dhabi in 2013.

Bader Al Kharafi (Kuwait)

Bader Al Kharafi is head of Kuwait's family conglomerate MA Al Kharafi & Sons. The group, established in 1956, is valued in excess of $8bn and operates around135 registered companies across 28 countries, in a variety of sectors including construction, investment and development, travel and leisure and trading and manufacturing, He holds several high-profile roles within the family business, including his role as board member of both Gulf Bank and Foulath Holding (Bahrain Steel). He is also chairman and managing director of Gulf Cables & Electrical Industries and was recently elected vice chairman of Zain Group, the telecommunications giant that operates in eight countries across the Middle East and North Africa, with about 44.3 million customers and a turnover of $4.3bn. Three years ago Coutts, the wealth division of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, announced it had appointed Al Kharafi to its Middle East Advisory Board. A long-term supporter of youth development, he is also an enthusiastic board member of INJAZ, the non-government organisation that encourages and supports students in entrepreneurial ventures and financial literacy.

Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi (UAE)

Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, a member of Sharjah's ruling family, founded Kalimat Publishing in 2007, to help develop and nurture publishing in the UAE and to fill the gap in the market for good Arabic children's books. Ten years later, Kalimat has published over 130 titles and won many awards at regional and international book fairs. She heads up the "Knowledge without Borders" organising committee, an initiative launched by the Ruler of Sharjah with the aim of establishing a library in every house in the Emirate. Sheikha Bodour has championed the rights of woman in Sharjah; She is the Vice President of the Sharjah Ladies Club, an entity of the Government of Sharjah, since 2002 and President of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Campaign and currently heads up the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and has become an important player in Sharjah's drive to be seem as the cultural emirate of the UAE.

Nabila Ramdani (Algeria)

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