May 18, 2020

The Middle East’s most influential businesswomen

Raja Easa Al Gurg
Lobna Helal
Lubna S. Olayan
Bizclik Editor
3 min
The Middle East’s most influential businesswomen

Who are the most powerful Arab businesswomen? Forbes recently collated a list of 100 leading ladies, one that spans sectors such as banking, government, construction and even museums.  We profile the top three most powerful Arab businesswomen, but you can browse the complete list over at Forbes Middle East.

Lubna S. Olayan

Role - CEO, Olayan Financing Group

Residence – Saudi Arabia

Sector - Diversified

Olayan is the CEO of Olayan Financing, a conglomerate founded by her late father, Sulaiman S. Olayan. The company distributes consumer goods, hospital supplies, office automation products, building supplies, telecommunications equipment and industrial goods. Olayan also sits on the group’s board, alongside her brother and two sisters.

Before her heading her father’s company, Olayan studied in America. She has a BSc from Cornell University and an MBA from Indiana University. On top of her achievements with Olayan Financing, the CEO is well-known for promoting women in the industry. Olayan serves in the World Economic Forum’s Women Leadership Initiative, alongside its Arab Business Council.  Olayan was named by Fortune magazine as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in the International Power 50. She has also been ranked 97th among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine. To top off her accolades, Olayan made history as the first woman in Saudi Arabia to give an opening keynote address at a major conference in Saudi Arabia. She is also on the board of trustees of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, INSEAD, Rolls Royce and Schlumberger.

Lobna Helal

Role - Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Egypt

Residence – Egypt

Sector - Government

Helal comes in at number two on Forbes’ list. She is the Deputy Governor of Egypt’s Central Bank, appointed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi himself last year. The banking expert is Egypt’s first female deputy governor. This isn’t Helal’s first stint at the bank. In 2011, she became the first woman to serve on its board, as Second Deputy Governor. Between these two roles, Helal became chair and Managing Director of the Egyptian Company for Mortgage Refinance. The company is a specialised financial institution that provides refinancing to primary mortgage lenders. Helal clearly excelled in this sector – in June 2015 she was elected as the first Head of the Egyptian Mortgage Finance Union.

Helal has also held banking roles in Arab International Bank, the Egyptian American Bank and EFG-Hermes. What of her personality? An article by the Arab Bankers Association describes her as “softly spoken but extremely competent”.

Raja Easa Al Gurg

Role – Managing Director, Al Gurg Group

Residence – UAE

Sector - Diversified

Number three on the list, Al Gurg is the Managing Director of the eponymous Al Gurg Group. The Group is one of the oldest family firms in the UAE, having existed for around 50 years. Raja Easa Al Gurg took over the conglomerate in 1990. It operates 28 coompanies and has 370 partnerships with multinationals such as Unilever, British American Tobacco and Siemens.

Al Gurg also sits on many corporate boards. She is the first Emirati woman on the board of HSBC Bank Middle East and is also on the advisory board of Coutts Bank. Alongside these responsibilities, Al Gurg frequently takes part in official trade delegations and is active in philanthropic and women societies in the UAE. For instance, she is the deputy chair of the Dubai Healthcare City Authority and President of the Dubai Business Women Council.  In her capacity as President, she hosted the first MENA Businesswomen’s Network Forum. Surprisingly, Al Gurg doesn’t have a business-related university degree. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Kuwait University in 1977. Al Gurg was ranked 91st on Forbes 2016 international Power Women list. She also won a Stevie Award for Women in Business in 2011 and the World of Difference Award from the International Alliance for Women in 2009. She holds memberships at the Dubai Economic Council, Arab International Women’s Forum, National Advisory Council and College of Business Sciences. 

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Jun 11, 2021

G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve

3 min
Business Chief delves into what the G7 is and represents and what its 2021 summit hopes to achieve, in terms of sustainability and global trade

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration. 


Who are the G7?

The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like. 

The merry band comprises:

  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • The United Kingdom
  • The United States

Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.


Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda. 


When was the ‘G’ formed?

Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s. 


Why does the G7 exist?

At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted. 


The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability. 


It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations. 


Where is the 2021 G7 summit?

This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall. 

What will be discussed this year? 

After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”


The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values. 


According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.” 


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