Complex Made Simple

7 of the most influential Arab leaders

Arab countries are home to some of the biggest business figures in the world. AMEinfo picks 7 of the most influential.

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince in June 2017. Aged 31, diplomats call him “Mr Everything”. The young Prince is the key figure behind the recent Vision 2030, which aims to restructure the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy. Mohammed bin Salman is also defense minister.

Among the key positions he holds is Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, set up last year to oversee the economy. Among the most important initiatives of Bin Salman is his support for more freedom for women; he recently issued a decree lifting the driving ban for women paving the way for them to be more involved in the workforce in the kingdom due to greater mobility.

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum became prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates in 2006 and is responsible for Dubai’s transformation into a luxurious business destination. Al Maktoum helped develop the Palm Islands, the Burj al-Arab hotel, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the Dubai World Cup and the Godolphin Stables. He is responsible for the launching of a number of major enterprises, including Emirates Airline, DP World, and the Jumeirah Group.

As one of the heads of the family conglomerate MA Al Kharafi & Sons Company, Bader Al Kharafi is one of the most powerful men in Kuwait. Established in 1956, the group is now estimated to be worth more than $8bn, with more than 135 registered companies operating in 28 countries, across sectors including construction, trading and manufacturing, investments and development, and travel and leisure, as reported by Africa-Me, an online news site. He holds several high-profile roles within the family business and he was recently elected vice chairman of Zain Group.

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Nassef Onsi Sawiris is an Egyptian billionaire businessman with a net worth of $5.3 billion as of 2016, according to Bloomberg News. Sawiris made huge investments in Egypt but he also partnered with other powerful Arab businesses, including Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company. He has expanded his investments by reaching out globally and investing in Martin Marietta, which acquired Texas Instruments. He currently sits on the boards of Besix (Belgium) and NNS Holding (Luxembourg), and is a director at LafargeHolcim.

Majid Al Futtaim is an Arab businessman with net worth of $11.5 billion as of November 2017, as reported by Forbes. Unlike many other Arab businessmen, he has chosen to run his businesses with non-family members. He is involved in a wide range of companies and industries, including shopping centers and hypermarkets, according to Forbes. Al Futtaim is the founder and president of Majid Al Futtaim Group, which was established in 1992. His first billionaire shopping mall opened in 1995.

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Sulaiman Al Rajhi is a Saudi Arabian corporate figure and billionaire. In 2011 he was worth $7 billion, according to Forbes, “before he decided to make the generous move of donating much of his fortune for charity work by transferring his bank shares, his poultry farm, and other assets to a charitable endowment that bears his name to fund anti-hunger efforts and education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” His three brothers, Abdullah, Mohammed, and Saleh founded Al Rajhi Bank, which is considered to be the second biggest bank in Saudi Arabia, with a network of 550 branches

Mohamed Al Fayed is in his mid 80s but he is still a powerful Arab businessman to watch as he continues to work and invest in multiple areas. Owner of The Hotel Ritz, a grand palatial hotel in the heart of Paris, Al Fayed is estimated to be worth $2 billion. “A long-standing powerhouse in the Arab world, buying and selling everything from real estate to soccer teams,” as reported by Inc, an entrepreneurs’ platform. In recent years, Al Fayed has shifted to online retail investments after selling off many of his retail investments, including London’s iconic Harrod’s.