16 Dec 2010
The Emergent Arab Worldby Garry EmmonsTopics:
Last month, the fourth annual “Harvard Arab Weekend” conference was held at venues around the University, including HBS. The theme of the conference was “Leadership in the Private, Social, and Public Sectors” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The accent was on youth, as conference chair Maurice Obeid (HKS/HBS ’12) made clear in a passionate opening statement. In his remarks, Obeid, who is from Lebanon, echoed some of the personal anguish expressed by Arab-American Sharjeel Kashmir (PLDA 4, 2007) in the current Bulletin’s “My Two Cents” column while deploring Arab leaders who frequently “turn against their own people” and a business community that too often “can’t stand on its own two feet.” Going forward, Obeid said, the focus should be on the 65 percent of the MENA population that is under 30 years of age, the next generation that must be “determined to make change,” seize their moment, and take the region to a brighter future.
Harvard president Drew Faust, keynote speaker Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, and His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia were among the many prominent speakers and experts at the event. The final day of the session took place at HBS, with panels on entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, media and technology, and Iraq, among other topics. A panel on finance in the MENA region, which hundreds of HBS alumni call home, was moderated by HBS associate professor Fritz Foley.
Back in 1998, HBS professor Samuel Hayes (now emeritus) coauthored a book on Islamic finance. To me at the time, it seemed like exotic subject matter and an unusual departure for Hayes, who had built his reputation by being a highly renowned and respected expert on Wall Street, capitalism’s iconic address. But it was a prescient piece of scholarship; today, a computer search using the key words “Middle East” produces some 58 cases at the Harvard Business Publishing Web site. Almost all of them were written in the last ten years. Surely we can expect more in the future, and almost certainly some of them will feature protagonists with an HBS degree.
Class of PLDA 4
Class of MBA 2012, Section G